Good grief. Aaron Swartz is dead. As a fellow startup founder driven by social justice principles, Aaron was someone I looked to both as an example and as a peer.
We were in touch off and on for several years. Though we'd emailed previously, I first met the Internet hero and boy genius around 2007, when we met up to talk about book data, digital libraries, open data, and spidering/scraping strategies. He was incredibly smart and principled, and I was struck by his ability to dive so deeply into new areas.
When he sold Reddit, I gave him advice based on what I'd learned selling BookFinder.com.
And when I was about to leave BookFinder.com, I very explicitly used Aaron as a model of what it could look like for a startup founder to do tech-driven social justice work after exiting. (I wasn't nearly as successful at it as him.)
Aaron worked on so many things I use regularly:
- news and opinions on Reddit
- open data feeds using RSS
- simple rich text using Markdown
- book data from the Open Library
- secure web browsing in Chrome via HTTPS Everywhere
- a way to share and reuse content using Creative Commons
- a more censorship-free Internet thanks to Demand Progress
Aaron was a hero of the open net. We're all poorer for his absence.