Friday, May 16, 2008

Community Networking champion Steve Cisler passed away this week.
He was an inspiration to and supporter of many people and initiatives in the U.S. and globally.
Please use this space to post your recollections, stories and expressions of gratitude to Steve and for his family and friends.


Anonymous said...


Andrew Cohill said...

Steve Cisler passed away today from complications due to cancer. Steve was an early pioneer in the U.S. community networking movement, and helped many of us in the early nineties as local community network projects were starting up. Steve was at Apple Computer then, and he was able to provide important and often critical funding and equipment for local projects. One of Steve's contributions was to provide an Apple Web server to the Blacksburg library near the start of the Blacksburg Electronic Village. That server provided Web sites for local community groups for several years, at a time when it was more difficult and expensive to purchase Web hosting commercially.

Steve also helped organize and manage some of the earliest conferences on community networking. Many of us stood on Steve's shoulders.

Andrew Cohill

Richard Lowenberg said...

I first met Steve Cisler in 1993, when, through the Apple Library of Tommorrow Program, he gave invaluable support to the Telluride InfoZone project. We shared much during community networking events and encounters ever since then, and last communicated very recently. He gave much, and I will miss his intelligent, creative and dedicated activism and influence. My best wishes go out to his family and many friends and colleagues.

Stephen Snow said...

Steve was a tireless, steady proponent and advocate for the open voice for people represented by access to online technologies. At the same time, he did not hesitate to discuss openly the limitations of media and the value of true, personal connections.

He was a funny, wise and good man.

His early writing explored the potential of online media as a senior scientist at Apple Computer. As a librarian, he was tasked at Apple with running a program call "Library of Tomorrow." He hosted two instrumental conferences in Cupertino, CA, in 1994 and 1995 that gathered many of the leading lights of the day and want-to-bes (that would include me). He seemed always so relaxed and comfortable with himself and took great pleasure in others: I recall him glefully watching Dave Hughes hold court during and afternoon break in Cupertino in 1994.

I recall our first physical meeting -- after a good bit of virtual writing -- in 1993 in Washington, DC at a Merit Corp conference. Him with this very odd fish-shaped computer shtchel tucked over in a corner during the talks taking notes on his Apple laptop, dutifully plugged into the wall.

Through the years he filed many "trip reports" and "walkabouts" involving, first, electronic connectivity's impact, especially in developing areas of the world. Later, he focused on a series of "unplugged" reports, commenting on the contrasting life "offline" in an increasingly electronically connected world.

He had an unmistakable laugh, a regular twinkle in his eye as he spun stories of his travels and travails in the online world, and a gentlemanly grace in moving among both the least powerful and the most powerful in the telecommunications world.

His like will not be known again.

Badthing1 said...

TheJennTaFur just posted a tweet on twitter about this site and Steve and I would like to add my sincere condolences to Steve, his family and everybody else whose lives were impacted by this individual.

Your memories of him will live on as long as you shall breathe.

Lisa Kimball said...

I remember so well the meeting Steve hosted at Apple for the Community Networking clan and some fabulous related conversations on a woods walk. He made so many great contributions and lives on in all our work

Edward Vielmetti said...

I never met Steve in person, but we showed up in the same parts of the online world, and I read any number of his trip reports to places I wish I would have been able to go.

When he went "unplugged" for a road trip he sent me a postcard along the way - really just a photograph from a quick print place with a postage stamp and a note on the back side of it.

Jean said...

Spending an hour with Steve was equivalent to spending about a month reading books, perusing the paper, watching TV, and listening to NPR.
I will miss him very much.

Keola said...

I met Steve in 1993, when my colleagues and I were beginning to investigate the use of online technologies to build a community of Hawaiian language speakers. With his support as head of the Apple Library of Tomorrow Program, we received he loan of some computers which became the backbone of all of our efferts in these areas. I frequently referred to him as the Godfather of "Leoki", the Hawaiian language BBS/Intranet system which we launched in 1994 and continue to this day. He was an endless source of inspiration and encouragement, and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing. He will be deeply missed.

mcwflint said...

Steve was so helpful in showing many actions always speak louder then words. I will miss his updates, his encouragement, his insights.

Howard said...

I've been thinking about Steve a lot, as we all have been. He was a public librarian in Suisun, CA, when I first encountered him on the WELL in 1985. It sounds like maybe a small thing, but for me, a big thing: he helped me see how to think critically about my enthusiasm for online sociality. We had memorable adventures in the early days of the WELL, at Apple, with the community networking enthusiasts, at Burning Man, with Mario Morino, walking and talking on Mt. Tam. He introduced me to my partner when I started an ill-fated dotcom. When I conjure him in my mind's eye, Steve is always smiling. He meant -- and means -- a lot to me.

Lee said...

I counted Steve Cisler as a friend and mentor. He did the first due diligence on the Jhai PC 1.0 and he introduced me to many people. He also was always a good sounding board on almost any issue. He also knew Laos. I am in Vietnam now setting up a relationship for the JhaiPC2.0 in a telemedicine implementation. Steve would have loved this one. Steve was a champion for us and always very kind. I'll miss him.

Lee Thorn
chair, Jhai Foundation

kb said...

Steve was my mentor/buddy when I started at Apple almost 20 years ago, and he was the perfect guy for the job of helping a junior know-nothing like me get an understanding of how to work in that special environment at Apple and, later on, how to make connections with and contribute to the larger community of librarians and others similarly disposed to trying to make the information world a better place for everyone. I've always appreciated how Steve's counsel helped me and how his work helped so many.

Eric Anderson said...

I am saddened that one of the most decent human beings I have ever known is no longer with us. For almost a decade I had the privilege of working with this pioneer of peoples computing in his various capacities. Although I often had some outlandish and provocative ideas and proposals, Steve always took the time to help me explore many and support some.

Steve was a unique intellectual populist. I believe his driving force was to put the power of computing resources, and the ability to communicate with same, into the hands of all who could benefit. I first met him with ALUG. That marvelous group, inspired by Monica Ertel and supported by Apple spent a decade exploring and supporting a myriad of individuals who believed computing was more than the boxes, more than the established framework of profit oriented services, and limited only by our combined imaginations..

I had the privilege of sharing my roof with him when he came to evaluate an ALOT grant in the early 90’s. He joined me on a trip to deliver a plaque honoring a library trustee who had spent fifty years promoting cooperative rural library service in our Appalachian corner of Ohio. On the drive home I mentioned the respect I had for the trustee and her perseverance she had in improving the welfare of her neighbors by collaborating with others. “Isn’t that what we are about?”

As my life changed direction and I left library land we somehow lost touch. That does not tarnish the respect and admiration I will always have for this trailblazer. My condolences to his loved ones, my regards to all who remember him fondly.

Paul Jones said...

I too met Steve in the Early 90s and kept in touch with his rich adventures across the past two decades. I wrote a bit here and hope that folks will find that a helpful way to get to know Steve a bit.

Frank Odasz said...

Cislerian Themes
By Frank Odasz
I’d like to share some thoughts on the impact Steve Cisler has made on my life, as a contribution to a book project collecting similar thoughts from others. I’d also like to note we fully expect him to be around for a good long time, yet. But, it is always nice to be appreciated.
Steve is a librarian by nature, naturally curious and eager to learn. I remember once we were talking on the phone and didn’t know he was googling on the topic we were discussing. He began pulling relevant factoids out of thin air. I’d never experienced such a thing in the middle of a conversation. It really changed my idea of how to use an Internet connected computer for instant inquiry-based knowledge access. I visited Steve in his office at Apple computer when he was head of the Apple Library of Tomorrow Program. He granted a macintosh to the Big Sky Telegraph project in its final years.
Many will remember the Ties that Bind community networking conferences that Apple and the Morino Institute hosted in San Jose and Taos, NM. I remember his international travels to Indigenous ICT conferences and exotic ports. He was always open to new ideas and cultures. His trek to Machu Piccu in Peru, his bicycling in Malaysia, his jaunt to Guatemala, Ecuador, on and on.
Steve has always been kind and patient, always eager to help others as a master Cybrarian – to find whatever they needed.
Since the mid-eighties, the BBS and pre-Internet years, we’ve kept in touch sharing ideas, projects, and visions for the future. Steve and his wife, Nancy have visited Montana a number of times, we’ve gone camping, kyacking, mountain biking and enjoy a few BBQ’s. Steve has toted an inflatable kyack to a number of exotic places, and loves to hike and travel to new places. He used to make his own wine, and enjoys growing cherries.
May 16, 2008, I just received news Steve passed on yesterday. I guess my thoughts turn toward Nancy and their two boys. Steve had a great capacity for friendship and his openness won him a huge number of friends and admirers from all over the world. Reflecting back on the community networking movement that he contributed so much to, I’m feeling we have too few people with Steve’s vision for leveraging the good in all of us. His eclectic interests as a master librarian make me think of what many of us would leave on the shelf as opportunities to learn and share in life, Steve would be the one to take the book down and open it. A couple days before his untimely passing we talked for an hour, it was one of those rambling conversations where neither of us were in a hurry, and we talked of little things, and big things, and how funny it is how much of a rush most of us are in, most of the time, and what of it all really matters. The week before his boys were visiting and they sat together in the yard and talked about important things on the off chance they might miss the opportunity.
Last summer, Steve and Nancy visited, and Steve and I went kyacking on the Beaverhead river. Upon launching his boat in the swift current, he rolled into the water, very near the shore in only a few feet of water. As I grabbed for him and his boat the rocky river bottom prevented both of us from getting a foothold so we could stand up. So there we were hanging on to each other and the boat, grateful no one was watching us as we laughed and floundered. Dripping wet we both successfully launched our kayaks and continued down that river of life enjoying every moment.
I briefly googled "Steve Cisler" and found 11,500 articles. I then clicked google's images tab and found a page of images of Steve, though the remaining images were not of him. Clicking the google “more” and then books, tab I found 138 books, and the blogs tab, 157 blogs….and it was from Steve I learned to appreciate how to find stuff like this. Lots of great writing….

And I'm sure this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Rob said...

Steve inevitably mailed me when there was some kind of decision, however fleeting to be made. He always went for the human as in mensch solution, default being dialogue. I will miss him. Wherever he is now, he will make it a better place.

phil shapiro said...

steve's quiet voice was filled with wisdom. he always thought before speaking. i would lean over to hear him speak because i knew what he was saying was informed by a connection to eternal truths.

steve crandall said...

Steve was one of the kindest and most interesting people I've known. We first met in the early 90s doing some community networking and I was fascinated by his librarian - almost anthropological - approach to understanding the world.

There was nothing like traveling with him. Rank or station meant nothing and his fierce dedication to those without means was an inspiration to me.

He convinced me that I should tithe time to causes and people I believed in. I have been doing this for years and it is the greatest gift he gave me.

I was his backoffice partner in the unconnected project . He was traveling and observing the unconnected and, to better understand things, kept himself from the Internet. Every few weeks I would get a memory card with his notes and images for posting on the blog. I have arranged that the blog will continue indefinitely.

I feel cheated - we should all feel cheated. Far too young.

Roberto said...

I met Steve about 10 years ago, in one of the pioneering conferences about Rural Telecommunications organized by the NTCA in Washington DC. From the beginning, Steve showed interest in a project of telecentres we were conducting at that time in the Ecuadorian Amazonia, and he provided very useful insights and information.

From then, we met again few times both online and in person in other spaces and he always was ready to share his experience and information.

He indeed contributed and inspired in many ways to many people.

Roberto Roggiero
Quito, Ecuador.

Anonymous said...

Test Posting.
Testing please delete this post.

Richard Lowenberg said...

A new updated blog has been created at:

Please log onto that site to post new 'comments'.

Richard Lowenberg

Parham said...

I met Steve back in 1999 while working at Schools Online. My coworker, Keith Yocam, introduced him to our organization.

His in depth knowledge about the possible use of technology in remote area was eye opening.

He has touched many lives, left a great legacy, and will be missed.

Redwood City, CA

Parham said...

I met Steve back in 1999 while working at Schools Online. My coworker, Keith Yocam, introduced him to our organization.

His in depth knowledge about the possible use of technology in remote area was eye opening.

He has touched many lives, left a great legacy, and will be missed.

Redwood City, CA

Lee Wilson - Numedeon said...

Steve was a mentor and coach to me at Apple. He shared his enthusiasm for the early web with this business guy from the education group. He was always out ahead and I have fond memories of a gentle, brilliant, and unassuming man.

Katie said...

This is so very sad. Steve was wonderful. He was everything that everyone here is saying, and then some. He was quiet yet intense. He knew where he lived, and he was a role model for so many of us. When I was living in Sonoma, he came up to our house once to vist and helped us harvest lavender and hang it to dry. He brought some homemade wine, and I remember how calming his effect on our house was, as we sat together talking about nothing in particular while we worked. I suppose he was the embodiment of the phrase one-of-a-kind. I feel very fortunate to have known him.

Max Gail said...

I am thinking os Steve this Saturday morning and remembering our first meeting at the CTCNet gthering in Pittsburg in the early nineties. He was friendly in a feet on the ground way and smart and informed. some time later he came down to LA with Frank Odasz to participate with a visioning circle, a LAP, we were running at the BreakAway Institute in South Central Los Angeles. I still have the Tupperware container he brought with some home made hummas. Over the years I learned to count on Steve's clear and consice reviews of conferences and other activities that were on his wide ranging path. He connected me with Scott Robinsons excedllent work when I had been asked to put together a video for the Canadian Government advocating for the community technology efforts and possibilities in the hemisphere at the OAS summit. Steve was as authentic, caring and committed as anyone I have ever met. His legacy is in the circle of frinds who have posted on his passing, in all the good work that continues to be done, and in the underlying friendship and humanity that were his way. I am sorry I never met his family. I want you to know that I am one more person touched by Steve who will not forget him.

For all my relations,

Max Gail

Revalani said...

Steve and I shared the podium at several library/online research conferences in the '80s and early '90s. He was the first person I heard preach the gospel of online community. Steve finally persuaded me to get off my butt and onto The WELL, at which point my life changed forever. I'm eternally grateful for that. Peaceful passage, Steve.

Roy Tennant said...

I knew Steve while he was at the Apple Library, but lost touch with him when he moved on. I was very much impressed with him as someone who immediate "got" the implications of the Internet. For Apple Library he created the "Network Citizen Award" which I was thrilled to receive in 1992 for my work in launching the publication Current Cites, still going strong in our 18th year. Steve was a pioneer and a visionary, it's that simple and that complex.

Bill Drew said...

I knew Steve Cisler online only but considered him a friend. I met him via BITNET e-mails in the late 1980s. He served as an inspiration and sounding board for me in my early internet efforts such as the campus Gopher at Morrisville State College. His digital presence will be with us for eternity.

artunit said...

I first interacted with Steve as a co-op student working for the National Library of Canada in the late 1980s. I had been asked to contact a number of leading library tech folks and Steve went to the trouble of writing me back with a kind and detailed response to my questions. He also printed out the letter on the most beautiful paper, I felt like I had been the recipient of a major honour to receive such a reply. Years later, Steve was on a panel for the Ontario Library Association which I was coordinating and I reminded him of his willingness to help a student. He just laughed and it was obvious that helping people out was a natural reaction for him to any situation. I have always admired Steve's efforts to build communities through technology and was not at all surprised that he was a donor on the first day of the One Laptop Per Child "Give One Get One" program. Steve was a class act with a heart of gold, he will be greatly missed.

Peter Miller said...

The mixture of professional tributes and memorials for Steve's personal attributes reflect just how unusual a person we have lost and want to remember and celebrate. I got to know Steve first from his work at Apple and at the Ties that Bind conferences -- for me and so many others, he was one of the main ties, bringing together community technology centers and community networking, spanning the full range of community media and technology, across the country and across the world.

In the fall of 2003 I had the opportunity to travel through Jordan with Steve, Richard Civille, Michael Gurstein, and Mona Affifi visiting community technology centers in an advisory capacity for the Ministry of Information. I've recently pulled out some of the photos from the trip with Steve and posted them at:

What the photos show, I'm sure you can see most vividly, is a man both knowledgeable and at ease, genuinely listening and interested in the views, sentiments, and experience of his colleagues and the full range of those involved with CTCs there -- end users, staff, administrators, experts, Ministry and other governmental officials influencing the course of community technology. Steve's quiet calmness, his collegiality, his genuine interest in others were among his more remarkable qualities.

Richard Civille has contributed some of his own photos of the trip with Steve that highlight that remarkable landscapes and a couple of Steve from Richard Lowenberg taken in Colorado Springs. I'll be pleased to post more or links to others that some of you may have. Professionally and personally, I feel blessed to have known Steve.

Jim May said...

Steve Cisler has been an inspiration for me for two decades and I will greatly miss him. His name always came up wherever someone needed advise on how to use economically efficient yet latest technological advances to solve community networking problems. He was a great resource for suggestions on how to apply technology to help remote and poor communities, especially those of indigenous peoples.

I was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Communication and Information Research at Stanford University for the 1993 calendar year looking at the application of low-cost and portable technology for the preserving native languages and cultures. Steve immediately arranged for me to have space in the new Apple office building at 1 Infinity Loop in Cupertino and to participate in his Apple Library of Tomorrow Project. This gave me access to resources at Apple that were of significant help in my projects. I also had a chance to visit Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico and work with them in using Apple laptops to preserve their language and teach reading and writing in Zuni. As co-founder of the American Indian Library Association I learned much from Steve as we developed the organization.

Shortly after this, in 1994, I became the founding Dean of Instruction and first recruited academic for the new California State University Monterey Bay. Steve was a constant source of advice for me as we developed information resources and media for the new campus.

Again, in June 2001, while I was serving as the Community Technology Coordinator for the newly emerging National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian. we held a Community Technology Consultation in Minneapolis and Steve was a major participant. To quote the program write-up, he was “a community networking advocate, who had worked extensively with Central American indigenous communities.” His experience served us well in our discussions both at the workshop and later as we developed plans for the new museum on Capitol Mall in DC.

Steve was active to the end. Just last November he mentioned to me in an email something about Tech Awards week in San Jose which ended with a one-day conference on innovation. He noted there were interesting people there from Senegal, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.

Madeline (Gonzalez) Allen said...

Steve Cisler was such an inspiration, a remarkable visionary with a huge heart, a soul who lived life to the fullest. I respected him very much professionally, and felt blessed to have him as a friend. He was so utterly committed and tireless in his efforts to ensure that this Internet medium would be accessible to all. His travels to me exemplified his life -- wonderfully *authentic*, experiencing all to the fullest, and always involving giving to others. He visited Cuba and met relatives of mine that I have not met, and with his presence completely transformed the image of an American... according to my mother's family, they talk about him still. The wonderful ripples he created all over this planet are out there, rippling still.

I am wishing you and your family peace, Steve. Thank you for everything.

Peter Benjamin said...

I am so sad. Steve was a lovely wise man. Since the mid-1990s I have met him at various ICT4D conferences, and through his blogging and email conversations I have kept learning from him. I'm involved in community computing in South Africa, and Steve was continually sending useful articles and links. His humanity and humour shone through all he did. I will miss him. The world is a better place for him being in it.

Peter (