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My friend, colleague and teacher Peter Kollock

I share the loss of Peter Kollock with the many people who knew him.  Peter died Saturday after a motorcycle accident near his home. Many people in the social sciences and beyond have been influenced by Peter’s works of scholarship, teaching, mentorship, entreprenurship and friendship.

Peter had a big impact on his many students at UCLA and the larger academic community that built on his scholarship.   A lecture from Peter was a great thing that left his audiences feeling both smarter and challenged with a whole new landscape of choices.  Peter brought many people to a better appreciation of the issues of cooperation and conflict, collective action and common goods, of trust and deception in risky transactions.  He made it clear how most of our biggest challenges on this planet are cooperation dilemmas.  He gave many of his students the inspiration to think that conflicts could be resolved and cooperation sustained by leveraging insights from studies of these situations.  His was the only class I ever took that proved mathematically that it paid to be good to other people, even if there were short term costs.  He saw early on the importance of communication networks to change the landscape of cooperation and collective action.  His scholarship extended to the very real world of high tech entrepreneurship- building tools for markets on the Internet.

My thoughts are with his family and friends who appreciate the great presence Peter had.

I am shocked by his loss and will miss him deeply.

UCLA Announcement

Wikipedia Page for Peter

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. He taught our class on how to be a teaching assistant last quarter and was just brilliant and wonderful. He was able to illuminate the macro-consequences of seemingly small, everyday experiences in the classroom in terms of one’s impact on students’ lives and the organization of education itself. I wouldn’t have found teaching or sociology this meaningful without his enthusiastic and compassionate instruction.

  2. What kind remarks, Marc. I had the pleasure of growing up with Pete and then growing older with him, but not old enough for my taste. He was an innocent, smart kid who had the maturity to pursue a lifetime avocation of service to others. To his surprise, that was Sociology. Whether we were 18 or 48, our discussions went long into the many nights with lots of laughs. I was fortunate to be one of his first pupils in a sense. He even enlightened me with a little Soc. He was the inspiration behind a social capital lesson to a whole crowd of unwitting Seattle businessmen who left with the enthusiasm of a new car owning Oprah Winfrey crowd. They were energized to find that in fact altruism is good business. Many still remark about the day they became “social capitalists.” He had an impact more than he knew, which is a sign of his contribution to the rest of us. He’s only guilty of leaving us too soon, for which I hope to flip him a lot of garbage someday in language not acceptable to detail here. I could never repay him for all he gave to me and my family. May everyone have a Pete Kollock in their life, for it will be a life of discovery and joy.

  3. I am Peter’s aunt and would like to thank Marc Smith for his comments above. We, his family, are in shock at his sudden death and in sorrow at the loss of one who had so much to share. Thanks again.

  4. I am SHOCKED to hear this very sad news. Peter was an awesome man.

    I know Peter through my best friend. My friend’s sister and Peter lived together for many years. I have very fond memories of hiking in Topanga Canyon State Park with Peter… enjoying the fresh air and always insightful conversations.

    The funny thing is I read an article over the 2008 holidays and was about to reach out and contact Peter to get his insight both from a social networking and business standpoint. I do not know of anyone else who could explain the most complicated theories in plain English while also having acumen to understand the business ramifications.

    Peter will be VERY missed.

    Steven Katz
    Los Angeles, CA

  5. I had the pleasure of interacting with Peter at a few conferences and workshops, a pleasure that I am very sorry to hear will not be repeated. Thanks for sharing the news, dreadful as it is.

  6. This is SO sad – a tremendous loss. I always loved talking with Peter about online community issues, he was a pioneer in his field and a guiding light. He will be deeply missed.

  7. Even though I do not know Peter Kollock personally and have not worked with him, I do know him professionally in that I’ve read his publications and heard him give a talk at the Web-Based Communities conference in 2006 in San Sebastian, Spain. I was impressed by his eloquent talking and his research into communities. Prayers and thoughts are with him and his family.

  8. This is a real shock – Peter was on my doctoral committee just after his arrival to UCLA. It was such a pleasure to work and learn from him as he was an exceptional teacher, mentor and scholar. What a huge loss to his family, students, and colleagues !

  9. I am social psychologist with a strong interest in the study of cooperation. Peter attended several international social dilemma conferences, and – needless to say – he always had a major impact. He always contributed new, inspiring ideas with strong conviction, and I really enjoyed having a beer, wine, and dinner with him. No doubt that this holds for the entire social dilemma group. He will be deeply missed as a gifted scientist, and as a great friend.

  10. Piotr, thanks for the suggestion. I just added some material to the page at, but I am not wiki – format proficient, any help is appreciated! I can bring some more material to the page: I have some photos, and more citations. There are a few videos out on the web of lectures Peter delivered. Let’s try to gather as many links to Peter’s works as possible onto that page.

  11. I will be monitoring the page and helping with wiki syntax. I suggest uploading photos under a free license to Wikimedia Commons: I also suggest creating an account (it is required for some actions like photo uploads).

  12. My deepest condolences to Peter’s family and friends. I also had the fortune of being in his Fall 08 class for developing teaching fellows at UCLA. What an amazing man! Our group had been planning to meet within a month or so to see how our classes are going this quarter and I was really looking forward to seeing him…It is inconceivable that we will not see him again. I can hold on to his spirit, though. He has had a profound impact on the way I look at teaching and life and for that I will forever be grateful. His passion and spirit remain with us, always.

  13. I only met Peter a couple of times but I remember being very excited about our first meeting. It was one of those meetings that lived up to my expectations. I found him to be clever, fun, insightful, modest – all-in-all a wonderful person with whom I would have welcomed much more contact. Peter was a pioneer in our field and he who will be missed.

  14. I worked with Peter at onExchange in Boston and feel so sad to hear of his passing. I can still envision Peter nearly bouncing through the office each morning, a smile on his face, ready for another day. He inspired us all. Peter was obviously a man of great intellect and yet could connect with people from all walks of life. He will be greatly missed and I send my sincere condolences to his family – who must be hurting so much at this time.

  15. I had the pleasure of attending a Fiat Lux (1 unit class at UCLA, of about 20 students, mostly freshmen) taught by Dr. Kollock on “Zen and the Art of Cooperation.”

    Through this class we meditated, read the works of pacifist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh and attended a weekend retreat at Deer Park Monastery. I am very grateful for Peter and his class for introducing me to the ideas of mindfulness and meditation, practices that since first introduction have provided me much peace and

    “We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.”
    “We have to learn to die in every moment in order to be fully alive.” -Thich Nhat Hanh.

    Jamie Feld
    UCLA ’06

  16. Hi Marc this is such a wonderful tribute, thank you!

    My name is Mark too, and I might be better know as the Minnesota Mark, Ellen’s friend Mark or the Mark who married Peter and Ellen.

    I knew Ellen before I met Peter but have been blessed, as all of you have, to have been a part of Peter and Ellen’s life and to be able to get to know Peter and call him my friend.

    It was an honor to be asked by Ellen and family, to help with Peter’s funeral service. It was an honor to be able to be present with the Buddhist Monks from the Deer Park Monastery who were such a part of Peter’s life as they lead us thru the Buddhist cremation ceremony.

    To be a part of his life and now a part of his death is still surreal but now I know that I carry a part of Peter in my heart, in my mind and soul and will always be reminded of his mindfulness.

    To Peter and Ellen and to all who you have taught:

    We have gathered here today to celebrate in the life of our dear Brother, Friend and Husband Peter. We have gathered here today because Peter was in our lives.

    Peter touched each and every one of us. He touched our hearts, he touched our minds, and he touched our souls.

    Peter taught us about love, he taught us about compassion and he taught us about mindfulness.

    That is why we must celebrate our dear brother Peter. We must celebrate his love in our hearts, we must celebrate his understanding of compassion and we must celebrate his gift to each of us of mindfulness.

    I know we are all filled with grief and our hearts are fill with sorrow. But when our grief and sorry are overwhelming just remember these gifts Peter gave us and remember his smile.

    Remember how it lit up the whole room, how it made you feel safe and warm and how it comforted each and every one of you.

    Remember how much love, compassion and mindfulness that smile had and remember to share those gifts with the world around you.

    Remember to celebrate in the life or our dear Brother, Friend and Husband Peter for he truly changed our lives.

    Peter, I love and miss you so much. I know I will always have a part of you in my heart, in my mind and soul and in my mindfulness.

  17. I had the pleasure of being on a panel consisting of Howard Rheingold, Peter Kollock, and myself at the Institute for the Future.

    Peter was a great guy, a powerful researcher, and I am saddened by this loss. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.


  18. I have many fond memories of Professor Kollock during my senior year at UCLA. I first met him when I took Collective Behavior, and what a pleasure it was to attend his class. My friends and I absolutely loved listening to his lectures! In that class I learned about the Prisoner’s Dilemma (and got to walk away with $15 in dimes to go spend at the Kerckhoff Coffee House.)

    One time he shared with us his favorite bumper sticker which said, “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” To this day, every time I see that on a car, I think of him and his genuine, warm smile.

    That year, Professor Kollock marched in our commencement ceremony in Pauley Pavilion. When the Soc. department was called, we were by far the loudest group there. And we were all shouting out, “Peter, Peter!” as he entered in the faculty procession. We adored him.

    After reading some of the comments listed above, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to take one of his Zen classes. I would have loved to have had that discussion and shared my many experiences of traveling to India with him.

    My heart goes out to Professor Kollock’s family. The UCLA community will not be the same without him. What a gift he was to those of us that were able to share some time with him.

    UCLA, Sociology, 1994

    “Lose yourself,
    Lose yourself in this love.
    When you lose yourself in this love,
    you will find everything.”

  19. I just heard the news about Peter and I am very sad to hear about this tragedy. I had taken a few classes from Peter (he told us that we didn’t have to call him Professor Kollock) @ UCLA in the mid-90’s and did some research work with Peter individually. He was one of the most influential people in my career and one of the few professors I ever had that gave me tools that I still use on a day-to-day basis. We had kept in touch long after graduation due to our shared academic and personal interests. I consider Peter a friend and while we had only spoken occasionally over the past few years, I always valued our talks and came away a better person for having known him. I brought up his name in conversations all the time and was influenced by his scholarly work.

    Words alone can not express the admiration I have for Peter’s intellect, humor and spirit. I never really got a chance to thank him for all the wisdom and knowledge he had imparted on me – and to let him know how important he was to my professional development. He will be remembered for a very long time and he will be missed by many.

    Jason H. Fisher, Esq.
    UCLA Class of ‘98

  20. My son sent me the notice about Peter. Reading the sad news about the untimely death of Peter has left a void in my life. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter a numerous times at UCLA. Peter was a real GEM of a person. He definitely left a lasting mark on my son. Jason had the opportunity to do research with Peter and taking numerous classes from Peter.

    Peter will be definitely missed and our deepest sympathy goes out to Peters family and friends.

  21. I was a student of Peter’s in his Collective Behavior class and in his Fiat Lux Seminar on Zen and the Art of Buddhism. I was so impressed by Professor Kollock’s teaching and enthusiasm that I decided to do an Independent Study with Peter Kollock. We studied the social underpinnings of Wikipedia and other collective intelligence communities. I produced one of my life’s greatest works and was the most interesting research project I had ever participated in. Peter guided me with the patience of a school teacher and the wisdom of a professor. He showed me exactly what it was to do research and to pursue science in an academic environment. I am forever indebted to Peter and his dedication. I still remember my graduation day in June 2005 when I made it a point to introduce him to my parents. He was by far my favorite professor and lecturer at UCLA. Peter, you will sorely be missed.


  22. I am currently doing a dissertation and although the post is years old, my topic is on flaming and community in an online video site. I first came across Peter’s work in 1999 in an undergraduate course. Communities in Cyberspace was ground breaking and has lead me on the path to internet studies. I know it is over three years and my intent is not to stir up hurt, but I was upset to hear about this, I just found out tonight. Thank you for putting me on a path to understanding the interactions online and how important it is for society to grapple with freedoms of speech but keeping civility. Thanks Marc.

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