Over the weekend we lost Diaspora co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy to suicide. I can honestly say that I was privileged to be his acquaintance.

This past May, I traveled to the Bay Area (from New York) for Maker Faire. The night before the Faire, the Noisebridge hackerspace was having an event for speakers to present their projects in five minutes or less. When I delivered mine, I happened to mention that I’m an NYU student. Being from the same alma mater, Ilya struck up an hour-long conversation with me. The topics were as varied as you might expect when two creative technologists get together. One thing that stuck out for me was his love of MAKE, especially the how-to videos by Bre Pettis that he’d watched online as a teen.

We kept in touch afterwards, and he invited me to be an alpha tester for Diaspora. His death is such a shock to me as he seemed like such a vibrant character – full of joie de vivre. He mentioned several great ideas for future projects and I could tell these were only a sampling of a giant mental backlog. I would never have expected to lose him to suicide at just 22 years old.

Despite being part of one of the hottest VC-backed companies at the time, he was totally down to earth and interested in whatever topics came up. A member of the InMojo hackerspace in Tokyo gave us both proto boards. Ilya chose the Geiger counter, as this was shortly after the Fukushima incident in Japan.

It’s heartbreaking when we lose a member of the maker tribe at such a young age. Ilya was passionate, idealistic, and driven. I’ll miss him terribly, as I’m sure will others.