Jesse Malthus 4/21/06-4/19/07

by prokofy on 21/04/07 at 3:30 am

By Prokofy Neva, Dept. of Community Affairs

In a week of horror and sad cruelty with the massacre at Virginia Tech, comes a separate piece of sad news of a young man cut down at his most promising. The typist of the avatar Jesse Malthus, a 17-year-old Kentucky youth named Jesse Higginbotham, was killed in a car accident on his way to school with 3 other teenagers. He struggled to live for a day but then succumbed to his injuries.

In Second Life for not quite a year, Jesse made an impact on all who came into touch with him. He was an active member of IRC, libsecondlife, the open-source group, #joiito; a regular at the Sutherland Dam, Free Culture, and other SL discussions. Few knew that this creative, outspoken, and productive young man was only 17. Always ready with an intelligent comment, Jesse projected the presence in our virtual world of someone much older.

337jesse_higginbotham120embeddedpro Lexington Herald-Leader

Jesse was an avid user of Twitter, which he called “social narcissism.” In a comment posted April 17, Jesse wrote, “@spin Yes! Web2.0 is about social media, and guess what people like to be social about? Themselves. Social Narcissism.” On the Twitter page, Jesse chose to post not a picture of an avatar or RL photo, but a snapshot evidently of his busy work table, cluttered with the wires and pop bottles of the quintessential geek.


In SL in recent months, Jesse was actively testing the Voice Beta. The last words on his profile were, “I’m hanging over at the Voice Beta a lot lately, so you probably can find me there.”

I asked the Lindens if Jesse’s name could be included posthumously in the list of avatars in “About Second Life” for the Voice edition when it comes out, given his important contribution, and was assured by Joe Miller that he will be included.

“Believe it or not, when I wished upon a star, it came down close and sat on my arm,” wrote Jesse on April 16 on Twitter. He was a gifted author and editor of his school yearbook.

On online memory book for his family can be signed here.

So tragic to lose a young man so promising and talented, and a reminder to all of us how little we know of the people behind the voices online and how much everybody counts.

20 Responses to “Jesse Malthus 4/21/06-4/19/07”

  1. Montana Corleone

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Tragic though it is, all hail to an underage teen on the main grid?

  2. Prokofy Neva

    Apr 21st, 2007

    The Lindens let in loads of teens with the unverifieds accounts, quite a few of whom were griefing idiots.

    Jesse was genuinely bright and you couldn’t tell he was a teenager, and the Lindens may not have known. It seems ridiculous to make these distinctions about TG and AG in the age of the unverifieds.

    BTW, I had Jesse banned from my land finally for badgering at the Sutherland dam meetings lol — I will keep it up in remembrance. He left a note on my blog back then saying he had come back on an alt and proved he was well-behaved and not an event griefer : )

  3. Cherowolf Redgrave

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Thank you for posting this info on your site. Being a fellow Kentuckian I had searched the records Thursday night when the news first hit but couldn’t find anything. I did not know Jesse personally but he was obviously well liked in RL and SL. Also thanks for the link to his memory book. I’m am headed there now.

  4. Inigo Chamerberlin

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Even here, in our world beyond real life, our mortality still can’t be denied… Makes you think, doesn’t it?

  5. otakup0pe neumann

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Bravo Prokofy for taking up that matter with Linden Lab.Jessie will be missed by many for a while to come.
    As for the underage issue, I knew Jesse’s age as I had made the decision to hire him for contracts and during the summer to work on libsecondlife. When I had discovered his true age I was shocked, as the Jesse I knew had intelligence beyond that of the average teen. A dual grid system is sub-optimal for a long term implementation.

  6. otakup0pe neumann

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Bravo Prokofy for taking up that matter with Linden Lab.Jessie will be missed by many for a while to come.
    As for the underage issue, I knew Jesse’s age as I had made the decision to hire him for contracts and during the summer to work on libsecondlife. When I had discovered his true age I was shocked, as the Jesse I knew had intelligence beyond that of the average teen. A dual grid system is sub-optimal for a long term implementation.

  7. Kurt Jano

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Only sadness at the loss of a creative and intelligent soul. Discussing whether or not this poor young teen should have been able to log on to the main grid or not seems highly inappropriate and callous given his death.

  8. Verbena Pennyfeather

    Apr 21st, 2007

    I miss Jesse.

  9. John Endwahl

    Apr 21st, 2007

    There is a great memorial to Jessie inworld on Strace Island, Next to Pi.

  10. bubbles

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Prokofy, thanks for taking time to write this. RIP Jessie and God bless his family at this terrible time.

  11. Alpha Zaius

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Thanks Profoky.

    I worked with Jesse on many projects regarding libsl, I can’t believe he is gone! We started a new project (which really doesn’t have a name) the other day, I will dedicate it in his memory.


  12. FWord Utorid

    Apr 21st, 2007

    For the past 6 months, when I woke up in the whenever, I would hop on IRC and SL and chat, researching my various SL projects. Everywhere I looked for information, there were these names… Jesse Malthus, Jesse Nesbitt, Jesse Jesse Jesse.

    It was like there was this ubiquitous, omnipresent being, typing like a madman, clicking away, doing everything xe could to be to Second Life what Mikey was to Life Cereal. I’d had enough experience with people to recognize the enthusiasm of youth was there, and had my suspicions that this individual was, quite literally, the kid in the candy store.

    And each and every day I would go to these “places”, and toss out my own bizarre and twisted ideas of how the technology of libsecondlife could be used, for good or evil, and it was an intensive lulz-a-thon just to hear what Jesse would have to say about it, how xe thought it would or wouldn’t work this way or that way. There’d be a technical trick here or there that my schedule simply didn’t afford me the opportunity to pursue, and I would just know that Jesse had it figured out, and I was going to have an adventure and a half working Jesse’s brain on why he ought to tell me how to do it, or what would I have to trade him for it.

    And we talked about you, Prok, our sekrit plan to send a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man parading through your land, earth shattering footsteps and residents running in awe. Of course, I know Jesse found the *idea* more interesting than if we had actually done it, it was about exploring the space of what’s possible.

    And today, I saw the message in the libsl mailing list, very vague, “Jesse was a contributor to the libsecondlife group”. My eyes didn’t want to believe it. I went on to a couple more emails before it registered. WTF does ‘was’ mean? Did he quit or something? That doesn’t sound right… I checked again, and there was an attachment, with a link, to this page about a young man whose life had been taken far before his time, and I just don’t want to believe it.

    There are very few people in this world whom I consider truly interesting, but this kid was, and I know I’m not alone when I say I found a kind of kindred spirit in Jesse Malthus. I was really looking forward to making cool stuff in Second Life and if there was *anyone* I’d have liked to work on it with, it was him.

    There’s more to it than that, of course, simply not enough words on the internet to express the aspects of Jesse’s character I admired, and not enough math to calculate what we’ve all lost in this tragedy. To say he will be missed is an understatement.

    You were a truly great person, Jesse, and the future has lost a great deal of it’s shine at your passing. My sincerest hope is that wherever you are now, you have all of the code and all of the answers your inquisitive mind and optimism of youth motivated you to seek in this world.

  13. Prokofy Neva

    Apr 21st, 2007

    Thanks, FWord Utorid, I knew if I managed to put up at least *something,* somebody would come along who knew Jesse better and write something much more valuable! The image of Mikey and Life Cereal is very vivid and very appropriate.

    You know, I don’t know where Jesse is, I just feel he is somewhere. Fortunately for people like Jesse, the Pope ruled recently that limbo doesn’t exist anymore. So that means, before long, they may deprecate Purgatory, and then who knows, hell could be not far behind. I’ve always believed that people’s spirits and intelligences are somewhere saved in some format, but we have nobody Twittering from there obviously to tell us if it is true. Let me say this: I don’t feel my land is entirely safe from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man even now!

  14. NobodyImportant

    Apr 22nd, 2007

    He was truly an hero.

  15. Alpha Zaius

    Apr 22nd, 2007

    He was very dedicated to his work, and was one of the most hard working individuals in libsecondlife. Here he is (in his prom suit I suppose) breaking away from his mom’s camera (or so he thought) to work on what appears to be C# programming.

    He made a huge impact on the Second Life community, but he did it transparently. He programmed a good bit of the libsecondlife backend, which was used to find bugs in SL by other residents. He insipired me to start learning Ruby, and I bought 2 huge books on it last week. He helped me out so much, and he was a good friend.

  16. Tenshi Vielle

    Apr 22nd, 2007

    While this is entirely sad and I missed it on IRC by not logging in there in a few days, I don’t think VT was a proper springboard for this piece.

    Jessie was a funny guy. In fact, my friend and I (Verbena) were teasing him just a couple of days ago.

    I feel kind of sick now.

  17. Cocoanut Koala

    Apr 22nd, 2007

    Nice piece, Prok. Glad you did it.

    A friendly and bright spirit, suddenly gone, and way too young. I was extremely rattled by this, but at the end of it, all you can do – is be sad.

    My condolences to his family and all his many friends. And saying that is just pathetically inadequate, for this total, total tragedy. I will think of his family for the rest of my life; they will NEVER be out of my prayers.


  18. Eric Rice

    Apr 22nd, 2007

    I have land on my sim that is still set to sell to him for a project he wanted to do in a controlled environment. I’m leaving it and will design around it, whatever ‘it’ becomes. Most likely some park-ish thing.

    I’ve been struggling with my own blog post on this for a good day or so, as, like many who knew him well, it just plain hurts with every keystroke.

    Just a quick note re: the VT thing- its mention doesn’t bother me so much, as I’ve remembered the murder of one of my best friends around 15 years ago, the passing of old people, the passing of sick people, and also war deaths; and I’ve been thinking of all of those and how they affect us differently.

    No death is better or worse than another. They all leave memories. He left a lot and we won’t forget.

    You never forget.

  19. Rhetoric Petshop

    Apr 23rd, 2007


  20. Prokofy Neva

    Aug 13th, 2007

    Just to follow up — Joe Linden made good on his word and included this line in the release of Second Life issued last week
    Second Life 1.18.1 (2) Aug 3 2007 13:10:37. It’s the one with the voice in the client:

    “In Memory of Jesse Malthus, you will be fondly remembered by all who heard your voice.”

    You can find this notice if you look now in “Help” on the user panel inworld, and select the last line “About Second Life,” then scroll past the Linden names.

Leave a Reply