27 Jun, 2014
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz premieres in theaters and On Demand.
You can improve any of our newslines, or create your own. Join now and get $1 per post!
Aaron Swartz was an American entrepreneur and internet activist. He was known as one of the early members of Reddit and for helping to create the RSS specification. He had been charged with stealing computer documents from MIT but before the trial he committed suicide on Jan 11, 2013, at the age of 26.
Anonymous, the hacker group, breaks into and defaces the website of MIT, advertising “The Day We Fight Back” protest. Anonymous also attacked the network of MIT a year ago shortly after Swartz’ death, blaming the university for allowing the litigation that contributed to his suicide.
On the first anniversary of Swartz’s death, digital rights organisations, media companies and other stakeholders including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress, Reddit, BoingBoing and Mozilla team up to launch a day against mass surveillance. The Day We Fight Back will take place on 11 February, 2014. It comes two years after “censorship legislation” Sopa and Pipa were defeated following mass digital protest. Participants are asked to create memes, change profile pictures and organize on Reddit. Executive director of campaign group Demand Progress David Segal said:
Today the greatest threat to a free internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency’s mass spying regime. If Aaron were alive he’d be on the front lines, fighting back against these practices that undermine our ability to engage with each other as genuinely free human beings.
Boston Magazine reports that Bob Swartz he pleaded with MIT’s administrators and lawyers to intervene, MIT took a position of “neutrality.” It made no public statements for or against Aaron’s prosecution or about whether he should be imprisoned. He can’t walk through campus without feeling that MIT betrayed his son.
“I always felt that MIT would act in a reasonable and compassionate way and that MIT wasn’t the issue,” Bob says. “I didn’t understand the depths of what MIT had done at that point.”
Brian Knappenberger, the director of the Anonymous documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, launches a Kickstarter to raise $75,000 to fund his feature documentary about Swartz. The documentary, currently titled The Internet’s Own Boy, will look not just look at the life of the programmer and activist, but at the culture he helped build. In addition to speaking with Swartz’s family and loved ones Knappenberger plans to speak with officials at MIT, which has been reviewing what happened in the JSTOR case since the programmer’s death. Keeping in line with Swartz’s vision, the director said he plans to release the film under a Creative Commons license so that others can build off of what he produces.
In a blog post, musician David Byrne discusses issues regarding Swartz arrest and suicide:
I don’t disagree with many of Swartz’s points. I can certainly see the point that much academic data, when freely available, can have a greater chance to spur insights and creativity from researchers and scientists around the world than if it is locked up behind paywalls. Withholding cancer research from academics who can’t afford access because a big pharmaceutical company “owns” the data doesn’t seem like a very morally defensible position—even if it is what the law might say is perfectly legal.
But who then decides what data “deserves” to be stolen and “liberated”? There are all sorts of data. Some of it is—though I hate to admit it—possibly essential to our security, and some is strictly personal and deserves to stay that way. It’s complicated, and this particular case seems messy—though Swartz’s points are mostly valid… but maybe his method was sloppy.
Friends and supporters of Aaron Swartz are involved in a dispute over what Swartz’s legacy should be, and how best to pursue it.
At Swartz’s Capitol Hill Memorial, open-access supporters repeatedly interrupted Berin Szoka, the president of the libertarian-leaning organization Tech Freedom. When Szoka suggested Swartz’s actions deserved some measure of punishment, others shouted in protest, saying things like “information belongs to everyone.” Rather than make him a “martyr” to information freedom, Szoka argued, supporters should consider Swartz a victim of prosecutorial misconduct and outdated computer laws. The interruptions stopped when Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, who was Aaron’s partner for the last 20 months of his life and one of the event’s organizers, yells for their silence.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) posts a revised and expanded “Aaron’s Law” – her proposal to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in honor of Aaron Swartz to Reddit. The new draft addresses some of the concerns that were raised when the first proposal was made public. The bill de-criminalizes terms of service violations and defines what “access without authorization” actually means, the main concern of a number of legal experts such as Lawrence Lessig or the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Marcia Hoffmann, who were concerned about the clarity Lofgren’s original proposal. The new bill also ensures that changing one’s IP or MAC address is not a violation of either the CFAA or the Wire Fraud act.
Hacktivist group Anonymous takes control of the U.S. Sentencing Commission website in a new campaign called “Operation Last Resort.” The first attack on the website was early Friday (25) morning. The second – successful – attack came around 9pm PST that evening. By 3am PST ussc.gov was down.
Anonymous cited the recent suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz as a “line that has been crossed.”
We have been watching, and waiting.
Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed. Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win — a twisted and distorted perversion of justice — a game where the only winning move was not to play.
The full defacement message is here.
Anonymous also distributed encrypted government files and left a statement on the website that de-encryption keys would be publicly released if the U.S. government did not comply with Anonymous’ ultimatum demands for legal reform.
Warhead – U S – D O J – L E A – 2013 . A E E 256 is primed and armed. It has been quietly distributed to numerous mirrors over the last few days and is available for download from this website now. We encourage all Anonymous to syndicate this file as widely as possible.
The contents are various and we won’t ruin the speculation by revealing them. Suffice it to say, everyone has secrets, and some things are not meant to be public. At a regular interval commencing today, we will choose one media outlet and supply them with heavily redacted partial contents of the file.
A report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly claims that Middlesex County’s district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report (alternate link) said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send ‘a message.'”
According to CNET the report was written by Harvey Silverglate, a prominent Cambridge criminal defense lawyer whose clients have included Michael Milken and Leona Helmsley. Sliverglate is of counsel to the firm that initially represented Swartz in his attempts to defend himself against 13 felony charges brought by Ortiz’s office. Ortiz has defended her actions as appropriate.
At the Internet Archive Memorial various speakers speak of Swartz impact on their lives and society:
Carl Malamud reads “Aaron’s Army“, a call to arms for information freedom:
Aaron was part of an army of citizens that believes democracy only works when the citizenry are informed, when we know about our rights—and our obligations. An army that believes we must make justice and knowledge available to all—not just the well born or those that have grabbed the reigns of power—so that we may govern ourselves more wisely.
The Daily Beast notes that in an interview with The Guardian, Dotcom draws parallels between himself and Aaron Swartz. Dotcom is courting Swartz’s supporters, recasting his legal troubles as a battle between an overweening American government and a radical defender of free speech.
All I can say, is that I see similarities in the way we have been prosecuted. I see also similarities and abuses that are happening in the case against WikiLeaks that were happening to us.
Dotcom has retained noted human-rights lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who is best known for his work defending opposition activists against authoritarian governments.
A memorial is held at New York’s Cooper Union. Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, his girlfriend, said:
I’m so sad we’ll never see all the ways he’ll change the world from here on out. Aaron believed there was no shame in failure. There is deep, deep shame in caring more about believing you’re changing the world than actually changing the world.”
“THE REVOLUTION WILL BE A/B TESTED.”
Stinebrickner-Kauffman, also an activist, named five targets for action:
Attorney Carmen Ortiz issues a statement about the suicide of Aaron Swartz. In it, Ortiz defends her office’s handling of the case, saying its conduct was “appropriate” and that it would not have sought a decades-long prison sentence:
This office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case. The career prosecutors handling this matter took on the difficult task of enforcing a law they had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably. The prosecutors recognized that there was no evidence against Mr. Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain, and they recognized that his conduct – while a violation of the law – did not warrant the severe punishments authorized by Congress and called for by the Sentencing Guidelines in appropriate cases. That is why in the discussions with his counsel about a resolution of the case this office sought an appropriate sentence that matched the alleged conduct – a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting. At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to seek – maximum penalties under the law.
Robert Swartz said during the service in Highland Park that his son was hounded by the government.
He was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles.
Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, said:
Aaron wanted so bad to change the world. He believed you had to see the world for how it really was to change it. With this [upcoming] trial and everything he was facing the last two years, I think [Aaron] fell into the pain. I love him, I miss him and I’ve learned so much from him.
Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, director of the Safra Center for Ethics where Swartz was once a fellow, also spoke at the funeral.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren announces that she authored a bill(PDF) called “Aaron’s Law” that aims to change the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute to exclude terms of service violations. Lofgren wrote on Reddit:
His family’s statement about this speaks volumes about the inappropriate efforts undertaken by the U.S. government. There’s no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron’s death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced.
The government was able to bring such disproportionate charges against Aaron because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute. It looks like the government used the vague wording of those laws to claim that violating an online service’s user agreement or terms of service is a violation of the CFAA and the wire fraud statute.
Last April, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected the government’s broad interpretation of the 1984 law, warning that millions of Americans could be subjected to prosecution for harmless Web surfing at work.
Praising Swartz’s work toward “open government and free access to the people,” Issa told The Huffington Post that the government’s case against Swartz is problematic enough to warrant further investigation.
I’m not condoning his hacking, but he’s certainly someone who worked very hard. Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it. It would have been like the Pentagon Papers.
Issa said he didn’t have enough information to say whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts overprosecuted Swartz. He said he had dispatched an investigator to gather more facts.
Issa has been one of a handful of congressional Republicans to take an active role defending Internet freedom issues. He was the first Republican to speak aggressively against the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that Swartz led opposition to as an activist.
Tom Dolan, husband of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, tweets in defense of his wife — by criticizing Swartz’s grieving family.
Dolan’s references to a “six month” plea bargain stem from an anonymous source in a Sunday night Wall Street Journal article. Ortiz spokeswoman Christina Sterling declined to comment on both the petition and the Dolan tweets. Dolan’s Twitter handle has since been deleted.
By 4:30 pacific time a petition calling for the removal of Swartz’s prosecutor, U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, had already amassed over 19,000 signatures since it was created on Saturday.
It needs 25,000 signatures before it hits a threshold which will prompt the White House, which created the petition site, to review the matter and respond. The petition is here.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and the lead prosecutor on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, filed a three-line notice of dismissal in a Boston court. The notice says the case is being dismissed because of Swartz’s death. Such filings are routine when a defendant dies before trial.
Hackers from Anonymous on Sunday claimed credit for posting messages to MIT web sites commemorating the life of RSS co-founder Aaron Swartz and calling for an overhaul of computer crime laws. The group called for an overhaul of intellectual property and computer crime laws and that Swartz’s death should be a rallying point for Internet freedom advocates.
We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered Internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.
In an update to the messages, which have since been taken down, the group said it does not blame MIT for Swartz’s death and apologized for using its sites as a stage for its messages.
MIT President Rafael Reif writes a letter to students, alumni and other members of the school’s community to say that it would look into the role MIT played in Swartz’s case.
I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.
Reif said he’s asked Hal Abelson, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, and a founding director of Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation, to lead the investigation into MIT’s actions
JSTOR, which had stated it did not want to pursue charges against Swartz after he returned the articles he had downloaded, posted a statement offering condolences to his family.
He was a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the internet and the web from which we all benefit. The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset.
The family and partner of Swartz release an official statement, praising his commitment to Internet openness and partially blaming MIT and the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office for his death :
Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing. Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
They also launch an remembrance website, rememberaaronsw.com
Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing writes:
I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15. He was working on XML stuff (he co-wrote the RSS specification when he was 14) and came to San Francisco often, and would stay with Lisa Rein, a friend of mine who was also an XML person and who took care of him and assured his parents he had adult supervision. In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society, like he belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you are.
Doctorow also noted:
“This morning, a lot of people are speculating that Aaron killed himself because he was worried about doing time. That might be so…. But Aaron was also a person who’d had problems with depression for many years. He’d written about the subject publicly, and talked about it with his friends.”
Lawrence Lessig writes:
He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.
Peter Eckersley from Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Aaron did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way
David Moon, program director for Demand Progress:
He refined advocacy for the progressive and open-information movement
The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true
He left no suicide note. Swartz’s mother writes on Hacker News:
Aaron has been depressed about his case/upcoming trial, but we had no idea what he was going through was this painful. Aaron was a terrific young man. He contributed a lot to the world in his short life and I regret the loss of all the things he had yet to accomplish. As you can imagine, we all miss him dearly. The grief is unfathomable.
Elliot Peters, Swartz’s lawyer, speaks to the Massachusetts attorney’s office to see if a plea bargain could be reached that would reduce prison time and $1million fines that the 26-year-old was facing.
However Mr Peters told the WSJ that Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann was adamant that Swartz must plead guilty to every count and jail time would be required. Swartz’s lawyer had originally approached federal prosecutors in fall 2012 about a deal and was turned down.
Attorneys for Swartz asked the federal district court to delay his trial from February to June, and filed responses to the government’s replies to his motions to suppress evidence. Swartz’s attorney, Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest, writes that the additional hearings will be required to decide the pretrial motions to suppress evidence, and additional time will be necessary for the defense’s experts to analyze additional materials. The Department of Justice responded Wednesday saying that Swartz had agreed to the schedule previously, and that Swartz’s new attorneys, who he retained in October, “sought no alteration of the present schedule” at that time. Swartz’s trial is currently scheduled for Feb. 4, 2013.
Federal prosecutors add nine new felony counts against Swartz. According to Wired, the case tests the reach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was passed in 1984 to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality. The government, however, has interpreted the anti-hacking provisions to include activities such as violating a website’s terms of service or a company’s computer usage policy.
Swartz’s attorney, Martin G. Weinberg, said his client would plead not guilty “to the series of restructured allegations” and intends to make “legal and factual defenses” to the allegations.
Bettina Neuefeind, wife of Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig organizes free.aaronsw.com to raise money for Swartz defense. Larry Lessig, is the director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University, of which Swartz is a former fellow. His alleged crime is based on the belief in fair use, an ideal that Creative Commons is know for promoting.
Neuefeind describes herself as “a housing and disability rights lawyer, mother of three and social activist very focused on public health, nutrition, sustainability and social justice.”
Swartz and Taryn Simon discuss their project at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. The Seven on Seven conference pairs seven leading artists with seven game-changing technologists in teams of two, and challenges them to develop something new—be it an application, social media, artwork, product, or whatever they imagine—over the course of a single day. Swartz and Simon create Image Atlas, a visual project that investigates cultural differences and similarities by indexing top image results for given search terms across local search engines throughout the world as the cover for his online exhibition site.
JSTOR announces it has released the public-domain content of its archives for public viewing and limited use. According to JSTOR, it had been working on making those archives public for some time, and the Swartz controversy moved the project forward.
Swartz is charged by U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer, in relation to downloading 4.8 million articles worth $1.5 million dollars and other documents — nearly the entire library — of JSTOR, a nonprofit online service for distributing scholarly articles online. Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines. United States attorney, Carmen M. Ortiz, said:
Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.
According to the indictment, in September of 2010, Swartz used several methods to grab articles, including using a program called keepgrabbing.py and breaking into a computer-wiring closet on the M.I.T. campus and setting up a laptop with a false identity on the school network for free JSTOR access under the name Gary Host — or when shortened for the e-mail address, “ghost.”
Swartz is accused of repeatedly spoofing the MAC address — an identifier that is usually static — of his computer after MIT blocked his computer based on that number. The grand jury indictment also notes that Swartz didn’t provide a real e-mail address when registering on the network.
When retrieving the computer, he hid his face behind a bicycle helmet, peeking out through the ventilation holes. The flood of downloads was so great that it crashed some JSTOR servers, the indictment stated, and JSTOR blocked access to the network from M.I.T. and its users for several days.
Swartz returned the hard drives containing the articles to JSTOR and promised that the material would not be disseminated. JSTOR did not pursue charges but referred the case to the United States Attorney’s Office. Swartz surrenders to authorities the same day, pleading not guilty on all accounts, and is released on $100,000 bail.
The Motion Picture Association of America accuses Demand Progress of being allied with “offshore rogue websites that promote the theft and illegal marketing of American products like movies, video games, and software.” The basis of the accusation was a post on the front page of BitTorrent tracker Demonoid linking to the Demand Progress petition against Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). The MPAA also accused Demand Progress of faking signatures on their petitions.
After investigators at MIT began to suspect that someone was illegally downloading material from the JSTOR archive they traced to a basement wiring closet where they found a laptop and external hard drive hooked up directly to a network. The laptop and the hard drive were hidden from view by a cardboard box. Secret Service Agent Michael placed a surveillance camera in the closet.
The surveillance images show Swartz entering the closet three days in a row. Using his white bicylce helmet as a mask, Swartz attempts to cover his face from the camera’s as he tries to retrieve the computer equipment that he left their weeks before.
On January 6th an officer saw Swartz attempt to leave MIT property with the laptop and hard drive. At 2:11 p.m. Swartz is ID’d on a bicycle on Massachusetts Avenue by an MIT police officer, according to his own report. That report states that when he encountered Captain Albert Pierce of the MIT Police Department, Swartz jumped off his bike and ran down Lee Street.
He runs approximately 400 feet before being handcuffed and charged with breaking and entering.
Swartz founds Demand Progress, a Progressive Political Action Committee and grassroots activism organization. The group runs online campaigns and lobbies in Washington, D.C. and in various states for progressive causes, such as stopping Internet censorship and issues of privacy.
Swartz allegedly uses several methods to grab articles from the JSTOR database, including breaking into a computer-wiring closet on the M.I.T. campus and setting up a laptop with a false identity on the school network for free JSTOR access under the name Gary Host — or when shortened for the e-mail address, “ghost.” When retrieving the computer, he hides his face behind a bicycle helmet, peeking out through the ventilation holes. The flood of downloads is so great that it crashed some JSTOR servers and JSTOR blocked access to the network from M.I.T. and its users for several days.
The Government Printing Office announces that that the free PACER pilot program is suspended, “pending an evaluation.” A couple of weeks later, a Government Printing Office official, Richard G. Davis, tells librarians that “the security of the Pacer service was compromised. The F.B.I. is conducting an investigation.” No charges were brought against Swartz.
Carl Malamud, the founder of nonprofit group, Public.Resource.org puts out a request for activists to go to 17 libraries around the country and download federal court decisions, briefs and other legal papers form the (fee-based) PACER database so he can post them for free on the web. Swartz manages to download an estimated 20 percent of the entire database: 19,856,160 pages of text. The downloads continue until September 22, 2008.
Swartz, while in Eremo, Italy, releases a “Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto,” calling for activists to “fight back” against the sequestering of scholarly papers and information behind pay walls.
It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file-sharing networks.
Swartz is asked to resign from his position at Wired Digital after this boss Chris Anderson is unhappy about him taking too much vacation:
I was unhappy working in an office and didn’t hide it. So I’d come in late and set up lots of off-site meetings and stuff. And my boss wasn’t really thrilled about that.
One of the places I went to in Europe was the Chaos Computer Conference. And while I was there my friend Quinn Norton took my photo for one of her articles and it was featured on wired.com’s front page. “Heh,” I joked. “I bet the first time my boss finds out where I am is when he sees my photo on the front page of his own website.”
Ironically, Swartz boss did not see the photo on Wired’s front page – he saw the reference to the photo that Swartz’s put on his blog.
In a 2007 speech, Swartz described himself as being ‘miserable’ after moving to San Francisco when his company was purchased by the publishing giant Conde Nast.
I couldn’t stand San Francisco. I couldn’t stand office life. ‘I took a long Christmas vacation. I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign.
Condé Nast Publications acquires Reddit for $20 million. All four Reddit employees relocate from Boston to Wired’s San Francisco office and become part of Wired Digital, which the company bought three months previously.
CONDE NAST: Our goal will be to build Reddit as an independent company by collaborating with Wired through the integration of its core technology, and by offering partnerships to allow other companies to do the same.
At this time the site has 70,000 daily unique visitors and approximately 700,000 or so page views.
Swartz writes an article examining the contributions to Wikipedia articles written during his candidacy for the Wikimedia Foundation board election in 2006. In the article Swartz disproves JimmyWales notion that the encyclopedia was created by 500-1000 core writers, and shows it was mainly created by occasional writers, many of whom did not register. He says this knowledge should inform Wikipedia policy:
If Wikipedia is written by occasional contributors, then growing it requires making it easier and more rewarding to contribute occasionally. Instead of trying to squeeze more work out of those who spend their life on Wikipedia, we need to broaden the base of those who contribute just a little bit. Unfortunately, precisely because such people are only occasional contributors, their opinions aren’t heard by the current Wikipedia process. They don’t get involved in policy debates, they don’t go to meetups, and they don’t hang out with Jimbo Wales. And so things that might help them get pushed on the backburner, assuming they’re even proposed. Out of sight is out of mind, so it’s a short hop to thinking these invisible people aren’t particularly important. Thus Wales’s belief that 500 people wrote half an encyclopedia. Thus his assumption that outsiders contribute mostly vandalism and nonsense. And thus the comments you sometimes hear that making it hard to edit the site might be a good thing.
Swartz attends Stanford University for a year, leaving to start the software company Infogami, a startup that was funded by Y Combinator’s first Summer Founders Program. Infogami was built around a wiki backend, a subject of interest for Swartz since his early effort to develop ”theinfo”, a wiki-based encyclopedia
Aaron Swartz is born in Chicago to William and Susan. He has two younger brothers, Noah and Ben.
Swartz paternal grandfather, William Swartz, was a multimillionaire businessman and founding director of the Albert Einstein Peace Prize Foundation.
William Swartz, who died in 1987 at age 75, was active in the nuclear-disarmament group Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. He also served as a director of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a Chicago-based magazine that calls out threats from nuclear weapons, climate change and emerging technologies in the life sciences.
Though Swartz attended North Shore Country Day School, a small private school in Winnetka, he became a teen-aged proponent of “unschooling.” He left high school during his freshman year to study on his own at home.
Earn $1 for each post you add to this newsline. Click here to get started!