Almost 15 years ago, during winter 2001-2002. We were still young graduate students with Pythagoras and Kostas, working late hours at the ASK research unit of ITI-CERTH in Athens. We were spending hours, trying to understand, digest and decompose the IEEE standard on Learning Object Metadata. And every time that we celebrated a small step forward, something better and sexier hit us from this guy: Metadata Principles and Practicalities. A LOM Research Agenda. Electronic Forms Must Die! To get us back in our worm hole to work for many more hours.
I vaguely remember the first time that I met him, in July 2002. Not actually met, I rather bumped on him during the IEEE ICALT conference that our team was organising in Athens. Someone introduced the local organisation team, he smiled and looked at us, and everyone felt special and blessed. We had just met Prof. Erik Duval, his great highness, the rock star of learning objects (or learning repositories, or technology enhanced learning, or learning analytics, or any other research area that he decided to play with). And back to the worm hole to try to do something that could get his attention and make us look a bit better than his wonder team.
Late in 2005, I had already started my PhD at the InfoLab of the Agricultural University of Athens, trying to apply everything I knew about IEEE LOM, metadata repositories, and web portals to discover learning resources to agriculture and food. Researching a bit previous work in this area, I discovered that two CGIAR centers worked together in implementing a Moodle instance that hosted courses on agri-forestry using an agricultural metadata schema based on LOM. And they did together with the ARIADNE Foundation team at KU Leuven – which means the team of Erik. Wow. His highness was working on the same topics with me. An opportunity to connect was there, and so it happened.
When Erik decided to step down from the leadership of the ARIADNE Foundation, our teams worked closely together so that we take over the operation and evolution of their metadata harvesting solutions, with many ideas that you can see in action today supporting FAO’s AGRIS bibliographic metadata aggregation. And we have continued working together on various things, most recent one being the collaboration on new tools and services for scientists in the context of the Europeana Cloud project.
I remember the day that I wrote him that I was going to visit our office in Leuven and asked him for a meeting. We set up the time and place, marked it in our calendars; he didn’t ask me what it was for and I didn’t tell him. It had nothing to do with work. I just wanted to see him and have the opportunity to say “Thank you, Erik. For everything”. Just one day before my flight, he sent a quick note to tell me that we had to postpone, because something urgent had come up. There were some medical checks to make, “Nothing to worry about Nikos, but the doctor says that I really have to. We will arrange to meet very soon, I am very curious about what you want to tell me.”.
So, I never said my THANK YOU in the proper way that I wanted to. To this visionary leader, inspiring teacher, caring mentor, and amazing storyteller. Who combined the making skills of a craftsman with the magic aura of a rock star.
Safe travels, starman.