Connections: Ross Scaife

There's no point in reiterating here what Dot, Brent, Chris and Cathy have so eloquently written about Ross. Even though I'd had the news of his death privately over the weekend, the deep emptiness of his being gone didn't really hit me until I saw the first public notice on Classics-l. There's something brutally liminal about a death notice in a professional forum, no matter how gently written: it is the crisp, formal ceremony that transfers a person from the active present to the static past of the discipline.

This sombre realization is rippling through the web of connections that was Ross' personal and professional network. You can detect it in the spattering of blog posts, emails and the subdued communications of his many colleagues and friends.

And yet, it is clear that the interpersonal fabric Ross wove will be a lasting, living contribution to the field, and to our lives. There are so many people Ross introduced to each other and encouraged in collaborative digital classics work. He watched our backs when things got rough, applauded our successes, pulled us out of ditches, and kicked our asses well and thoroughly when we deserved it. Vast indeed is the sea of those whom Ross has mentored and enabled.

I've written elsewhere about Ross's contribution to the EpiDoc effort. Pleiades owes him an equal debt. It was Ross's 2001 invitation to speak at the Center for Computational Sciences in Lexington that first forced me to formalize the ideas that I'd been batting around privately with Richard Talbert, Stephen MacGregor, Hugh Cayless, Noel Fiser, Amy Hawkins and others in Chapel Hill. And it gave those ideas their first public airing. Ross and I had originally discussed them, along with Sebastian Heath and Neel Smith, in Newport the previous year. Ross helped us refine the plan through subsequent iterations and grant proposals and, when it emerged that UNC could not provide us with the class of hosting we needed for development, he offered server space belonging to the Stoa. The collaborative editorial approach embodied in the Suda Online underlies our model for the Pleiades workflow, to be rolled out later this year. Ross remained deeply engaged in both the vision and the technical details of Pleiades, even during his illness. Without him, Pleiades would not be.

And so I have now both sadly and joyfully yielded -- like Patrick, Melissa, Troels, Hugh and others -- to the compulsion to hold up for you to see one more swathe of the Rossian fabric, saying "Look! Here's another bit he did with us. Doesn't it shine, gold and purple in the sun?"