Remember Aaron Swartz

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Remembering Aaron

I’ve struggled with Aaron’s passing over the last few days. Others have written much more eloquently about his work and the legal case that haunted him than I will here.

Two summers ago, Aaron came strawberry picking with Taren, myself and and a handful of other friends. The afternoon has stuck in my memory because the whole day was classic Aaron. I suspect that he wished he was somewhere more productive and focused than picking strawberries, but Taren was there so he had come along.

We talked about online social movements, creative concepts for playful activism stunts, and the new organization that Taren was working to start. Aaron passionately told us about the new models for journalism that he was beginning to experiment with. We picked an enormous number of berries. Aaron checked his phone.

We debated later whether Taren & Aaron had been flirting during the car ride home. They had just started dating and we hadn’t realized that they were a couple yet. They seemed happy together even then.

I was always a little intimidated by Aaron. I first encountered him through his writing six or seven years ago, before I ever imagined that we might someday meet. It was clear to me then that an exceptional mind was at work. Few people were able to parse such big ideas and summarize them as eloquently or write about them as passionately. The enormous breadth of his work was truly impressive. He excelled as an activist, which is how many knew him, but he was an accomplished software engineer, public intellectual, and occasional installation artist – a true renaissance man.

Aaron continually forced me to wonder what might come next. He was constantly reinventing the field of online organizing and pushing it forward, right up until his death last week. I followed his work obsessively to see what the future might be. I’m so sad there will be no next. He had so much left to do.

I will always miss Aaron. All of us will.