Of course, I never knew Brian. Not in the way I know family, friends, colleagues or even the nice lady who works in the mom 'n' pop store where I buy milk and mosquito repellent. I just knew the basics about him: that he lived in Donegal; that he worked in advertising; that he was married with a seven-year-old son. And of course that he was dying of pancreatic cancer, which is why he started the blog in the first place.
Maybe it wasn't a great blog. He never got the hang of links, or tags or blogrolls. The spelling and grammar could have used some attention. But, hell, why should he have cared about little things like that? As he said, his mission was "trying to squeeze the sweetness out of every second".
He was diagnosed in early April, and they gave him between six and twelve months. He didn't even get that. He died yesterday. And as I read his last post, and the bad news from his friends, and the comments from those who knew him and those who didn't, I realised that this is what blogging is about. All the whining about whether blogging is taking over from journalism is an arcane backwater, the preserve of crap hacks who can't stand the heat. It's something bigger.
Patroclus calls it a conversation, which is very true. But there's something else going on. Brian's illness and death obviously affected a lot of people. But through his blog, the ripples went out just that little bit further, so a few more of us got a taste of the quiddity of Brian. Yes, the posts and the comments were a conversation, but the whole thing acted as a sort of amplifier, bringing what can only be described as Brian-ness to a wider audience.
"Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night." -- Dylan Thomas
"Only connect." -- E.M. Forster