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Slate's Mini-Biography of Aaron Swartz 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
New submitter ElDuque writes "Slate's top story today is a long, heavily-researched article about the life of, and case against, Aaron Swartz. It covers the formative years of both Mr. Swartz and the free information / open knowledge movement he felt so strongly about. Quoting: 'Aaron Swartz is a difficult puzzle. He was a programmer who resisted the description, a dot-com millionaire who lived in a rented one-room studio. He could be a troublesome collaborator but an effective troubleshooter. He had a talent for making powerful friends, and for driving them away. He had scores of interests, and he indulged them all. ... He was fascinated by large systems, and how an organization’s culture and values could foster innovation or corruption, collaboration or paranoia. Why does one group accept a 14-year-old as an equal partner among professors and professionals while another spends two years pursuing a court case that’s divorced from any sense of proportionality to the alleged crime? How can one sort of organization develop a young man like Aaron Swartz, and how can another destroy him?'"
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Slate's Mini-Biography of Aaron Swartz

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  • Blame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    No organization destroyed Aaron Swartz. An individual did.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Only 1500 signatures needed before monday (probably monday early morning) for fire Steve Heymann white house petition [whitehouse.gov] See also Aaron's partner post [tumblr.com] for more details.

      This probably won't get an answer but once the treshhold is reached, the petition will remain readable indefinitely on the white house website. This won't look good on his resume when it comes to be promoted. That's reason enough to sign.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday February 08, 2013 @06:18PM (#42838003)
    When I was a MIT and Stanford. Very clever, creative people but never "joiners" of any group, whether the group was classmates, sports, or coworkers. Should ever a new group coalease around them, then they'd switch to something different. I was never sure if the reason was disdain, boredom, or as the clever outsider they'd be in the spotlight. Group membership can give you emotional support, especially when things are going bad. Most of these people I knew turned into lost souls.
    • When I read the Slate article, my thought was that he simply landed at the wrong university. He would have fit in well over at Berkeley when I was a student there in the late 90s & early 00s, and the focus of our classes matched what it sounds like he craved. That said, I ddin't feel like the Slate article was necessarily terribly accurate; among many other discrepancies, I've run across too many articles now (like Cory Doctorow's [boingboing.net]) that say he was well-liked, had quite a few friends that he collaborat

  • Personal stories (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd659 (2730387) on Friday February 08, 2013 @06:20PM (#42838029)
    If you are interested in meeting someone who knew Aaron personally and ask questions, I suggest you attend a great and free talk by Cory Doctorow. There will be a discussion about Aaron Swartz. Specific details are here: http://craphound.com/ [craphound.com]

    Saturday Feb 9th in Salt Lake City, UT http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/event-141058-cory-doctorow-signing-and-reading-homeland.html [cityweekly.net]

    Sunday Feb 10th in Tempe, AZ http://events.azfamily.com/Cory_Doctorow_Homeland/269560116.html [azfamily.com]
  • by jones_supa (887896) on Friday February 08, 2013 @06:37PM (#42838199)
    Today most of us would probably have never even heard about Aaron Swartz if he was still alive. Only the death gave him all the respect as the fighter of information freedom.
    • by tnk1 (899206)

      Which, in retrospect, is a terrible reason to give him respect. Dying for something is far easier than living for it. Although, in this case, as I understand it, it wasn't even a statement, it was just depression. So, in my mind, it gives him notoriety, but I sincerely hope no one actually thinks his point was made by doing this, as it's fairly certain that even he wasn't trying to make a statement with it.

    • by jd659 (2730387)

      Today most of us would probably have never even heard about Aaron Swartz if he was still alive. Only the death gave him all the respect as the fighter of information freedom.

      It's like saying that only the massacre in Sandy Hook made us aware of the violence issues that exists. Had that not happened, no one would even even know that!

      The truth is, many people were informed about Aaron's achievements and were discussing the ideas.

    • From everything I've read, he was already well-known & respected among the Internet elite (plus becoming close friends with many of them) as he'd been actively contributing to projects like the Semantic Web since he was 13-14 years old, and was easily mistaken for an adult online due to how well-spoken and bright he was.

      He'd then ended up gaining the respect of people active in intellectual property reform by releasing a massive number of public/government law documents with others in the PACER/RECAP pr

  • by tnk1 (899206)

    How can one sort of organization develop a young man like Aaron Swartz, and how can another destroy him?'"

    That's not even a difficult question. A university is dedicated to producing educated people as a product. That doesn't mean that the product can't end up attacking the organization that produced him. That's like saying you can't shoot a gun at a gun factory. Or perhaps more appropriately, it's like saying that a soldier can't turn on the Army that trained them to shoot. It happens all the time because while the army teaches you to shoot, and university teaches you other things, neither of them necessa

  • by Beeftopia (1846720) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @12:53AM (#42841087)

    Car analogy: He had the massive brain, but not the emotional suspension to effectively harness the power to his benefit.

    Valuing discipline is so important in life. No one is smart enough to flit from one task to another, leaving brilliant solutions in one's wake. 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.

    From what I've read, he was never really comfortable. Emotionally or physically.

    Growing up is about finding out what you are, finding out about the world. He was such a prodigy and as a result, this soft, depressive, immature kid was thrust into the real world, the big stage, of hard, combative people. A world he had no opportunity to learn about. Many of us have made mistakes but were able to recover. He never had that chance. He stepped into something he, as an introverted young man, had no idea about. He was an introverted, depressive youth on the big stage. He never learned how to cage his internal tormentors. He followed hard men, Stallman and Lessig, into battle. And the battle he stumbled into crushed him.

    An unfortunate confluence of circumstances. A tragedy.

    From his obituary in The Economist: [economist.com]

    "All this added to a weight that had oppressed him for many years. “Look up, not down,” he urged readers of his weblog; “Embrace your failings.” “Lean into the pain.” It was hard to take that advice himself. He kept getting ill, several illnesses at once. Migraines sliced into his scalp; his body burned. And he was sad most of the time, a sadness like streaks of pain running through him. Books, friends, philosophy, even blogs didn’t help. He just wanted to lie in bed and keep the lights off.

    In 2002 he posted instructions for after his death (though I’m not dead yet! he added). To be in a grave would be all right, as long as he had access to oxygen and no dirt on top of him; and as long as all the contents of his hard drives were made publicly available, nothing deleted, nothing withheld, nothing secret, nothing charged for; all information out in the light of day, as everything should be."

  • Someday, some new evidence will arise... of Aaron's murder - committed by someone or several, who share the "fire-in-the-eyes" of the senator, who Aaron met at a party (per his last video talk).

    He said (in the same video), that he'd never -give- his Life for (any such issue), so I don't believe he would -take- his Life for this or any other issue.

    • Severely depressed & even suicidal people often can hide it dangerously well, especially around others that aren't close enough to know little tell-tale signs. Also, at least 2-3 people that were extremely close to him wrote that he was known among friends to have been fighting repeated bouts with depression for years. He evidently was known among his close friends as the sort that hated to accept help, and that he believed it was crucial to appear to the world as if the prosecution wasn't getting to

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