Aaron Schwartz - Open Internet Activist and Better World Advocate

5년 전

Continuing on my internet hero series, is Aaron Schwartz. I covered one of my biggest heroes Hal Finney in an earlier post here: https://steemit.com/heros/@creationlayer/blockchain-and-crypto-godfather-hal-finney

Aaron Schwartz was a child prodigy, able to learn programming faster than almost anyone. He was also very principled, and I believe that if he was here today he would believe in the ethos of Steemit. At an early age he started using the computer, first programming small games and quickly progressing to contributing to major projects. You probably use some of his creations everyday.

Contributions, to name a few
collaborator on RSS 1.0 Standard joining at age 14 to the working group.
main creator of the RDF/XML standard
creator of HTTPS Everywhere
creator of tor2web
founder of http://creativecommons.org
creator of https://watchdog.net/ an internet advocacy group to lobby politicians
lead creator of https://openlibrary.org/
founder of https://demandprogress.org/ to fight internet censorship in politics
Numerous contributions to python
creator of web.py a simple elegant mvc framework for creating web pages in python
early founder of reddit

While at YCombinator, a Silicon Valley incubator, Aaron was working on a organizational system called infogami. Paul Graham the founder, saw another team working on something called reddit, and realized Aaron Schwartz would be a great fit. He jumped over to the team, and did a lot of the heavy lifting. The company was acquired by Condé Nast Publications, a media conglomerate, and the team was forced into an office environment. To give you an idea of all the companies reddit is tied to, their parent company owns Allure, Architectural Digest, Ars Technica, Bon Appétit, Brides, Epicurious, Glamour, Golf Digest, Golf World, GQ, Lucky, The New Yorker, Pitchfork Media, Self, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Vogue, W and Wired. One wonders how that relates to the "unbiased" nature reddit tries to  promote. Aaron rebelled, finding the office environment restrictive, and superiors demanded things against his beliefs. The project had changed, it had gone corporate. So the principle coder of reddit was fired because he knew the job sucked, seeing it had turned into something he did not want to work on and he couldn't make change happen there.

As stated above Aaron spent much of his post reddit days working on internet freedom, rights, and political change. When Aaron left Reddit he of course ended up with a payout. No amount of money could force him into a life of grinding the corporate system. Instead he took that reddit "reward" and put it towards projects that were focused on open access and freedom. I wonder if he'd be involved in steemit or similar projects today. Some of his initiatives included creator of https://watchdog.net/ an internet advocacy group to lobby politicians, lead creator of https://openlibrary.org/ a site dedicated to offering free books and materials, and founder of https://demandprogress.org/ to fight internet censorship in politics specifically SOPA. Sure maybe he got wrangled into reddit, and got a payout, but he stuck true to his ideals and instead focused on contributions for all of us.
Open Research Document Initiative - Pacer
While holding a position at Harvard, Aaron believed that everyone should have access to academic papers. Why hold back priceless contributions to academic fields from the public, only available to large universities who could afford it. One major system is called Pacer which charges huge fees for research that is created for free basically by Universities and should be in public domain in my opinion. He setup a laptop and hard drive to download everything from the Pacer database through a closet at MIT. Unfortunately law enforcement caught on and installed cameras and were able to capture him in the process of "stealing" this information. Charges were filed by MIT and the District Attorney of New York. MIT later dropped charges but the government persisted. His apartment was raided, he was harassed, and was given a deal. Take a felony and serve time or fight the case. Aaron had long sought participation in the political system of the United States and with a felony he would be barred.

Unfortunately Aaron took his own life. It could have been the stress of the case, or a combination of his own feelings. Regardless it was a sad day for everyone who knew this bright soul, who gave so much back and asked for nothing. He was not in search for riches or fame, just to make the world a more open place for all. Still his open initiatives and code live on, and his projects are not forgotten. Following his passing torrents and websites have been setup to share academic papers, and some day it will all be freely available, whether they like it or not.

Legendary status
By all accounts Aaron Schwartz is an icon and fighter for a free and open internet. Today one of Aaron's closest collaborators and founder of the internet Tim Berners-Lee is working on a project called Solid, to take back control of the internet and re-decentralize the web. The biggest forefathers of the internet know now is the time we look towards decentralized solutions, Steemit is one example and together we can take back the internet.

Reach out for help
I urge you if you're in a place where you feel like suicide is the only way out, ask for help. Talk to a friend, check in to a hospital, find a psychologists or psychiatrists or call for help to talk to someone. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ Call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States. I've lost many good friends, with beautiful minds, and you can get help. I'm not going to go on a philosophical rant about why not, but I'm going to say, reach out for help, save yourself. Things can get better, it takes time, but it's time we stop losing the best and brightest.

Thank you Aaron for working on creative commons so I could find the picture above.

Recently released Documentary I think he would want it to be free:

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  trending

I remember hearing about his suicide and being interested in why such a brilliant young mind would succumb to this most emotional decisions. I myself have struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression and can attest that having someone who cares makes all the difference. You don't have to talk a lot, but being there for someone who is hopeless is invaluable.

In a way we offer all of our success here to Aaron. He helped develop the seed that that eventually blossomed into steemit.

I respect those who fight for injustice and feel he would have made the world even better if he could have accomplished his mission copying Pacer. It is a shame that greed and money has prevented valuable information from being seen by people who have the ability to transform the world if only they had the knowledge.

R.I.P. Aaron


Yes we can all make ourselves available to others who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideations. It's very hard. From what I understand with great intelligence also comes some things you may not wish. His brother mentioned in the documentary that he did get down sometimes I believe, so I think he had some depression and with that it only takes so much harassment and problems to make such a choice. Thank you for your honesty, and I wish the best to you.


Steemit has really helped me through a lot and I thank you for your kind words!


i'm glad! keep on keeping on, we all have tough times.

Great post @creationlayer , Aaron is one of my biggest inspirations. If you plan to continue this series and making bank on it, please consider donating at least part of the proceeds to each persons charity of choice.
For Aaron Schwartz the group would be http://blog.givewell.org/2013/01/16/in-memory-of-aaron-swartz/ according to his family wishes.

I dont wanna be a dick, and I want these echos of his memory to happen and spread - I just dont feel great about people directly profiting from these sorts of posts. Something to think about..


I completely understand. I will do so. I was trying to get in touch with those managing the hal finney wallet, which has 14 BTC and is stagnant but no reply. I will donate with my Bitcoin credit card to charities related to these people. I don't plan to only talk about people that are dead, or have a horrible situation, it just happens that two of my biggest icons are gone. I will make sure to update the community on that. Hal Finney wallet where nothing has moved, https://blockchain.info/address/1JsnZLEGgLJY7rbDdaKTzC2JyvfaKUpF5p Bitcoin is easiest, but ALS has many options.

Re: directly profiting, well I'm here to share stories. If people like or don't like I can't decide. There's countless people in history to share stories about dead, alive or disabled etc, my only goal is to inspire and remember. The support keeps the process going. I don't think people should feel discouraged to write about those that inspire them, because they died. Donation has always been a goal, if it's appropriate.


Thanks mate, I do like the article and I'm sure it'll do well cos everyone loves Aaron :)


no worries at all, I appreciate to see someone else knows of this legend, and wish you the best on this community.


Cheers. I wish I could write as well as you do.
You word the england good (and that) ;)

Yes this was a good guy in the world of the Internet !! Of course im sure he would have loved the ethics of SteemIT and no doubt he would have actively invested himself in this amazing project of human dis enslavement from corporate ownership of knowledge and content !! Rip Aaron .....

Great work. I wish he was still around. I very much he'd be here on steemit with us now, or perhaps he would have been sitting in a room with @ned and @dan working on it.


yea he was the kind of guy that would fork your repo or get in touch and do some magic. always. I'm not on that level, but I admire him, and end up using his tools often. Web.py is great and elegant.


That's a beautiful thought - I really do think he would have gravitated to this platform, if anyone would recognize its value immediately it would be Aaron :)


It's getting such that everyone is on this platform. Well, everyone who cares about the Internet, that is :). That's a very powerful constituency, and Steemit.com makes us more powerful. I hope that we can finally rid ourselves of the man this time...

Great piece


thank you very much cleve


Picked great photos and well laid out, the stuff I am finding both really matters and isn't easy


creative commons search, Aaron helps me everyday when I use steemit mate. There's a lot of decent stuff tagged for re-use. His pictures are basically from wikipedia.

i think he will love steemit community 8']

Wished Aaron still live today! He'd loved blockchains and Steemit for sure!

Great human being! RIP