Honor his memory by sharing open access to your scholarly work under the hashtag #pdftribute
The world has much to mourn with the loss of this brilliant, sparkling soul, barely 26 years old, who took his own life Friday. People who care about access to information are grateful he turned so much formidable brainpower and passion toward making it more available and easier to manage. (If you learned of this blog post through your email or a feedreader like Pulse, you’re using a technology whose co-creator was a 14-year-old Aaron Swartz.)
Even JSTOR gingerly expressed their sadness this weekend. Though they elected not to pursue charges against Aaron for vacuuming up millions of JSTOR articles in 2011 with the aim of making them freely accessible, the US attorney’s office in Massachusetts was set to take him to court next month hoping to lock him up until the mid-2040s.
There’s no way to read Aaron’s account of seeing Brewster Kahle’s digital bookmobile in 2002 without being struck by the purity of this prodigy’s Infowarrior heart; Aaron was going on sixteen when he and other digirati converged on DC to hear his friend Lawrence Lessig argue the Eldred v. Ashcroft copyright extension case before the Supreme Court. The kid was all in; throughout his brief life he was hugely effective at advancing the smarter, better society whose promise he so passionately believed in–in word, in deed, in XML and in Lisp and in Python.
Seriously, though, the Web is what we make of it. We have a powerful, widely-deployed, largely uncontrolled communication network. It’s up to us to decide where to go next.
—Aaron Swartz, 2007