Jesse Malthus - remembered by his friends at Second Life



April 21, 2007
Jesse Malthus 4/21/06-4/19/07
By Prokofy Neva, Dept. of Community Affairs, Second Life Herald

In a week of horror and sad cruelty with the massacre at Virginia Tech, comes a separate piece of sad news of a young man cut down at his most promising. The typist of the avatar Jesse Malthus, a 17-year-old Kentucky youth named Jesse Higginbotham, was killed in a car accident on his way to school with 3 other teenagers. He struggled to live for a day but then succumbed to his injuries.

In Second Life for not quite a year, Jesse made an impact on all who came into touch with him. He was an active member of IRC, libsecondlife, the open-source group, #joiito; a regular at the Sutherland Dam, Free Culture, and other SL discussions. Few knew that this creative, outspoken, and productive young man was only 17. Always ready with an intelligent comment, Jesse projected the presence in our virtual world of someone much older.

Jesse was an avid user of Twitter, which he called "social narcissism." In a comment posted April 17, Jesse wrote, "@spin Yes! Web2.0 is about social media, and guess what people like to be social about? Themselves. Social Narcissism." On the Twitter page, Jesse chose to post not a picture of an avatar or RL photo, but a snapshot evidently of his busy work table, cluttered with the wires and pop bottles of the quintessential geek.


In SL in recent months, Jesse was actively testing the Voice Beta. The last words on his profile were, "I'm hanging over at the Voice Beta a lot lately, so you probably can find me there."

I asked the Lindens if Jesse's name could be included posthumously in the list of avatars in "About Second Life" for the Voice edition when it comes out, given his important contribution, and was assured by Joe Miller that he will be included.

"Believe it or not, when I wished upon a star, it came down close and sat on my arm," wrote Jesse on April 16 on Twitter.

He was a gifted author and editor of his school yearbook.

An online memory book for his family can be signed here. So tragic to lose a young man so promising and talented, and a reminder to all of us how little we know of the people behind the voices online and how much everybody counts.


News: Grave news, dear friends
From libsecondlife

In Second Life, as a general rule, nobody knows who you really are behind the avatar. Some people take this as a novel opportunity, acting exactly how they cannot in real life. Others treat it as simply another social medium, thus acting exactly as they would in real life. From what I can tell, Jesse Malthus was somewhere in the middle. As a stowaway teenager on the main grid, he could not be forthright about his real identity. However, the intelligence and friendship he constantly exhibited was certainly no act.

On Thursday evening Jesse Malthus, whose real name was Jesse Higginbotham, succumbed to injuries sustained in a car accident the previous morning. Jesse was very active in all aspects of Second Life, from social and cultural discussions to development. Although only seventeen, Jesse had been on the main grid since coming into Second Life just under a year ago. His first rez day was today. On behalf of the entire libsecondlife project team, I extend our deepest sympathies to Jesse's parents and loved ones.

Jesse was a brilliant individual, and I am confident he would have made significant contributions to the future global technological infrastructure through his work in virtual worlds. His memory lives on not only in the hearts and minds of those who knew him, but also in the software that he created, that will be used by individuals for years to come. We will remember him as a genius, taken from this harsh world at far too young an age.

We have setup a memorial on strace island, please feel free to come and talk, or leave something that reminds you of Jesse. Thursday evening I came across a solitary lolcube owned by Jesse in the basement of my factory in Pi. It brought tears to my eyes. I don't know when Jesse had rezzed it, but if the grid ever eats it I will be heartbroken.

(Photos at right are "snapshots" taken of the Memorial site at Strace Island in honor of Jesse) <3






  Monday, April 23, 2007
Tateru's Monday Reality Mix

In Memoriam: Jesse Malthus, 1990-2007

The "Snapshots" below are of one of Jesse's many SL avatars. This may well be one of his first - known for his "jet pack" and "Panic at the Disco" red T-shirt.


click the buttons above for information on The Jesse Malthus Award for Best Community Influence

Tateru Nino's weekly take on mixed reality..

There were all sorts of things that I was going to write about this week, but mostly, aside from our weekly metrics, I'm going to talk about the only thing that really matters. People.

Resident Jesse Malthus died this week, and it should serve as a strong reminder about what is important in our lives, and what makes Second Life important. People are the ultimate in mixed reality Jesse's death - when I heard the news, I didn't know if I should believe it. I know I didn't want to believe it. It's a common misperception that people with Asperger's Syndrome are insensitive. We're not. Given the circumstances that surround the condition, we tend to be a little hypersensitive at times. It may not be apparent what we are feeling or how, but it is not that we do not feel it.

Jesse's death hit me very hard. I'd spoken to him not so many hours before the accident that claimed his life. I didn't know he was seventeen. I didn't know that his candle was to be snuffed out a little more than a day later. I tried to disbelieve the news for an hour or so, to believe there was a mix up of identity and that it wasn't our Jesse - and then I cried, and I've been crying most of the time since then. Oh, it's pure selfishness, self-pity and loss. That doesn't make it any easier to bear.

What was he? Who was he?

Jesse was a techie's techie. A geek's geek. Hungry for knowledge. Willing and able to learn. Kind and generous, enthusiastic and thoughtful, he was (even at his age) a poster child for the open source philosophy, and a supporter of public ideals such as Creative Commons. Jesse seemed to be virtually indefatigable when it came to help and assistance of others, and to the application of technology for the assistance of others. A likable boy, in twenty years, he likely would have been better known than the likes of Linus Torvalds or Alan Cox. By seeking out knowledge and applying it, he has positively affected the lives of every Second Life resident in subtle ways, whether they realize it or not.

Recently I've lost three people in Second Life to death. Ginny Gremlin, one of my best friends and students. Feliciaa Feaver, all too soon after we began speaking. Now Jesse.Call it a game, call it a platform, call it a country, call it whatever the hell you want. It is a communications medium that is represented as a 3d world. It brings people together, for good or ill. It brought me, all too briefly, together with these people, these wonderful, genuine, human beings.

While I am hurting for my loss of them, even diminished by their deaths, I am richer for the time I was able to spend with them, however much or little, than I would have been if we had never met.

Asset databases, simulators, login servers. These aren't what Second Life is. They are the background and circumstances that the culture and peoples of the world increasingly express themselves against. The most important aspect of Second Life is the people who are in it. If Second Life didn't exist, to paraphrase Voltaire, it would be necessary to invent it. Linden Lab are truly only the people who got it going. If not them, it would have been others. It's an idea whose time has come, because the people will it into existence.

As Second Life grows, we will meet more great and wonderful people through it, who will touch our lives. Who will move us to tears when they die. Those deaths will become less of a rare occurrence. It's a net gain, though. Don't be afraid to care, to love, or to cry when people pass away. And learn from each of these three wonderful people - you need not do big things to make a difference, so long as you work at the little things, every day.

We enrich each other.

------------------------------------------------------------------ (A brief note from Jesse's mom)

There is little doubt in my mind that Jesse the only SLer who created more than one AV. (I recently found an email in which he had joined the "teen grid" as "Jesse Penguin" in 2005). While I distinctly recall Jesse asking me to help him pick out eye color (from a room filled with "eyes" that initially unsettled me) for his female avatar with red hair and a green shirt, I advocated matching the eye color with the shirt. I think he did. I often commented on his inability to land with grace after flying and when I created my own account on SL could not help but laugh when I did same.

Most of the "snapshots" I've been able to glean from Jesse's precious SL are those of his male jet-packing Jesse Malthus and of those I could fill pages - and perhaps one day I will.

He was extremely proud of his work on Kula and his time with the Rubyists of Second Life, a group he founded. And yes, the voice beta was a thrill for him. I walked into his room one day carrying laundry and said, quite loudly: "are you talking to yourself Jesse?" and he gave me a scornful look and said he was talking to his SL cohorts. My only wish is that those he connected to there will not forget him, because he most certainly was passionate about the time he spent "in world."

The many tributes and postings from his SL friends will forever hold a very special place in my heart. As Second Life did in Jesse's. <3