A long chat with Mat Todd

After going to my first kiwi foo camp, i began noticing that Rob Inskeep was posting links on twitter to a social network called FriendFeed. Rob had organised getting a list of twitter handles prior to kiwi foo camp, which prompted me to sign up to twitter (yes, that is how it all started). So I joined FriendFeed and one evening I decided to search for “Open Access”. I suddenly found that there were heaps of people there discussing Open Access, Open Science and a whole lot of other things alike.

It would be fair to say that if my original meeting with Nat Torkington back in 2008 changed my path, finding this community on FriendFeed was what would pave it. Hidden in the public view of FriendFeed was a community that was not just talking about changing the way we do and communicate science but were doing something about it. There were lots of disagreements, lots of trying to find common ground, lots of support, lots of ideas. This community was working together in ways I had never seen before. But for me, most importantly there was lots of learning.

When FriendFeed got bought by Facebook and support for the platform slowly started to dwindle, the conversation moved to other platforms. But for me, none of them captured the spirit of the community I had found in 2009.

I got the chance to meet a few of them in person as the years went by, and we have been able to keep up with what each of us were doing. Since then, a lot has changed. Things that were dreams became realities, other battles we lost and others we still keep fighting. I had a long chat with Mat Todd the other night. I discovered him on FriendFeed I don’t know when but probably at the beginning. I remember reading his insights with awe, admiring him from afar (or as afar as you can bee on an online social network).. I told him I always felt like I was stalking him, and what it had meant for me to meet him in person earlier this year. He chuckled and paraphrased a Charles Dickens quote, about moving on to sea and remembering the narrow river from where we came. I looked for that quote for days, and today I found it. The quote is priceless, but the paragraph it is embedded captures how I feel about everything that happened since that fateful day where I agreed to have a coffee with someone who identified himself as one Nat Torkington:

“My dear Mrs Winter I have been much moved by your letter; and the pleasure it has given me has some little sorrowful ingredient in it. In the strife and struggle of this great world where most of us lose each other so strangely, it is impossible to be spoken to out of the old times without a softened emotion. You so belong to the days when the qualities that have done me most good since, were growing up in my boyish heart that I cannot end my answer to you lightly. […] We are all sailing away to the sea, and have a pleasure in thinking of the river we are upon, when it was very narrow and little.”

(From Dickens, C. (2012). The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens. Oxford University Press.)

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