Remember Aaron Swartz

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Anirvan Chatterjee

As a fellow startup founder driven by social justice principles, Aaron was someone I looked to both as a peer and as an example.

We were in touch off and on for several years. Though we’d emailed a bit previously, I first met Aaron around 2007, when we met up to talk about book data, digital libraries, open civic data, and spidering/scraping strategies. He was incredibly smart and principled, and I was struck by his ability to dive so deep into new areas.

When he sold Reddit, I gave him advice based on what I’d learned from 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.

The projects Aaron worked on impact my life every single day:

  • open data feeds using RSS
  • news and opinions on Reddit
  • a simple way to write via Markdown
  • book data for my reading list 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.