Miskatonic University Press


aaronsw obits

Aaron Swartz hanged himself a couple of weeks ago, it seems perhaps because of a combination of depression and the threat of a lengthy jail sentence for downloading a good chunk of JSTOR. There are links all over the web about it. You probably know all about it already.

I met Aaron Swartz very briefly one day five years ago at a meeting at the Internet Archive headquarters at the Presidio in San Francisco when the Open Library was starting up. I’ll never forget that day. I was staying at a motel a block or two away. It was February. There were palm trees! In February! We don’t have palm trees in Canada any time of year. I walked over to the building where were were all getting together, and on the way I met a fellow who seemed familiar for some reason. “Hi, I’m Brewster,” he said.

There were a couple of dozen people at the meeting, and I don’t remember the exact details too well any more, but it was a powerhouse of talent. Karen Coyle was there, and Ed Summers, and Bess Sadler, who remembers the same day, and much more. Casey Bisson and Rob Styles and Eric Lease Morgan were there, and others I’ve forgotten. My apologies.

Aaron Swartz was there. I remember him being young and full of nervous energy. He explained about infogami, the engine behind the Open Library. His hair was shaggy. He paced up and down. I remember him walking up and down the side of the room, eating a raw bagel. That’s how I’ll remember him, focused and energetic and trying to do something huge and radical: free all bibliographic metadata. He was 21.

Mark Pilgrim dropped off the internet a while ago. He’s still alive, which is good. Aaron Swartz isn’t. But when Mark was blogging he had a saying he’d use every now and then:

“Fuck everything about this.”

Aaron Swartz hanged himself, alone in his apartment in New York City, because the US government was coming down hard on him for downloading articles from JSTOR.

Fuck everything about this.