Setting the record straight on Aaron Swartz's contributions


10 Responses to “Setting the record straight on Aaron Swartz's contributions”

  1. I greatly appreciate your clarification on the oversimplification by the Media in general as to A.S.’s involvement in things like RSS. Even I believed he had basically created RSS by the age of 14 or so… or something to that effect because of his portrayal (everywhere) as such, until now. And, I’m glad to say that I’m not disappointed by the news that he didn’t literally “Create” RSS, as is ‘nearly’ being depicted elsewhere, and I’ll tell you why… because even I know some of the depths to which A.S. went, to bring general scientific knowledge to me, you, and the world. Efforts you failed to even discuss.
       This brings me to my ultimate point, which is that “Accurately remembering” A.S. as you claimed to have attempted to do, would have included something a little more poignant and revealing about his efforts to change the World, than two instances of disproving his involvement in helping to create the change you barely site at the end of your ‘clarification’ with a cop-out sentence of a real effort, by saying that… “Aaron’s reach was -huge-”, and that… “his loss -incalculable-”. Great, now tell us what that means to you… Next Time, and create an “Accurate Remembrance” that includes something he DID do. And (as if I know what I’m talking about), to accurately remember someone, please take a little more time to come up with something better than “huge” & “incalculable”. 
       Like I said though, the ‘clearification’ was necessary, but that’s all this was.
    And thank you for it. I had a great time being schooled on how uninvolved he really was (or may have been). I know you don’t have to say more about his death, but, in a Remembrance, you must go much, much further into his Life… peace.

  2. James, I have written extensively about the loss of Aaron, who I knew a bit. This is about the record of someone’s life being distorted. Also, BoingBoing as a whole has published and linked to a few dozen articles about his death and his memory.

  3. ocschwar says:

    Another thing that should be set straight is the notion that he wanted to post a mirror of the JSTOR articles.

    First of all, he denied it was his intention.

    Second, if he was going to get into that battle, he would have picked a better target than JSTOR. 

    Third, Aaron Swartz had a talent for taking a large corpus of written work and distilling fresh insight from it (see his essay on Who Writes for Wikipedia). It’s far more believable that he had some hypothesis to test on the JSTOR corpus, not to mention that this is what he said all along. It also explains why he got so obsessive on getting those articles. 

  4. thanks for the piece – you might want to fix up the second part of the first sentence ‘I him a little’

  5. s2redux says:

    Thanks for this and all your recent writings about Aaron, Glenn. I’ve been kinda surprised that Rael hasn’t posted a remembrance (at least, that I’ve seen; maybe he’s done something on Twitter) of the RSS-DEV Working Group days.

    FWIW, it appears that Ortiz has rebooted her attempt at image rehab. Essentially, she was just doing her job. Well, at least her hubby’s not the sharp point of the spear for this one. WSJ has her statement; Ars has some reaction.

  6. Andy Dingley says:

    I was also one of the people (HP Labs, Bristol) working on RSS 1.0   Although web syndication was clearly a hot ticket, and probably the reason why Aaron came to the party, it pretty soon turned instead into the RDF poster child application.  _This_ was why all the smart kids became interested in RSS, as this was how we were explaining the beginnings of SemWeb to the rest of the world. This is why the RDF basis of RSS 1.0 was both so significant to RDF, and so potentially powerful for RSS.

    Aaron rapidly gained huge respect from everyone involved – and this was already a pretty smart group of people, most of us jaded from years of working in Dilbert cartoons to pay our bills. It was a joy to hack it around with someone who just wanted to build the best, smartest and shiniest piece of tech we could, unhindered by investor value or a suit upstairs. Truly a beautiful mind.

    • Andy, thanks so much for this comment. I have spent days explaining to people that while Aaron didn’t invent or co-invent “RSS,” that the group effort behind RSS 1.0 and his work in particular were invaluable parts of the evolution of the Semantic Web. I think the concept is too much in the information science realm to be as easily explained as plain old RSS.

      I want Aaron’s patrimony to be remembered accurately as well as forever. RSS 0.9x/2.0 had a lot of drama associated with it, and has also been invaluable to the evolution of information distribution. But it’s a whole different thing.

  7. steveokeefe says:

    Thanks, Glenn, for this clarification. We have to support young geniuses like Aaron and let them know we can help. That his case ever got as far as it did is a tragedy. Let’s do what we can to keep it from happening again!

  8. Avram Grumer says:

    No, we’re not gonna let people use this site to improve the Google-rankings of a bunch of groundless paranoid speculation about a Zionist child-porn conspiracy. 

  9. ocschwar says:

    Thank you. 

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