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I was shocked and saddened to learn this morning (via Twitter) that internet commentator and developer and relentless advocate of open access to information Paul Reynolds died on Sunday of leukaemia.

reynoldsNo one, not even Paul it seems knew he was ill. Eloquent tributes are flowing around the web dispersed via social networks, something Paul would no doubt consider highly appropriate. Sciblogs readers may know Paul from Radio New Zealand, where he has been interviewed over the years talking about technology, where the internet is going and how information is managed and mangled on the web. Paul was onto the internet very early, saw its potential quickly and was always a step ahead of everyone else in suggesting where it was going – I first heard of the semantic web from Paul.

Through his company McGovern Online he assisted numerous organisations, from the National Library to art galleries, government departments and the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, get their heads around opening up information online and engaging in online communities.

I got to know Paul when I was a tech commentator on TVNZ’s Breakfast show – I did the new gadget slots while Paul tackled the weighty issues of where all this technology is taking us. I last spoke to him a few weeks ago in Auckland before he joined a panel discussion on Russell Brown’s Media7 show to talk about the internet and attempts to regulate it to stop piracy.

But what I’ll really remember Paul for are the engaging, wide-ranging discussions he led at Foo Camp, the annual meeting of tech, science and creative sector people. The last session we were in together in February was about citizen science and how to use the internet to get the public more engaged in the type of science going on in New Zealand – his message to me when I expressed my frustration that the media often poorly covers science was “don’t try and move the mountain, go around it” – he clearly saw the web, social media and citizen science as compelling channels to get science out to the public.

Paul was also deeply involved in the local Creative Commons movement in New Zealand and his input there will be sorely missed. So long Paul and thanks for all the insights… will have a wee dram to salute you.