Steve Cisler

On Thursday, May 15th, Steve Cisler died of complications from cancer.   This blog invites comment postings from Steve’s many friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family. 


From the web posting (with wonderful photo) created by Steve’s colleagues at the University of Santa Clara’s Center for Science, Technology & Society, at:   

Steve is survived by his wife Nancy, sons Erik and Geoff, daughters-in-law Tiffany and Karen, twin granddaughters Anna and Lena, and countless friends all over the world who have started to assemble a multimedia tribute in his memory.  

A memorial service has been planned by the family to take place on Monday, June 2nd at 4:00pm in Sanborn Park (16055 Sanborn Road, Saratoga, California 95070).

In lieu of flowers, Steve’s family requests that donations be made in his memory to the Friends of African Village Libraries ( ; P.O Box 9053, San Jose, CA 95109-3533.)  

(There is going to be a library dedicated to Steve in Burkina Faso later this year.)



74 Responses to “Steve Cisler”

  1. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    Some postings on the NetTime list:

  2. Jean Armour Polly Says:

    Spending an hour with Steve was equivalent to spending about a month reading books, perusing the paper, watching TV, and listening to NPR.
    A long time ago in 1993 I was on a LITA award committee and we decided that Steve would be our honoree that year. I asked him for a vita and what his proudest accomplishments were to date.
    This is what he sent:
    Steve Cisler is a Senior Scientist in the Apple Library which is
    part of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple Computer in
    Cupertino, California. His background is in public libraries where
    he worked for 14 years before coming to Apple in 1988.

    He works with information retrieval projects at Apple, with the
    Apple Library Users Group, and manages the Apple Library of
    Tomorrow program. In addition, he has been active in promoting
    access and use of the Internet/NREN and is working with the
    Computer Systems Policy Project on lifelong learning issues.

    He co-hosts a discussion group on information on TheWELL,
    a unix-based conferencing system in Sausalito, California.

    I’d say my proudest accomplishments are those that were collaborative,
    where you can’t say one person did it all:
    1. building up the WELL
    2. helping ALOT grow into something useful to Apple and the
    community of libraries, though I realize what a small part of the
    whole process the equipment donations are compared to the local
    resources (esp. after my last trip to Zuni, Beloit, and New Hampshire)
    3. spreading the word about the Internet within the library
    community (esp. public libraries). It’s been great to see how our
    interest and expertise has grown since 1990. I say ‘our’ when I mean
    the library community. It’s way out of proportion to our numbers,
    compared to teachers or engineer/nerds (who also have done a lot).

    Full name; Stephen Cisler

    Education/professional background:

    Northwestern University, Evanston Illinois: BA History and Literature of
    Religion (1960)

    University of California, Berkeley, School of Librarianship: MLS (1973)

    5/88 – present: Apple Computer, Inc. Library: Information Scientist
    11/73 – 5/88: Contra Costa Country Library – Branch Librarian
    9/72 – 8/93: Vallejo Public LIbrary: Library Assistant
    1/68 – 6/71: US Coast Guard: Lieutenant Junior Grade
    6/65 – 6/67: US Peace Corps: West Africa (set up first library for school
    in Togo)
    Excerpting from the award citation:
    A librarian and information scientist, Steve Cisler has devoted his career to using technologies in libraries, sharing his expertise with others, and fostering collaborations between diverse communities, both real and virtual.
    A high-tech hunter and gatherer, Steve has examined and evaluated countless advanced technologies, and returned from the frontier to report, and thereby inspire and empower librarians worldwide.
    Steve’s accomplishments include…building up The Well…
    helping the Apple Library of Tomorrow grant program grow
    into a visionary facilitator of projects…spreading the
    word about the power of the Internet…creating the Network
    Citizens Award program…expanding the mission of libraries…
    by his ubiquitous presence at conference rostrums and policy
    His personal commitment to “what should be” as opposed to “what
    is” motivates us to drive technological change rather than go
    along for the ride.

    I feel blessed to have known Steve and to have benefited from his knowledge so many, many times. I would not be who I am today if I had never met Steve. I will miss him very much.

  3. Steve Cisler Passes : CULTURE HACKS Says:

    […] Steve and I stayed in touch after he left Apple, but hadn’t communicated for about two years. He will be deeply missed. Some of the many people who knew Steve and benefited from him kindness and dedication have left comments here. […]

  4. Garth Graham Says:

    When you go over the edge in exploring something different, and then you meet people like Steve who share a sense of wonder in that difference, those people really matter to you. With Steve, I always expected him to get what I was saying. We agreed that, all things being equal, achieving community as a state of grace was possible, and that it was better to try for it than do nothing. But more than that, he’d always point me towards possibilities I would not have seen otherwise.

    As the program coordinator of the first two Canadian community networking conferences in 1993 and 1994, I became aware of Steve Cisler through his hosting in parallel of the Ties That Bind conferences . I then presumed to think of him as my American counterpart, even though I was in awe of the resources he was able to bring to that early dialogue about what community networking might mean. Then, whenever I went “international,” I sort of expected he’d be there too, and he usually was. That was our infrequent face-to-face.

    I always valued what he said because I knew he did something special that I could not. His way of seeing was based on his knowledge of the primary source. He actually went and looked at things for himself. He always knew what people were doing because he’d made a point of going there and talking to them. And somewhere online, he always reported back on what he found and what he thought it meant.

    On hearing he’d died, one of the things I’ve done is plunge back into the online record of those early community networking conferences. Here’s a quote I found from a document in January, 1995. “Responsible citizenship in an electronic common requires contributing to it more than you retrieve from it.” Steve Cisler did that.

  5. Mario Morino Says:

    Early last week I heard from Jean Armour Polly, a friend from the past, that Steve had cancer. I was on the road at the time and hoped to call or write Steve over the next few days. Jean sent another message Friday morning that Steve had passed. My first reaction was for his family; my second, a touch of anger and sadness because in the midst of all the craziness in our world, no longer having Steve is a profound loss. Our world desperately needs more Steve Cislers.

    I can’t say Steve and I were close friends, but I know we were good friends. I remember getting an email from Steve in 1993 that directly, but politely, asked “Who are you?” He had seen my name listed as one of the attendees at a community networking conference that year at York University in Toronto, Canada. And, in Steve’s inimitable way he was reaching out. For months, we exchanged emails, each dialogue delving a little deeper into who we were. Finally, I suggested we should actually meet face-to-face and he showed up in Northern Virginia around October 1993. The relationship clicked.

    Steve was a very rare individual. I’m sure many know him far better, but the words that I immediately associate with Steve include:

    Family – He always spoke of his family and, unlike others, you knew of the importance and priority they had in his life. This was even evident to a stranger like me in the early years.

    Social justice – He was always about doing right for people in a profound and meaningful way. He really felt and meant what social justice was about.

    Sensibility – This was a person of (and I use this word again) profound common sense. He looked at life, issues, and people and always seemed to have a sensibility about what was important or not, the practical versus the ridiculous, the visionary rather than vapor.

    Quiet comfort – He always seemed comfortable with who he was, what he believed, and what he stood for. He conveyed this in matter-of-fact, clear, and respectful terms.

    Moral fabric – It may sound trite or corny to use these words, but Steve was a man of reasoned conviction, purpose, and principles. I only wish the “leaders” on all levels had Steve’s moral compass.

    Steve guided me into his world. We worked together to put on the “Ties that Bind” conferences in 1994 and 1995. He introduced me to luminaries like Howard Rheingold. And, through the 1990s he stayed in touch and advised me and our teams on various projects. Throughout those years, even though we saw each other infrequently, we communicated via emails and phone calls.

    In this decade, we continued to stay in touch but as his travels increased and took him further around the globe and the focus of my work sharpened, we crossed paths less frequently. I knew, however, that Steve would respond anytime I needed him and I hope he felt the same. The irony is that Steve’s name came up in conversation just days before Jean’s email….and I didn’t write or call to tell him how much I admired and cared for him as a person and a friend. Steve left this earth, though, knowing that he made it a better place and affected the lives of others in a very positive way.

    I’m sure he is reaching out to someone up there right now—sending a message, extending his hand in friendship, making a difference. My thoughts are with his family and close friends …..Mario

  6. Pat Hunt Says:

    Steve was awesome to me in the early nineties. In retrospect he is more so. He introduced me to the very idea of digital communication and community, HTML, WWW, and digital photography as a sampling. This stuff was all new then and his interest seemed to be bemused and academic but looking back he hit all the stuff we are still excited about. He sensed the killer apps before they were apps. His style was so gently laid back that you were never quite sure whether to take him as seriously as he truly deserved.

    I loved that guy.

  7. Dave Hughes Says:

    I always regarded Steve as the preeminent Librarian of the Future.
    Since I was, in the early 80’s , developing and advocating the use of computer bulletin boards for K-12 education, especially rural education, I knew that when public libraries got online that ‘continuing’ adult – all their lives – education would depend on accessible libraries, where all were welcome. For I saw education in the future as lifelong, K-99. Steve’s commitment to the libraries of the future was a great help to my fledgling efforts.
    Even though he was in the middle of Silicon Valley and California’s rapid digital development, while I was in the backwater of Colorado, via the Well as in other ways I was able to benefit from his work and counsel. He was always generous with his contributions, and did not pursue a fortune as others did. He was always about ‘public service.’
    Steve introduced me to the quiet world of non-activist librarians with whom I had previously had very contact. I was able to meet with them individually, be at their conferences, and make presentations of my ideas and experiments, such as with Big Sky Telegraph linking one room schools in Montana. And pick their and his richly endowed brain with his vision, ideas, and projects. He became my bridge to their world.
    He was an inspiration and endless source of ideas and possibilities for how the public at large could access the recorded knowledge of the world via the new technologies.
    So whenever I did my own pioneering, even after I was amply funded by the National Science Foundation in the 90s to experiment with wireless for remote-area education and science, even in foreign places, I was always able, through him, to make linking with libraries part of the equation. I can credit his influence with my making the tiniest Carnegie neighborhood library in Colorado Springs – the ‘Old Colorado City’ branch the first one in the large and well endowed Pikes Peak Library District to be ‘on the Internet’ and wirelessly connected. Its patrons, who could not afford their own computers, owe him a lot.
    So it is sad to hear of his passing, for he ought to be able to enjoy the fruits of his long labors. I just hope the world of librarians remember and honor him as much as I will.

    Dave ‘Cursor Cowboy’ Hughes

  8. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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
    May 16, 2008

  9. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 16, 2008

  10. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 16, 2008

  11. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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

    May 16, 2008

  12. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 16, 2008

  13. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 16, 2008

  14. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    mcwflint said…

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

    May 16, 2008

  15. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 16, 2008

  16. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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
    May 16, 2008

  17. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 17, 2008

  18. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 17, 2008

  19. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 17, 2008

  20. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 17, 2008

  21. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 17, 2008

  22. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 17, 2008

  23. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    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.

    May 17, 2008

  24. Miles Fidelman Says:

    I met Steve in the early 90’s, when he was at Apple. He supported our first major project at the Center for Civic Networking – putting high speed networking in the Cambridge, MA public library. He was a wonderful, supportive guy, and we stayed in touch for a while, but I lost track of him after he left Apple, and I moved on to other pursuits.

    This is a sad, sad, day.

    Miles Fidelman

  25. Brock N. Meeks Says:

    Steve Cisler is one of the “old guard”; an Internet warrior Web 1.0. I remember Steve as measured and reasonable, passionate but not pushy. He was everything I was not in those days as I sat behind the flamethrower I called CyberWire Dispatch.

    He carried the message of the power and purpose of the Internet (before we even knew to call it that) to his community and operated as an evangelist for its further use, and protection.

    Dave Hughes has big-footed the rest of my comments and I can’t be more eloquent than he without being redundant, so I’ll merely echo his words. We miss you, Steve; we’ll all miss your voice and vision.

  26. Bonnie Nardi Says:

    My last memory of Steve is a photograph. I was teaching an undergraduate course (at the University of California, Irvine) on society and technology. I wanted to introduce the idea of resistance to technology so I talked about Steve’s cross country trip to discover people who were not connected to the Internet. I showed a picture Steve had sent me of him getting in his van to leave for the trip.

    The students so resonated with a van in a driveway in a suburban California home that they “got it” in a way that I never could have communicated in any other way.

    That experience is iconic of Steve for me. Hitting the right note, presenting complex and not always popular ideas in completely accessible ways.

    I was extremely privileged to work with Steve at Apple. After the Apple days he attended a small gathering I hosted called Critical Friends of Technology. He always had interesting things to say and as others have noted, seemed to know everything.

    Steve was a magnificent human being and I count my lucky stars I knew him.

  27. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    I first met Steve in early 1993, when he provided the Telluride Institute’s InfoZone project with an ALOT grant. That Summer Steve came to Telluride to attend the conference that I organized: Tele-Community ’93. Here is his posting from the conference, still available online. It references a number of individuals that attended, are still active, and some of whom have posted to this blog.


  28. George Sadowsky Says:

    This is a terrible loss. I first met Steve when he was at Apple, and then we continued to meet, sharing an interest in ICT applications and networking in developing countries. Always modest, almost to a fault, he was always striving for better ways in which to make information available to people in developing countries and to allow them to communicate effectively with others. Both we and the developing world have lost a good friend and colleague.

  29. Michel Menou Says:

    The site of Somos@Telecentros, an organization with which Steve was associated since its inception carries a page collecting testimonies from members:
    Of course in Spanish or Portuguese

  30. Monica Ertel Says:

    How do I even start to describe what Steve Cisler meant to me? Everyone else has already said it so well. I met Steve in about 1985 when he was the first librarian I knew of to have a personal computer in the library for the public to use. It was a Macintosh he had purchased at Macy’s. We started communicating via the WELL and eventually got together and did a user’s group meeting at the Pinole Public Library. I brought a gigantic projection unit that filled the trunk of my car and that nearly gave Steve a hernia as he struggled to lift this incredible piece of new technology from the deep recesses of my car. But that was Steve – wanting to share useful information with a diverse group of people.

    When we started to think about the Apple Library of Tomorrow program at Apple, it was definitely with Steve in mind and the job description was written for him. He joined Apple with the official title “Library Evangelist” which over the years got changed to something a bit more serious -“Senior Information Scientist.” But he always introduced himself first and foremost as a librarian

    So many stories of my good times with Steve have been running through my mind. Everyone knows Steve as an incredible pioneer in community networking and a provocative observer of the impact of the internet on our lives, especially libraries and developing countries.

    I know that Steve, too. But like many of you, I was also blessed to know the Steve who was fun, who loved gossip, who had a wicked sense of humor, who was an incredible wine and bread maker, who had an insatiable appetite for experiencing (not merely visiting) places around the world, who never had a bad word to say about anyone, who deeply loved his family, who was a loyal friend and who was and will continue to be a huge influence on my life.

  31. Amy Borgstrom Says:

    I met Steve at the second Ties that Bind conference in Cupertino. At that meeting we started a 13-year conversation that came much too abruptly to an end last week. I was so fortunate to spend time with Steve at many other meetings—in particular I remember the Rural Telecommunications Congress meetings held annually at the Aspen Institute, the third Ties that Bind in Taos, various CTCnet meetings, annual Telecommunication Infrastructure Board meetings in Austin, a couple of meetings of the Internet Society and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, a meeting convened by Richard Civille and Michael Gurstein in Colorado Springs, and others.

    We shared a passion for libraries and books, rural places and people, and exploring how technology could build connections and make communities better places to live. We were also both interested in food, wine, movies, fringe communities (Amish and Hutterite for example), temporary communities (Burning Man), what makes community disappear, maps, stories, and travel. We worked together with many hard working others on forming the Association for Community Networking and co-hosted a memorable planning meeting of that group in the same redwood grove where he will be remembered on Monday.

    He graciously invited me to help him to document the impact of the Kellogg Managing Information with Rural America grants at a time when I really needed the work! His report is here and the conclusion of this study is especially good and captures some of his way of thinking and writing. One time in Aspen we went out to dinner and tried to film our conversation for posterity (and our own entertainment) a la “My Dinner with Andre.” Unfortunately the ambient noise was so loud and ambient light so low that you could neither see nor hear the results!

    I think Steve’s great gift was connecting people through stories. He had a great memory and always had a story about the last interesting person he had met, what they talked about and where they were and often what they were having for dinner when they were talking about it. He was a prolific and gifted writer and a great role model in that respect. I think of Steve every time I write a summary of a meeting or a trip and try to make it come alive like he did. I also think of him every time I go to a conference and it’s time for lunch. Steve maintained that he met some of the most interesting people at large meetings by taking his plate to the empty table in the back corner and waiting to see who would show up.

    And Mario Morino is correct when he notes that Steve was first and foremost a family man. I don’t think we had a conversation that didn’t include news of Nancy and his sons. I was so pleased to receive the pictures of Anna and Lena, his twin granddaughters, after years of sending him pictures of my adored nieces and nephews as they grew up. In one of the last e-mails I got from Steve he said “they probably should not appear in photos with other kids because none are as cute.”

    He had a wry sense of humor and a way of gently puncturing pomposity and grandiose or unrealistic thinking that was spot-on. He could very quietly, gently, and straightforwardly right a group that was heading in the wrong direction. He had strong opinions about the technology projects a lot of us were working on, and what could be learned from them especially when they fail. He was a never failing source of common sense. He was one of the most fun, insightful, kind, accepting, and generous people I have ever known.

    As technologically adept as Steve was, we also shared a love for hard copy, especially fine printing. In this spirit, I will be collecting material from this blog and elsewhere to make into a book for the Cisler family. If you have hard copy pictures, old letters, or other items to include in this book please send them to me by the middle of June. My address is 2001 North Adams #713 Arlington, VA 22201.

  32. Harry Saal Says:

    I knew Steve from the time I was running Smart Valley during the late 90s. He was wonderfully collaborative and supportive of our initiatives in the community networking arena. He never viewed it as “his turf”; instead he helped us network individuals around the world, supported us by giving inspiring talks and panel sessions and mostly through his heartfelt encouragement. He is truly missed.

  33. Ian Peter Says:

    I’ve just heard of Steve’s death and am greatly saddened. Steve was a great Internet pioneer, a dedicated net activist, and someone who was clearly focussed on what the Internet could do for people everywhere.

    I can’t remember when I first met Steve. He was at Apple at the time, I remember that. I think it was around 1993 and may have been at INET 1993. I remember his involvement with ISOC at a later stage as well. And introducing him to Australian government ministers who wanted to learn about how this new Internet thing could be of social benefit.

    In the history of the Internet we tend to record the people who did techie stuff. Steve did people stuff in this space, and that’s what made the Internet what it is today. You don’t get so many awards for that, but you certainly get my admiration and that of many others.

  34. communitynetworking2008 Says:

    Re-Posted for Frank Odasz:

    I’d like to share an informal idea. If there will be some group photos from the June 2nd Redwoods memorial gathering, perhaps for those of us who won’t be able to make it but who still would like to be represented in some way…. perhaps we could all send our individual photos and someone with a bit of photoshop expertise could add the additional photos in the background. The end result might be one pretty outstanding photo.

    There are also easier “picture wall” and “video wall” web tools out there that make it pretty easy to create sheets of thumbnail photos, near instantly from a folder of photos. etc. Google’s picasa? The text blog msgs are still great, but the single visual impact of the many folks Steve has touched could be pretty cool as a gift to Nancy and sons?

    Also, I’ve used the free tool at which lets anyone instantly create a free video using their webcam, and thought it might be used for those interested in creating a more personalized blog entry.

    Here’s my original blog posting…
    Cislerian Themes
    May 14, 2008, the day before he passed….
    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. I think he was the most universally appreciated individual in the community networking field, and he had an insatiable capacity for friendship.

    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….

    This makes me think about what final impact each of us will have made on the world when our time comes. And how great an impact Steve had.
    There is the online measurable text, which could comprise volumes.
    And I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg.
    And the immeasurable friendship and person-to-person impacts.

    We’ll miss him terribly, but hopefully we can continue the work he helped begin. There’s a lot that can be said on what Steve and the early pioneers of community networking had as a vision for the future…and what happened, and didn’t happen, and still needs to come to pass.

    Perhaps this dialog can begin anew?

    Frank Odasz
    Lone Eagle Consulting

  35. molly hankwitz Says:

    i just remember always enjoying steve’s posts on nettime. he was so down to earth and always doing excellent research. i was in a long long thread about mobile phone usage with him and many others on nettime a few years ago and he always made what he knew very accessible. i just remember that he was doing research on cellular network use in rural places and had a lot of amazing information and things to say. i would often open his posts in any context before anyone else’s just because i knew that there would be something worthwhile and not about stupid things that are often written about technology…my condolences to those who knew him more and of course to his family. he was someone i just admired and was glad to have the benefit of on online. its a sad day.

  36. Carlos Armas Says:

    I had the privilege of meeting Steve over 15 years ago, when I was a very “green” engineer, trying to build networks in a very challenging, underdeveloped environment in my home country.

    Steve helped us greatly with his wealth of knowledge and technical information, contacts, connecting us with others in faraway places working on similar problems. We were also involved with ISOC and saw each other from time to time.

    I appreciated Steve’s way of sharing his wisdom, knowledge, his encyclopedic memory, genuine interest in helping others, and his modesty.

    One of the fondest memories I have goes back to an afternoon in 1995 when during my first-ever visit to the U.S. Steve took me to Apple’s offices, and then for lunch at a great Mexican restaurant nearby.
    I learned in a few hours more than one learns in a year.
    What a great afternoon!

    I will deeply miss Steve.

  37. Paul Hyland Says:

    I had the privilege of meeting Steve while I was on the board of CPSR and involved in our community networking initiatives, as well as the DC community network CapAccess. I wrote a little more about his work with CPSR here:

    This page from the old CPSR web site links to two pieces he wrote for us in the early 1990s:

    I haven’t seen him in years, but still remember his spirit and commitment to the cause. He will truly, deeply, be missed.

  38. != » Steve Cisler interview Says:

    […] video’s worth a thousand […]

  39. Dan Gillmor Says:

    There is not much I can add to what’s above, except to say that Steve touched many lives.

    I met Steve when I moved to Silicon Valley to cover the technology scene for the Mercury News. He was unfailingly generous with his knowledge and constantly evolving ideas, and helped me think more deeply and broadly.

    But what I’ll remember most is Steve’s simple decency. Our lives are better for having known him.

  40. Alejandro Pisanty Says:

    To the family and friends of Steve Cisler.

    I am among the many who were touched by Steve’s knowledge, experience, energy, enthusiasm, and joy of doing what he did. In our few meetings he did enough to leave an everlasting memory. His indelible trace for me is especially in the constant effort to create satellite Internet connections, and in pushing for an expanding Internet which must reach into the poorest and most disadvantaged places ino rder to do the most good.

    May the memory of his merits and the trail he blazed, as well as the many people who make a tribute, be of consolation to those he left behind.

  41. Geoff Cisler Says:

    My dad’s official Mercury News obituary was posted here today. If you’ve read all of the above, then it’s not that new, but it’s nice to see him get recognized. Thank you to all of you who have written — it means a great deal to all of his family.


    Geoff Cisler

  42. Adam Peake Says:

    Very sorry to hear of Steve’s passing. He was truly an inspiration — and a lovely guy.

    He led the way on so many things: community networking, obviously. Hawaiian language online and we are still struggling with IDNs. The NII band radio project at Apple, and now we live off our wi-fi. I remember when he left Apple many of us (rather pompously perhaps… Steve certainly nearly choked when I suggested the idea to him 🙂 thought it so clearly marked the end of that special company.

    Steve was always a pleasure to meet, personally charming and intellectually inspiring.

  43. Izumi Aizu Says:

    From across the Pacific Ocean,

    I was hoping to meet him two weeks ago when I was attending a conference in San Jose. He often came to the San Fraincisco Airport to meet me, to the checkin-counter for my flight from SFO back to Tokyo. I called his home on Saturday morning, May 10. This time, I could not talk to him. I believe his wife, Nancy, told me that he was in hospital and I might miss him this time.
    I missed him – forever.

    He was such a warm, inclusive, and caring man, with a sense of humor and humble voice.

    With Howard’s suggestion, we were able to invite him to be one of the keynote speakers for our annual Networking Forum conference in 1993 in Japan. It was just when Internet was coming, but we had good mutual understanding about the community networking, at the both sides of the Ocean. He then gave us some pre-view of the Internet. We both knew this would become a big thing. But he remained with the community – not dotcom – and I mostly did the same thing.

    He invited me to the Ties That Bind conference in 1994 and 1995. He also introduced me the the European Community Networking conference held in Balcelorna in 1997. I became member of the Global Community Networking, GCN, thanks to Steve.

    He left us a strong message with his project “unconnected”. Yes, he was a librarian of the future – I am carrying my e-mail signature – “writing the future of the history” – and I am proud that we have some common sense.

    We miss him so much.

  44. Raines Cohen Says:

    What a loss… what an inspiration Steve has been.

    In the early days of BMUG and Apple Library Users Group (even pre-HyperCard!), I remember Steve as supportive, friendly, connecting.

    He was a community organizer before I knew what the term meant. I really appreciated his perspective of looking beyond the local group-at-hand to see the benefit of connecting groups, even when separated by geography or focus, and to help them all start to see the benefit.

    Later at MacWEEK and NetProfessional, I remember covering the Apple shared-spectrum wireless initiative; I didn’t realize that Steve was a part of that, but I was impressed with the community-connected aspects of it, so its clear his influence was felt.

    I ran into him a couple of years ago at some net-community related event and it started to come back to me then how much he was ahead of his time, instrumental in forging the (sub)culture we now enjoy.

    @Jean: too long no see.


  45. Mike Liebhold Says:

    Reposted for Janet Poley:

    I have been thinking of Steve every day since learning of his death. Like you, he and I crossed in the early networking days – our Tachyon experience and in international travel. He was truly a one of a kind person – one of the most intelligent and broadly knowledgable people I’ve ever met. I have been hoping that someone is paying attention to sweeping up as much of his writings as possible from the net before they become “grey literture”. Of anyone in the circle of friends and colleagues who were out there from early on Steve wrote the most articulately over so many subjects, countries, ideas, technologies – he was truly a “one man library.” I’m doing a lot more work with libraries now and one of our projects is to focus on building collections of born digital material that will disappear. Is anyone thinking about this? Doing anything about it?

  46. Mike Liebhold Says:

    Many people’s lives were touched by Steve, including mine; Steve was widely known
    and beloved across many communities around the world for his years of work worldwide, initially as leader of Apples Libraries of Tomorrow, and later leading programs worldwide for a broad network of international groups helping people in developing communities understand and do practical and interesting things with computers, networks and the web.

    We worked together in during the 1980’s and 1990s’ and then over the last decade he and I traveled widely over different paths, but e- mailed or talked almost daily, and celebrated often in person with our families or friends whenever we could. For me he was simply a kind, generous friend, a fascinating character, a wonderful conversationalist, a great cook and a great gardener. We shared many wonderful times together talking about books, music, cultures, over meals including wine, tortillas, and fresh foods he made himself. Even up until the very difficult end, Steve was always cheerful and intently interested in talking about the world. His passing leaves a great void in my life, that leaves me almost speechless.

    Others on the web, have written more eloquent retrospectives than I could. It’s really nice to see them all collected here.

  47. Mike Liebhold Says:

    reposted for Mark Petrakis:

    Steve Cisler was a talented and gracious man as well as a sly storyteller who contributed much to the culture and thought around community and networks.

  48. Mike Liebhold Says:

    reposted for Eileen Clegg:

    Steve Cisler was a lovely human being whose presence helped create and sustain communities. He was involved with EOE (Spohrer¹s Education Object Economy group) some years back, and other very early communities of practice connecting technology/learning/social networks. Yes, organic is a good word for his approach, his gentle influence on technology and people.

  49. Mike Liebhold Says:

    reposted for Andrea Saveri:

    Steve was a long time friend of the institute [ for the Future] and an early mentor to me about appropriate use of technology and networking in the k-12 classroom, libraries, and diverse populations. As a young person jumping into a new territory, Steve was patient, inclusive, and very supportive.

  50. Mike Liebhold Says:

    reposted for Gareth Branwyn:

    Awww. Truly sad news. I remember Steve from the early days of The Well and his work at CPSR. Such a warm, sweet guy, always ready to help, to teach. A true pioneer of virtual community and networking, and of course, digital library science.

  51. Avi Rappoport Says:

    Like so many others, I encountered Steve through the Apple Library, when I was a LIS student and BMUG newsletter editor in the late 80s, then through EndNote when I was working at Niles and on the WELL. He was always fascinating, informative and exciting to be around. The world needs more people like him, not fewer. I’m very sad that he’s gone.

  52. K.G. Schneider Says:

    I met Steve when you could almost count on a couple of hands the number of librarians active on the ‘net. He was a shining star back then and continued to be central to our society’s future. He was a lot of things to many people, and yet was kind, humble, and decent… the sort of person who thought carefully about his impact on others and the world. A great community builder who will be missed by many.

  53. rita turkowski Says:

    I only worked with Steve for a short while, in 1996-1997, but he was always insightful, thoughtful and kind. I was so saddened to hear of his passing. I’m sure he has left a strong imprint on mankind thru his work, and will not be forgotten.

  54. Jim Putnam Says:

    Here is a 10 year old email exchange that captures a glimpse of Steve and what he meant to me. I’m sure our computers are full of zillions of such things. Please pardon the length, personal and Apple content.

    Date: Wed, 08 Oct 1997 16:35:26 -0400
    From: Jim Putnam
    To: Ted Olsson
    Subject: Steve Cisler


    I recently learned that my friend and fellow RPCV, Steve Cisler, is leaving Apple. Frankly I am dismayed by this. I listened to Steve Jobs’ speech at Seybold, have been following the new ads and trying to understand how to reconcile the call to “Think Different” and change the world with the departure of a pioneer such as Steve Cisler. I am attaching a copy of my letter to Steve which says this to him.

    Following our exchange I asked Steve if he could point me to any other RPCV’s with good value systems who are staying at Apple and with whom I might be able to establish contact… thus this email to you. My wife and I served in the Peace Corps together from 1968 to 1971. We started out in Libya and then went on to Thailand when Colonel Kadafi decided he didn’t want the Peace Corps.

    I first came to know Steve through my cousin with whom he trained for the Coast Guard (after serving in the Peace Corps!). I started to use Apple computers in my company in the late 70’s and so when Steve joined Apple we naturally began to compare notes and follow each others’ fortune. In the early ’90s, as the Internet took off, Steve was instrumental in inspiring our development of wider access for our company and community here in southwestern New Hampshire. I attended one of Steve’s conferences at the Carnegie Foundation in Washington and was inspired. If there ever was a person who was out to change the world and inspire others to do so through their use of Apple products it was Steve Cisler.

    As you can see from my letter below, Steve encouraged us and helped us both in our business use of Apple products but also in our community networking projects. Mostly this has come about through his reaching out to us with his writing and conferences but has also included occasional visits and a willingness to host us at Apple a few times when we have come to Cupertino.

    To be honest Steve did not tell me what your position is at Apple so I don’t know whether there might be a logical connection with us and our interests. But even if there isn’t maybe we could make one anyway. As you can probably tell I am one of those Apple enthusiasts who have put Apple products to use in ways that seem to be making the world a better place. My commitment has been shaken by recent events at Apple but so far I’m hanging in there to see what the new direction will bring.

    If you’d be willing and think it appropriate to be an informal contact for us at Apple let me know and I will tell you a little more about our use of Apple products and other interests.



    James A. Putnam
    MARKEM Corporation
    Keene, New Hampshire 03431

    Here’s my letter to Steve Cisler.

    Dear Steve,

    I’m sorry to hear your news about ATG, the Library of Tomorrow and your work at Apple. Cutting back on this activity seems short sighted and counter to the current theme which emphasizes creative use of computer technology to change the world for the better. As a long-term customer and student of the company, I can’t think of any part of Apple nor any person who exemplifies this worthwhile lofty goal more than you and your group.

    Does the leadership at Apple know how many thousands of people have been inspired to buy Apple products and keep on buying them and using them in creative ways because of your work? There is an old management axiom which says, “What we DO is more important than what we SAY” and it appears that SAY and DO may not be aligned at Apple in this case.

    I hope you know that you have helped countless people improve their lives through those of us who have been touched directly by your work. I can’t help wondering if I should have made a stronger point of giving feed back to your group and senior executives responsible for this part of Apple. The conferences… our visits to Infinity Loop… your calls on us here… MARKEM’s global Mac network… MonadNet, our local ISP…, our extended family presence on the net… You made Apple and its lofty goals real for us so we went out and made real changes in the world.

    I’m glad to hear that you intend to stay involved in community networking and that we might see you here again. Please stay in touch.

    Best regards,


  55. Ed Gaible Says:

    In 2000, maybe, Steve convinced me to spend $25 on a Cybiko wireless toy. He then sent me hilarious messages during meetings of the EOE till I’d laugh out loud and told to shut up. I still have the Cybiko. I would rather — as would we all — have the benefit of Steve’s wisdom.

    In 1988 or 89 I interviewed Steve in Vallejo at his home for a quarterly that I edited. The People’s Computer Company, the organization that I worked for at the time, had trained him to use personal computers as part of a statewide campaign to net-up libraries. Until I talked with Steve that night, I didn’t get what it mean to commit to community-focused communication.

    I’m in Syria right now, working with school computer labs. I’m going to Indonesia next week to do the same thing, perhaps on a broader scale. There are people in both place with huge hearts and vision, and others with small-scale hopes and functional dreams. Steve–my memory of Steve–keeps me honest in a field that thrives on hype and trend. His clear-sightedness helps me, at times has forced me to, see…

  56. Fiorella De Cindio Says:

    It was 11 years ago: in May 1997 I sent an email to Steve, who didn’t know me, to ask him to come to Milan as invited speaker at the First European Conference on Community Networking. He accepted and his participation allowed us to learn fundamental lessons from the early community networks experience.
    As often happens in these cases, it is difficult to me to find the words to say the warm atmosphere that Steve was able to create, willing to listen people’ experience, giving each one suggestions and the impression of doing something relevant.
    Thanks, Steve

    — fiorella de cindio
    University of Milan & Milan Community Network, Italy

  57. John Hopkins Says:

    Steve touched me as he did so many others here, although we never had the chance to meet f2f, I always read his posts to the nettime list and welcomed him back-channel onboard to the iDC list just at the end of January — I was happy to see him there, to add his special take on things. His calm and incisive observations and reflections were all the more valuable in the chaotic hype of technology development of the last two decades, and clearly he will be missed as one of the very few humane voices articulating things that need to be said. I know I will, and I regret that I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. His life-energy is reflecting here in these words, and I can only be thankful that he shared those energies with me and so many others. He clearly was one of those people who didn’t stop with the words, but translated them into a lived practice of human connection.

    Thanks, Steve, you will be missed, and my sincere condolences to the family that you loved.

    John Hopkins,

  58. Richard Lowenberg Says:

    The other blog site that was originally set up, but had problems, is now active again.
    In addition to the first 20 postings that were reposted on this site, there are now a number of new entries, and there will likely be more.
    At some point all postings will be aggregated on to one site.
    In the meantime, please log on to the other blog to read additional new postings

  59. Marydee Ojala Says:

    It seems like yesterday that Steve was writing for ONLINE and Database magazines, but it was decades ago. He was working at Apple; I was at BofA. His column, Micro Monitor, ran from the last 1980s into the early 1990s and kept all of abreast of the most recent developments in what we then called “microcomputers.” And when you think back, they weren’t nearly as “micro” as what we use now for computing! Steve was always ahead of his time, both in terms of his knowledge and understanding of technology and of his social conscience. He will certainly be missed!

    Marydee Ojala
    Editor, ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals

  60. Doug Schuler Says:

    Steve was indisputably a leader in our community but he was primarily a listener and a learner. He was interested in appropriate use of technology and that sometimes meant NOT using technology. I really respected his sense of internationalism that didn’t involve pushing U.S. or western values. The two Ties that Bind conferences that Steve organized at Apple were among the most influential and inspiring events that I’ve attended. Lots of ideas and relationships were started at those events.

    The longest time I spent with Steve was when he stayed at our house in Seattle to cover the WTO meeting — and the protests surrounding it. He documented his findings in “Showdown in Seattle: Turtles, Teamsters, and Tear Gas”
    ( and some of you might recognize my daughter (now somewhat older) in Steve’s photo of a “young protester.”

    Steve will be missed in dozens if not hundreds (if not thousands) of far-flung places around the world.

  61. Sue Soy Says:

    Steve and I met in the early days of desk top computing and modems, exploring how people in our California libraries and communities could benefit from this revolutionary technology. He was from the northern parts of the state and I from the southern, but we shared a keen desire to learn as much as possible and get that information out to fellow librarians everywhere.

    Our paths crossed time and time again over the years as we both moved across the country, connecting primarily through the wonders of technology and networking conferences here and there. Steve shared all that he learned from his travels. He influenced thousands of lives in thousands of communities across the world using his unique style to explore, learn, and pass those learnings on to the rest of us.

    To Steve’s family, I thank you for sharing Steve with the world.

    Sue Soy, Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network, Austin, Texas

  62. Jorgen Albretsen Says:

    To me Steve was part of the Apple way. I met Steve when I worked at the Apple Library as ATG summer intern in 1994. Before that I had been involved in the ALUG community and came to cherish Steve’s effort within ALOT. He was one of the reasons why I became addicted to Apple. My cubicle was next to Steve’s and I remember that he was always on the move, coming into the library, talking to people, setting up meetings, looking at stuff, reading, writing e-mails, and then off again for the next event to define the way libraries should be tomorrow. With a great result.

    Here is Steve in a more relaxed moment among friends (and their legs!) on an Apple outing to Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad, July 1994.

    Thanks, Steve, for your great work and effort to the library community worldwide! My sincere condolences to the family.

    Jorgen Albretsen, computer scientist, Aalborg University, Denmark

  63. Erik Cisler Says:

    I’m finally at a place where I can write without tears obscuring the ink. Or, rather, short-circuit the keyboard.

    These posts only confirm what I’ve long suspected: that Dad did some amazing work, that his whisking away to country after country was part of some grand plan, and not the mysterious undertakings of a secret government operative (like my friends all imagined). I exaggerate, of course, but he really never let on as to the significance of his work. He was humble, intelligent, curious, knowledgeable, wise, and comfortable in his own skin. A strong set of morals guided him; he led by example, and I — for the most part — followed.

    Sure, he stayed in converted Turkish prisons instead of four star hotels, but that wasn’t just for the adventure. Make no mistake: my dad was frugal as hell. I don’t ever remember having matching tupperware, but I do remember our fridge being full of grocery store plastic bags doubling as storage devices for cheese, left overs, bread, and even soup (of course, he would sacrifice two bags for the soup). My wife looked at me like I was crazy the first time I served her food from a plastic bag; we still argue over it to this day.

    I remember sprawling out on the living room floor with him, each of us using a big wooden cutting board as an easel, and drawing Vikings and Greek gods and whatever else I was into that week. Or when we’d go hiking in the Saratoga mountains above our neighborhood with my mom, brother, and dog, he would let me choose a fallen branch and then strip it of leaves to make a sturdy walking stick.

    That last picture Jorgen posted is great — I’d never seen it, but I’ve seen him in that very pose many time. He rarely used the couch, instead opting to ransack it for the cushions to use as pillows (or he’d use his beloved mutt, Wylie, to rest his head). Either way, my brother and I would scramble for the coins that inevitably fell from his pockets every time he’d lie down on the floor to watch a movie.

    The last year, I felt closer to him than ever before. We spent many long nights in the hospital, or at home, talking as equals. Peers, almost. And for the most part, our talks didn’t revolve around the disease or the pain. Sure, the conversations took on a certain urgency, but they weren’t sad, or depressing. Maybe a bit more poignant and “heavy,” but those are good things. One vivid memory that makes me laugh: he would always rail against cable TV, but one particularly difficult night, we got his mind off the pain by watching a documentary on Nazi occultism.

    The night before he died, I had a nice chat — about twenty minutes long — with him. He had just finished watching American Idol with my mom, and he was analyzing the demographics of each contestant’s supporters. A deep thinker to the end. Both my brother and I were able to tell him we loved him that day, and that somehow makes me feel better about things.

    I can’t help but think text is insufficient to express what I’m feeling. Reading back over the above words, they seem incomplete, truncated. I guess that’s to be expected, though. They can’t begin to describe Steve Cisler, father and husband, but I suppose they’re better than nothing.

    Thanks, all, for the kind, enlightening words. My dad lived a full life, without regrets, and if I can take anything positive away from the tragedy of his passing, it’s that in order to honor his legacy and fulfill his wishes, I too must engage life with my entire being. I know that’s what he would have wanted from all of us. He went on his terms, and as I sat there in the hospital room with him, several hours after, I SWEAR I saw a wry, mischievous smile still playing about his lips.

    So cry, by all means (I am now), but don’t let the tears obscure the fact that he was a happy man, loved by many, with boundless compassion and curiosity for the world and its inhabitants. His gleaming eyes still pierce, twinkle, and dance in my mind, and I am comforted.

    We love you.


  64. Peter Miller Says:

    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.

  65. Frank Odasz Says:

    Erik Cisler asked me to write a bit more and I’ve posted it also as a ten minute podcast. It will be played at the event this afternoon, June 2nd, soon after 4pm PST.

    Lessons from a Master Librarian (10 minute Eulogy/podcast)
    [audio src="" /]

    and the RTF text at (has to be mac readable, right?)

    My cislerianthemes blog posting is and has newly added links to Steve’s blog archives and other relevant bits.

    Frank Odasz

  66. Pedro Hernández-Ramos Says:

    May 15, 2008

    Dear Steve,

    I am going to miss you in the quiet and subtle ways that will make certain memories sweeter and more painful at the same time.

    I know “missing” is such a selfish response to your death: I would like to have you around as my friend and colleague for many more years, for I have learned from you a lot since we met in 1991 and have enjoyed your company immensely all these years. It is my loss, and that’s what we complain about when we miss you.

    You were a genuinely good human being, and I am so glad that we were able to reconnect and work together for the better part of the last two years. My learning from you continued, and I felt that the bonds of our friendship were not strained by working together but were, in fact, strengthened as we thought about the challenges involved in building online communities and the roles (if any, you would say) for information technology in developing countries.
    I have to thank you for introducing me to the Internet. You were the first person I met at Apple who knew anything about the Internet in the early 1990s, and I recall being in awe as you showed me some of the first web pages on meteorology and quite a few others that I immediately turned around and used in my presentations about the educational and learning potential of computers and the Internet. Of course, it was not directly from you but from others that I later learned that you had been instrumental in supporting the work of an Australian hacker (the details here were hazy) who created the first TCP/IP stack for the Mac, at a time when the company had officially declared that the Internet didn’t matter and that the future belonged to Apple OneWorld, a competitor to AOL that quickly went kaput! So on behalf of all Mac users who now use the Internet on a daily basis, thank you!

    You launched the Apple Library of Tomorrow program and conducted as well as supported a wide range of projects in and with what was your original professional group: libraries and librarians. You also served on the board of the Internet Society, and organized the Community Networks conferences while at Apple that shaped many efforts around the world. Your personal interest in Native American peoples and cultures extended to your support of work dedicated to the preservation of local languages. For example, you introduced me to the person in Hawai’i whom you had backed with a small research grant as he developed the first font and bilingual dictionary for the Mac so that speakers and writers of the Hawaian language could use this new technology to preserve their history and traditions.

    There is another story that links your past work at Apple to the future of an entire industry, and that concerns wireless technology. I recall accompanying you to the roof of Building One in Infinite Loop to check out the antennas that your friend Dwayne Hendricks had set up for a wireless network that covered multiple points in the Bay Area. Later you invited me to a meeting with a person from Motorola who was working with you to lobby congress to free up radio spectrum that could be used for wireless connectivity by computers. A few years later this became a reality as the 802.11b standard was made public, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. Even when you were staying at the hospital I knew you were not losing your marbles because you had scouted out what parts of the hospital had good WiFi reception and which ones didn’t. A couple of days before you died, when I visited while you were having dialysis, you asked the doctor if it would be OK for Nancy to take you in a wheelchair to a spot in the hospital where you could check your email!

    Well, you didn’t really like being in the hospital, even if as you said the doctors and the nurses were nice and they provided you with good service. You liked the fresh air, being in your garden, tending to your tomatoes. I am glad I had a chance to read you Neruda’s “Ode to the Tomato” your last Monday morning, for as I said in the inscription of the book of his poems I gave you, you did understand the critical importance of good tomatoes and did your best to cultivate them every year. I do thank you for the many tomatoes and loaves of bread and bottles of wine you have shared with us over the years.
    I admired your ability to travel the world widely, make deep friendships wherever you went, and sustain them over the years. You’ve shared with me some of your friends in Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and other countries. Your experiences were well recorded in your travelogues, the reports you would write and share on the web. I still recall the time you showed me the one you did for a trip to Ecuador in the early 1990s, where you had figured out how to include photos you had taken with one of the first Apple QuickTake digital cameras. You were a great writer and a wonderful storyteller, and given your powers of observation and analysis, your articles, reports, travelogues, blog entries, and so on always left me with a deeper appreciation of the places and the peoples you had encountered. It can be said of a lot of people that they travel widely, but of only a few that they traveled well and you are definitely in this select group.

    As early as 1988 you published an article on “Computer-supported cooperative work and groupware,” and most recently you worked with Geof Bowker and Steve Jackson to write a report on Africa Knowledge Infrastructures. Your experiences in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo left a deep impression on you, and I enjoyed walking into your office to hear soft African music in the background playing on your computer.

    And so you live on, both on the electronic web and in the human network of friends you built throughout your life, right up to the very end. Many of the nurses and doctors who met you at Kaiser now have their own Steve Cisler stories to share.

    We will continue to be pleasantly surprised to find traces of you in places real and virtual, and through people we would not expect to. We will wish you were there to share your take on the world and a laugh at some of the strange things going on. We will want to make plans to get together later to share a meal and drink good wines. We will have many fond memories of your friendship and the times spent working and living together. We will miss you then as much as we do now.

    Rest in peace.


  67. Michel Menou Says:

    I am copying below the announcement of the tribute pages set up on the web site of Somos@Telecentros

    Sujet: [Telecentros] Tributo a Steve Cisler
    Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2008 15:19:47 -0500
    De: Maria de Lourdes Acosta Cruz
    Répondre à ::, Telecentros de América Latina y el Caribe
    Organisation: Fundacion ChasquiNet
    Pour :: Telecentros de América Latina y el Caribe

    Estimad@s amig@s de somos@telecentros:

    Hemos preparado un espacio dedicado a Steve Cisler dentro de la página
    Web de somos@telecentros ( Hemos recopilado
    algunos de los mensajes que él compartió con la Red a través de nuestra
    lista de intercambio; además de organizar y socializar todos nuestros
    mensajes escritos por su despedida. Un segmento también incluye los
    documentos compartidos por Steve en el centro de recursos.

    L@s invitamos a incluir más aportes, en caso de tenerlos, en este
    espacio dedicado a Steve, como un tributo al amigo.

    Un abrazo.


    María de Lourdes Acosta Cruz
    Fundación ChasquiNet
    Comunicación Social

  68. Carl Fleischhauer Says:

    When we were starting the American Memory project at the Library of Congress in 1989-90, Steve paid us a visit and ended up making us Apple Library of Tomorrow site #1. We were feeling our way in how to present digital content and the Apple gear he provided (along with HyperCard, HyperKRS, and contact info for local developer Paul Heller) helped us build our first American Memory demonstration models. This was all CD-ROM based, four or five years before Mosaic. But it was not long–maybe in 1991 or 1992–that Steve started nudging us to think about digital content in an online/networked mode. I remember another visit when he showed us (via a hush-hush NDA) then-new QuickTime (video was possible!). It seemed to us throughout this process that Steve lived up to the title “evangelist.” It was great to make his acquaintance back then (and folks in his circle like Monica Ertel and Mike Liebhold). Steve helped us get our ball rolliing. We’ll miss him.

    Carl Fleischhauer

  69. Michael Ward Says:

    Here are some photos from the memorial celebration held June 2:

    I didn’t get all the speakers; in a couple of cases I was just kind of overtaken by the stories and forgot to take pictures.

    Mike Ward

  70. Rivkah Sass Says:

    I just learned of Steve’s death this week. Reading the brief mention in LJ Hotline, I felt a physical jolt. Like so many I met Steve around 1991 because I had “discovered” this thing call the Internet and I wondered what it meant for libraries and librarians. He was unfailingly patient with my inane questions, encouraging, and funny. He also helped me make connections with others who helped me learn and grow. It’s heart-warming to see posts and to know that we all feel the loss.

    I remember an ASIS meeting in New Mexico many years ago. In addition to some great programs, a few of us, including Steve, ended up visiting a vineyard. I don’t remember the wine but I do remember Steve talking about the percentage of households in New Mexico without telephones and what the possibilities for them might be. He was always thinking, always patient, always connecting people.

    My thoughts are with Steve’s family. Thank you for sharing him with so many of us.

  71. Anriette Esterhuysen Says:

    Steve’s name was known to me for many years before we met in July 2000 when he was in Johannesburg for a meeting organised by the Link Centre. I had invited some people from the conference to dinner and Peter Benjamin, a friend and colleague, called to say.. can I bring Steve Cisler. My strongest memory of Steve remains that evening, in my living room near the fireplace (it was winter and we had a fire going) enjoying a bottle of one of the best South African red wines, and talking to Bill Melody in Steve’s calm/serious/but not overbearing way, while helping my son Amir build some structure with wooden blocks on the floor. I had lots of people in the house and having Steve keep Amir occupied was just what I needed.. and they both really enjoyed the wooden blocks.

    I never spent as much time talking with Steve as I wanted to.. whenever we had contact I felt that I wanted more… to listen to him more and talk with him more. I felt an affinity with him as we were both librarians for whom moving into the world of the internet was a way of expanding one’s librarian identity rather than abandoning it. The last time I saw him was just after his offline year. He sent emails to me every now and then.. usually an offlist exchange in response to some onlist debate or discussion.

    For me, in our world of ICTs for development, andsocial change, Steve practiced what I admired most: a way of thinking and doing that was non-ideological but value based… critical but pragmatic.. with the values not being about abstract things.. but about how people’s daily lives were affected. Often when people talk about community networking I get kind of annoyed because the term community is used in a way that is so rarified and political and generalised that any sense of the people, individuals, families, businesses, organisations, that make up communities is lost.

    Steve never did that. For him community and community networking was about real people doing real things. I think it is for this reason that so many people in our network (Association for Progressive Communications), particularly in Latin America, held Steve in such high regard.

    To Steve’s family… no one can really help you get through this process of getting used to Steve’s absence, but it is good to read that you value these comments. This use of the internet by so many different people to share their experiences and memories of Steve is exactly the kind of human focused use of technology that he believed in.

    Steve and I were going to be at the same meeting in Italy later this month (July2008)…. sadly he will not be there, and his loss will be felt in more ways than one.

    Anriette Esterhuysen

  72. Richard Naylor Says:

    Its a quiet friday night in August and I just had a few minutes and decided to google Steve Cisler to find his website and read where he had been lately. It was a shock to learn of his passing. It is a huge loss.

    I met Steve online when he was at Apple and had been using our gopher server. He got me to speak at “Ties that Bind” and we met several times when he was in NZ or Australia.

    My family were lucky to have Steve visit us at home on one trip, and on another, he and Nancy were holidaying in NZ. It was always a great joy to spend time with them both.

    I was googling tonight to read that quiet steady voice, describing a world far from mine, and with a view wider than I can see. Now I’m at a loss for words.

    To Nancy and family we send our love. May God bless you all.

    Robin and Richard

  73. John Blegen Says:

    I’ve been trying to remember how I first met Steve Cisler, and I’m not coming up with very much: it seems to me that he was a part of my world or a very long time, on the edge of it, to be sure, but a very positive force. I think it was probably my ex-boss who put us in touch. Ernie Siegel had been the director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore before becoming the head of the Contra Costa County P.L., where Steve was working. I had been Ernie’s administrative assistant at Pratt, and I seem to remember getting note from Ernie at some point saying, “You’ve got to meet this guy Cisler.” I do remember subscribing to Steve’s “Connect” newsletter. We met from time to time at library conferences, and, between those meetings and the newsletter, Steve became a steady inspiration for me. If I was having trouble getting a project started, he always had suggestions that I’d never thought of. He connected me with a number of folks who, in turn, became inspirations. When I gave a talk at Queens College in 1988, I was very flattered that Steve picked my little session to attend, and then, quickly, I was grateful for his thoughtful comments that made the presentation much better, more real. I know that Apple replaced his “Library Evangelist” title with something more “serious,” but I still think of him that way. Steve did many excellent things, and one of them was to inspire somewhat timid library administrators like me to get out on the edge, to shake the kaleidoscope. It made a huge difference.

  74. suptweet Says:

    I am an Indian. On my own I started working with a small community of Ohlone people south of Silicon Valley and met him when he stumbled over the fledgeling site I created at UCSC’s server. He became an inspiring mentor. I still run the site and live in DC where, reading on local political chatter, the FCC and MORE hearings on the “Native American Telecommunications” rubric and thought of Steve. And searched. And found. is more on Steve and my connection to him.

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