The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
I watched this for the first time last night.
Somehow, I hadn't even heard of Aaron Swartz.
And, while I let that sink in, it's worse than being a fan of networked technology and not knowing: I was active in the digital rights scene back in Ottawa at the time too. I wasn't just reading Geist: we were meeting, as part of the group trying to get Bill C-61 amended. And we were all reading Lessig, Doctorow, and were intensely interested in Eldred v. Ashcroft.
I loved Creative Commons. It was all over my creative writing site at the time. I had no idea Swartz wrote that code.
I've tried to let myself off the hook a bit: maybe all these people he worked with — on RSS as well, and even Markdown, apparently, although that's from Wikipedia — were trying to keep him from the limelight because he was still a minor. I don't know.
It's a bit easier to understand how I missed his death: my personal life was a shambles in late 2012/early 2013. I was barely keeping it together, even with my head down, just trying to get by.
The film is as interesting for who it wasn't able to get, I think. I found the whole topic to be pretty upsetting, so I won't be doing any research on this or other points. For me, that they got his parents talking was enough: and that made it all the more heartbreaking, of course.
He was so eloquent! Even on live television. That, to me, speaks of his brilliance more than anything else: that he was able to answer questions so well, on the spot. Likely what I consider a home-run answer would've had him shaking his head afterwards, wondering why he hadn't said this or that. I bet his shower thoughts were world-altering.
And that's the saddest part of all: Clay Shirky referenced it in one of the few articles I read about Swartz's death: everyone will miss out, is currently missing out, on all the other things he would've done. He was just getting started. It's awful; just awful.
I'll close with Sir Tim Berners-Lee's beautiful epitaph:
World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder.
Hackers for right, we are one down.
Parents all, we have lost a child.
Let us weep.
RIP Aaron Swartz
1986 – 2013
End of Day 39
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