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April 06, 2013

Allen Stern, Web 2.0 Tech Blogging Pioneer, Passes Away

Tonight, I found out, as did many of us in the tightly knit tech blogging community, that Allen Stern, the founder of Centernetworks, and later CloudContacts and Let's Talk Fitness, had passed away. No matter the reason, it was far too soon - and no matter of Wikipedia style dry obit can capture the loss of one of the tech blogging scene's first, finest and most fun, personalities, who was truly larger than life.

The news broke about three hours ago, in a Facebook post from Allen's sister, saying Allen had passed earlier in the week. For those of us who know Allen well, this is a big surprise. Allen's health, once a major cause for concern a couple years ago, had dramatically improved, as he lost more than 125 pounds through greatly improved diet and exercise. While I've talked about my own push to lose all of thirty pounds, thanks to Fitbit, the idea of losing 125 pounds is mind boggling.

Allen after his health kick, looked fantastic. (via his Facebook)

Before Allen's health kick, he made a name for himself running Centernetworks. Archive.org has it starting all the way back in 1999, but when I first started posting regularly here, CenterNetworks was one of the Techmeme regulars, and Allen was seemingly on every story. On top of his New York-centric view of the Valley and all things tech, he had a very funny and dry sense of humor, punctuated by my favorite bits of him as "The Blogger King", along with pompous Burger King crown, laying down the rules of the tech Web.

Allen, amid all the self-centered hipsters that entered the blogging scene, was genuine and personal. In 2008, when my twins were born, we had a fun blog back and forth that peaked with the month-plus old Matthew jokingly being hired as an intern at CenterNetworks, and later losing his role for sleeping on the job. We pretended to sue, and Allen later sent a model A Train, from one of his other passions, New York transit, which became one of my kids' favorite toys. Allen also was one of my most frequent email contacts, and always took the time for a phone call.

After he immersed himself into CloudContacts, Allen later sold Centernetworks, and later focused more on getting his body into shape. As he told me frequently, he was sluggish and in horrible repair two years ago around Google I/O, which was the last time I saw him, in 2011. He fought hard and made himself look dramatically better, part of the life change that came as he also moved out of urban New York and to suburban Austin, Texas.

I'll miss Allen. I missed it when he stopped posting as regularly to CenterNetworks as he once did. But more, I'll miss the fun email threads and fun phone calls that always left me laughing and feeling better. Death sucks and tonight, I'm sad. Bye, Allen.