Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz

One of the brightest minds of his generation, Aaron Swartz died on January 11, 2013.  He was an internet activist, innovator, hacker, co-creator of the RSS Feed and co-owner of Reddit.  He fought for open & free access for educational journals and against SOPA/PIPA.  It is not an exaggeration to say that he had a hand in what we know the internet is and in what the internet will become.  He died by his own hand at the age of 26.     


I cannot answer that for Mr. Swartz, whom I never met or communicated with, nor can I answer for friends who have made similar decisions.  I simply do not know.  I read about it on the morning of January 12th, on Twitter.  It was harrowing to see people who knew and loved him discover the news.  I follow a lot of tech geeks and one after the other just kept rolling how shocked by the news they were.  My heartfelt thoughts and prayers for his family and friends left behind. 

Here is CNN’s article on Mr. Swartz:  Here is what Mr. Cory Doctorow wrote for Boing Boing:  Here is what Wikipedia (Mr. Swartz was an editor here too) has to say:  Here is what Chris Hayes from MSNBC had to say on his program, “UP w/ Chris Hayes’ (and I highly recommend viewing the segment concerning Mr. Swartz):  

Mr. Swartz was in trouble for downloading free educational journals from MIT.  Let me say that once more, he downloaded FREE educational journals.  Further, he never uploaded them anywhere.  Two days before he committed suicide he was told that he might be looking at 35 years behind bars.  To quote from Mr. Hayes’ brilliant summation, “…You should know his death is a good reason to revisit the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law under which he was prosecuted, since it is far too broad, and to take a hard look at Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office prosecuted Aaron with such recklessly disproportionate vigor, and who is reportedly considering a run for governor.

You should know that we’re going to miss you, Aaron. We’re going to miss your brilliant mind, your righteous heart and your sensitive soul.

I have seen the face of depression but I do not suffer from it.  I have seen it twist people’s lives and minds.  I cannot pretend to understand what someone with severe depression is going through but I can encourage positive action.  I can say if you feel that the world would be better off without you, please think again.  Please find someone to talk to.  You are not alone – you don’t have to be.  Your local church is a good option but here is one place that is available at any time:  From their site, “No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.  Please, find someone to talk to.  The fact of the matter is we need as many brilliant minds, righteous hearts, and sensitive souls as we can find these days.

If you happen to be an academic and have published research papers one of the ways that people are honoring Mr. Swartz’ memory is by uploading it to the net completely open & free and attaching the following hash tag: #pdftribute – go on, do a Twitter search and you’ll see what I mean.


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