I first heard of Igal Koshevoy at the very first Open Source Bridge. I was organising a panel on open source configuration management tools which boasted the developers and community leads of Puppet, Chef, bcfg2 and CFEngine. Part way through the planning process I got an email from Igal asking if he could represent his own home-grown tool AutomateIT on the panel. After a quick look at the tool I decided he’d be a great addition.
When we met in person, Igal turned out to be a very intense Russian-Jew with dark hair, fast movements including a remarkably rapid transition from frown to smile. It was a fun panel and Igal was clearly animated by the opportunity to talk about one of his own projects.
Igal was rarely seen without his camera. But he didn’t only document the events of the Portland tech community. He was also the backbone and inspiration for a dozen events and groups in Portland. Through his development of Calagator he literally built the infrastructure that the Portland tech community uses to grow and develop. His work with Open Source Bridge also helped that conference grow into the void the departing OSCON had left.
Later, when I was working at Puppet Labs, we had need for a contract Ruby developer to fill some gaps and Igal was suggested. Igal played a significant role in developing some of the early pieces of Puppet Labs commercial product, including the first edition of Puppet Enterprise.
Igal was not always an easy guy to work with. He was smart, opinionated and often consumed by the projects around him. He would work long, long hours or even days straight at a time and then disappear for similar periods to recover. He was also stubborn and would fight hard to make you see the merits of his position. In a tech startup full of smart people that often led to some explosive arguments and epic whiteboard design sessions.
I never got to know Igal well enough to call him a friend. Indeed we were perhaps a little too similar in some of our imbalances to ever be friends. Despite that, he was someone I respected and admired for his community work, his ready willingness to help anyone who had a need and his ability to make anyone new to a community feel welcome and free to contribute.
When Igal took his own life earlier this week it hit me hard. Suicide is a hugely triggering event for me. My first thought was: “Fuck. Not another one.” We live and work in a community of frighteningly intelligent people who pride themselves on their rationality. We are also people who often struggle with mental health issues and social interaction and isolation. We’re also lousy about talking about these issues, recognising when others need help and making sure they get the help they need.
If you know someone you are worried about, and tragically only sometimes are the warning signs there, then reach out to them. If you know someone who is withdraw, depressed or unhappy then talk to them or their peers or friends. If you feel like you don’t know what to do then reach out to a professional or a support line and ask for their help. Sometimes a call, IM, Skype, email, an offer of a cup of coffee, or any message when things appear the most dark can make the difference between life and death.
If you feel like taking your own life please talk to someone: a friend, a professional, a family member, a help line, someone in a community you contribute to or work in. Please. There really are people who can help. It is never as bad as it feels. It will get better.