On the 21st of April, in the midst of a conversation with family and friends, I suddenly had the urge to revisit Chloe Weil’s “Hipster” blog post. On pulling out my phone and tapping in the URL for her website I was dismayed to be greeted by a large notice apologizing that she had lost interest and “could no longer do this”. The site was closed.
I wanted to write to her telling how much I had enjoyed her site and how sad I was that it was no longer available. When I finally got round to writing that email two days later, I noticed that the site was somewhat open again and, to my surprise, included a note that she was “tickled” to be mentioned in an article that I had written. I was even more surprised (and delighted) when she explained in her reply to my email that it was in fact my article that had encouraged her to open up her site again.
I was encouraged not only by the fact that the article was getting around a bit1 but also by the realization that it was, in its own small way, making some kind of impact in the world. I was touched that something I had written played a part in sustaining and encouraging the activities of someone I admired. It seemed to show how the world really is shaped by what we give our attention to.
What I didn’t realize was that Chloe’s doubts ran far deeper than I ever could have imagined. I’m still trying to process the news that she decided to take her own life.
We exchanged a few emails after that first point of contact. I asked her for permission to use a snippet of one of her texts in a piece I’m working on, which she happily agreed to. She helped out with a link to another text, the source of which had been eluding me.
It’s difficult to grasp that there won’t be any more posts from Chloe ticking in on my RSS feed. There won’t be any more emails. For all the brevity2 of our contact there is a deep sadness that she is no longer with us, that she decided to end her life when she had so much to offer. It feels as if there’s a hole in the world, as Jeremy has written.
I knew Chloe mainly through her site. I really enjoyed it’s personal tone. In a world filled with slick parallax designs it spoke to me. Her texts were beautifully crafted. She took care with the details. She used simple web technologies in an original way. The delightful blog post that was the beginning of what was to be her last talk, for example. She considered accessibility – there were audio tracks accompanying each article. Even in the “downtime” when her storefront was closed she made sure that the URL’s to her previous posts remained intact. Her indieweb approach inspired me to investigate that avenue myself.
I keep thinking that the world needs more Chloe, not less.
Even though collecting ones thoughts and honing them through the act of writing has great value in itself, the doubts about investing so much time and energy in something read by (what seems to be) only a handful of people sometimes nevertheless sneak in. ↩
Perhaps the curious synchronicity of her reading my article more or less at the same time as I was reading her “closed” notice added something to the exchange that followed. The reversal of setting about writing a note of encouragement and in turn finding oneself encouraged. ↩
Jeremy Keith has, in addition to his own deeply moving posts, collected a large number of tweets and blog entries paying tribute to Chloe. See also Jeremy’s post with links to the The Oregon Humane Society and The Internet Archive, should you wish to make a contribution in her memory.