Leslie Harpold

She was a great humanizing influence upon the early Web and one of its ultra-connected nodes. She was a very good designer and a better writer, but her greatest contribution was to embody the fact that if the Web is not about people, it is not about anything. I have not the heart to retell the stories of her many sorrows and unbearably early death, five years ago today.


Leslie is, in any case, the sort of discovery you should make for yourself. Her domains haven’t been maintained but there are precious copies. You might start with her proto-blog Hoopla, archived at the Library of Congress:

So when i talk about my day, my latest artistic obsession, launch into my five minutes on retinol vs. fruit acids, or pause trying to think up the next topic for our conversation, I am really saying the same thing over and over again: I love you, I love you, I love you.

There’s more in the Wayback Machine, although it’s not in great shape.

Of one of her best-loved projects, almost nothing remains. Every year Leslie built an online advent calendar, full of reader-contributed stories, links and Easter eggs. As chance would have it, she published a story of mine on December 5, 2006, and a story by a mutual friend of ours on December 6. We simultaneously realized we had a significant number of BFFs in common and exchanged thrilled emails. I remember walking to work one sunny December morning full of happiness and the prospect of getting to know a whole new person.

Leslie never updated the calendar again. She is much missed.


6 thoughts on “Leslie Harpold

  1. Liz

    I’ve heard some people say they have archives of more of her work, but that one factor in her blogs disappearing off the web is that she didn’t have a literary executor and her family was uncooperative. In that situation I would say damn the torpedoes, zip all that stuff up and torrent it. Our history is more important than “intellectual property” dammit!

    1. yatima

      Yeah, there’s a discussion of that in the first link and lots of arguments in the comments. I don’t think I can possibly have an impartial position on this one, since I’d gnaw off someone else’s arm to get access to the complete Harpold archives, but I can see her family just not wanting to deal with domain name renewals and random strangers on the Internets. I guess it’s an argument for appointing a literary executor, but who thinks about it at _forty_?

      Liz: I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine.

      1. yatima

        And yeah, next time this happens and a Web hero dies intestate? STEAL THAT BOOK. (God forbid there should be a next time.)

    2. Jon Gilbert

      We did exactly that, and tried to capture everything that was spiderable; ask of the Haddock archives (I’m pretty sure Phil was the one I sent the .torrents to, so he’s probably got a copy of the seeds somewhere). Would have been easier if there was access to her accounts, but it happens sometimes (these internets, they can be too ephemeral). I keep meaning to put a list of known accounts and passwords along with my “do this after I die” stuff, and I keep not doing it; perhaps I’ll do that now.

      Also? It makes me sad every time that Flickr suggests her as a contact in the right-hand column.

  2. kaberett

    Thank you. Having clicked around and read links, I now have a text file on my desktop which I am slowly populating with stuff-friends-like. There’s a dedication to her across the top.

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