I started following Aaron Swartz back in 2005, when I was trying to learn all I could from Paul Graham. I read Graham’s essays and went to the first ever Startup School for Hackers. Aaron Swartz was there, having applied and been selected as one of the first participants in Y Combinator. I immediately found him intriguing and endearing, and started reading his blog.
Aaron Swartz is known for having a wide variety of interests, but they’re all connected. He wanted to make the world better through the power of openness. The first thing that he’s famous for is co-creating RSS, which is a tool that allows anyone to publish their thoughts, so they can easily be read by anyone with access to the Internet, with any tool that supports the standard. He used his blog, Raw Thought, to share his. I subscribed to it with my RSS reader, and also used a feed that Aaron created to read Paul Graham’s blog. Aaron created a tool called Infogami to enable others to share their thoughts. He became involved in reddit, which made the Internet more connected, even hyperconnected. These were great achievements, to be sure, but his sense of duty required him to do so much more.
His political activism was impressive, and will live on. Cory Doctorow’s post on Boing Boing is a good summary of it, but to understand where he was coming from, you need to read what he wrote and listen to what he said. His blog, which I expect will remain online, has a nice archive page. Read it.
Aaron, you have inspired me, and I’m going to miss you immensely. Thank you for your work to make the world a better place, and may you rest in peace.