Aaron Swartz has spent most of life working to improve the Internet and to preserve freedom on the net. Many people are speaking to his awesome accomplishments in the last 10 years of his life, but I’d like to take a minute and reflect on his earlier years.
I was one of the fortunate people who met Aaron when he was still 15 — we first met up in Washington DC for O’Reilly’s P2P conference. Since he was a minor, his mom was accompanying him. Never mind that she had a broken leg at the time — she was so dedicated to her son that she traveled with him to allow him to participate in things that most minors couldn’t even imagine.
Before I met him in person, Aaron was an active contributor to MusicBrainz. When I started my first mis-guided attempts to create an RDF based web-service, he worked with me to improve the schema. He helped me understand RDF (damn that RDF spec!) and helped me fix the schema until it actually worked properly. Aaron was always looking for new and interesting things to do, so once his mission with MusicBrainz was done, he moved on to bigger and better things. And the things he did — simply amazing that one person can accomplish so much in so little time.
Aaron and I shared one passion — making data open and accessible. His means were always more aggressive than mine; he often chose the faster, more risky approach. I usually favor the slow-and-steady-will-win approach. Regardless, the events that led up to his suicide leave me deeply unsettled about the current state of affairs.
Aaron, thank you for being the instigator, shit-stirrer, advocate and dissident you were. I appreciate everything you’ve done during your short stay here in this troubled planet. May your next journey be more peaceful!
Thank you to Cory, Larry and Brewster for your kind words.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the paper Aaron wrote about MusicBrainz.