My brother-in-law, Jeffrey McManus (on Facebook), passed away on July 5th at the age of 46. It was way too soon and unexpected. This came at a very bittersweet time in our lives as my son, Michael, was about to graduate from secondary school on July 6th and my daughter was just finishing her middle school on the same day. We took time to reflect on our long planned holiday in Greece prior to Michael going away to Georgetown in August.
I can't imagine what my sister and her kids are going through right now. It is great to know that they have been surrounded by friends and family that celebrated Jeffrey's life. We truly wished that we could be at his memorial in San Francisco on the 19th. We celebrated his life with Singapore Slings on the same day and I felt like I was the only guy in Greece wearing an Aloha shirt - one of the items specified in the dress code for his memorial.
My kids knew him just as Uncle Jeffrey. The kind of uncle that shows up in movies made by SNL alumni and who any kid would love to have. There were very rarely any mopey faces around when Jeffrey was around. But with all the notices and comments on Facebook, my kids were wondering why he was so important.
That can be summed up on one word - Community. Jeffrey and my sister were part of the nascent social movement that predated any of this Facebook stuff. They were active members on the Well while Jeffrey earned a living at coding, teaching and writing on Microsoft technologies such as ASPs, SQL Server, C# and VB. See Jeffrey's books on Amazon. (http://www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-P.-McManus/e/B000APSY3K) Microsoft didn't really quite organize community the way that you would recognize today, that didn't stop Jeffrey. He would speak at events around the world evangilizing Microsoft technologies the way an open source community would do today. Using these technologies, he pioneered an API and social community with Insero, a company he co-founded with my sister.
From there he went on to establish the developer community for E-Bay, at the time a real innovation. Through trial and error, he helped develop the best practices in engaging developers and have them form a community. He did this with the understanding of someone who was a developer himself. He did this through developing the tools that developers need such as APIs and connections to IDEs. Most of all, he did it through his big, extroverted personality that developers found infectious. That's not to take away from the technical innovations he made while there, such as developing RESTful APIs only a couple of years after Roy Fielding's paper describing REST. In addition, he helped figure out the taxonomies that vendors and buyers could access products from the E-Bay platform. He really helped make E-Bay a platform, not just a site.
He became the expert in community development and naturally socialized with the connected technology crowd. People sought him out to participate in conferences. That's one of the first ins that I had to meet up with Tim O'Reilly. I would often name drop my brother-in-law as at least a conversation starter. I don't remember who went to Yahoo first, Jeffrey or my sister, but Yahoo recruited Jeffrey to develop their developer community. Unfortunately, this meant trying to tackle some of Yahoo's basic issues such as usability, which he was the first to admit was not his forte. He made an impact there, but Yahoo wasted the opportunity that they had with him on board.
So he struck out on his own with some of the many ideas of a very fertile mind. He had the brilliant idea of Approver.com, which was either too ahead of its time or he was not interested enough in taking venture money. He later developed CodeLesson to provide an online developer instruction experience that bridged the gap between online instruction and in-person instruction. He still consulted on community for companies like Twilio. We consulted with him at Alfresco in the early days of the development of our community.
Jeffrey and my sister are part the GenX crowd that invented social networking and with it all the social connections that easily explains the many kind thoughts that have been put onto his profile. It's just a minor sign of how much we will miss him, his wit and his ideas. RIP!