Remember Aaron Swartz

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Aaron contacted me a few years ago, enthusiastic about a website I’d put together featuring a worker-run newspaper from the 1840s. At the time the site was unfinished and long neglected: so neglected, in fact, that a few days after his message, it was taken down because I hadn’t paid the hosting company. Which I learned about from Aaron, who sent me this on the day the site went offline:

“Hey, Rajeev – what can I do to get voiceofindustry back online? I tried asking GoDaddy if I could pay your hosting fee, but they said not without your phone pin.”

So, before contacting me about the site being down, he had already tried to get it back up, at his own expense. This level of kindness and support was typical of Aaron, who not only encouraged me to resume the project, but played a major role in its completion: when the original issues of the paper were lost, he helped recover them; when I had trouble finding articles that were incorrectly cited, he read through the paper to help locate them. He helped fix technical problems on the original site, and suggested developers to work with when we decided to redesign it last year. When the project was finally done, he was excited about the new site, and sad that he couldn’t make it to the launch event (though of course, he helped get the word out for it).

All of this was, of course, a tiny corner of the universe that was Aaron’s activism. But his interest and support helped me to recover my own interest in justice issues, and for that I will remain grateful. I’m sad that I never got to thank him in person.

Thank you, Aaron Swartz.