Category Archives: Digging Deeper

Brewster Kahle at Aaron Swartz San Francisco Memorial 2013

Come to our Q & A Event followed by “Raw Thought” – A Night of Music & Art at the DNA Lounge on Friday, January 11, 2019.

Originally posted on January 11, 2016:

Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive, January 24, 2013
Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive, January 24, 2013

From the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Memorial. January 24, 2013.

Link to Video on the Internet Archive.

Brewster does a great job of explaining to us about Aaron’s “Open Source Life,” and how “bulk downloading” (although it got Aaron into trouble) is in itself, is not only “not a crime,” but a desirable action with outcomes that benefit the public.

He also sheds light on Aaron’s ongoing quests to make U.S. legal court documents (via PACER) and works in the Public Domain (via GoogleBooks) more publicly accessible (rather than locking both up  behind paywalls or with cumbersome downloading restrictions).

Brewster Kahle:

I learned from Aaron what living an Open Source life was like. I think he really did live that way. He floated and helped others. He gave everything away. He really wasn’t tied to an institution. He really was not a company man in any sense. He was really quite pure in his motivations, and it made him incredibly effective at cutting through a lot of the stuff that most of us deal with.

An open source life.

He was able to keep his self interests at bay, which is kind of remarkable for a lot of us. But he was able to do it. And he was able to communicate well with an open smile and a kind heart. He had a way of communicating with this energy on things that mattered and he had a genius at finding things that mattered to millions of people. There are lots of things to work on, but the things that he worked on were incredibly effective.

We first met, I think, in 2002 at the Eldred Supreme Court case in Washington DC, where we drove a Bookmobile Across, celebrating the Public Domain by giving away books that kids made, and also then at the Creative Commons Launch. But I really got to know Aaron when he said ‘I’d really like to help make the Open Library website with the Internet Archive’ to go and give books and integrate books into the Internet itself. And he said “I’ve got this cool technology, called “Infogami,” it really made it possible to make Reddit happen. Let’s use it again for this other thing.”

And it was wonderful to work with him, but it was really unlike working with anybody else I’ve ever met. You certainly couldn’t tell him what to do, he just kind of did what was the right thing to do, and he was right certainly a lot more often than I was. We also worked together in other areas, when he was a champion of open access, especially of the Public Domain. Bringing public access to the Public Domain.

Most people think that’s kind of an obvious thing. Doesn’t “the Public Domain” mean that it’s publicly accessible? Of course all of us say “No!” It’s sort of like there are these National Parks, with moats and walls and guns turrets sort of pointing out, in case someone wanted to come near the Public Domain. And Aaron didn’t think this was right. And he spent a lot of time and effort freeing these materials.

One of the first ones that we were actively working together on was freeing government court cases, so that anybody could see this without having to have special privilege or money, and also to make it so you could data mine it, and go and look at these things in a very different way. So he freed and liberated a lot of court cases from the PACER system, and uploaded them, in bulk, to the Internet Archive, so that people could have access to these. There are now 4 Million documents, from 800,000 cases that have been used by 6 million people, because of the project that Aaron Swartz and others helped start.

It was an interesting project because it went over many different organizations, each playing a role and all cooperating in a very non-corporate way. It was a very Aaron style way of making things happen. And the idea of making court documents and legal documents available more easily struck a chord with me because, in college, I was trying to figure out how I was gonna try to get out of the draft. And my college didn’t have a legal collection, and the only way that I could try to get to legal court documents was to get an ID from my professor and break in to the Harvard Law Library to go and read court documents. That sucked! It really makes no sense, and Aaron not only sort of saw that it doesn’t make sense. He decided he was going to try to help solve this. Not just for himself, but for everyone.

Then there was other Public Domain collections like the Google Books Collection. Google Books was a library project to go and digitize lots and lots of books. A lot of them were Public Domain. Google would make them available from their website, but really really painfully. It would make it so if you wanted one book, you could get one book. If you wanted 100 books, they would turn off your IP address forever. This is no way to have public access to the Public Domain, and the Internet Archive started getting these uploads of “Google Books.” Going faster, and faster, and faster. Like well, where are these coming from? Well it turns out it’s Aaron. He and a bunch of friends figured out that they could go and get a bunch of computers to go slowly enough to just clock through tons of Google Books and upload them to the Internet Archive. Interestingly, Google never got upset about it. The libraries, on the other hand, grumbled. Which is so… Well anyway. They’ll get over it.

So, when this started happening, we said “Ok. What’s going on? Should we be concerned?” The answer was “No, it’s Public Domain.” We just made sure that we got the cataloging data right, and we linked back to Google, so that if you’re on the book, you can go back to the original page and see the da da da da da. And it all worked well.

But there it was. Aaron doing it again; bringing access to the Public Domain.

What is crushing to me is that Aaron got ensnared by the Federal Government for doing something that the Internet Archive actively encourages others to do for our collections, and we think all libraries should encourage, which is: Bulk downloading to support data mining and other research using computers. This is just the way the world works.

The first step is for a computer to read and analyze materials is to download a set of documents. When Aaron did this from one library, JSTOR, they strongly objected, and demanded that MIT find and stop that user, which then led U.S. Prosecutors to pull out their worst techniques.

Did anybody stop to ask if bulk downloading is a crime? I say “No. Bulk downloading is not, in itself, a crime.” Let’s stop this practice of discouraging bulk downloading, because there are encouraging projects that are learning amazing new things by having computers be part of the research process. Let’s not stop this and discourage young people from coming up with new and different ways to learn things from our libraries.

What resulted, in this case, was tragic, and not necessary. Really, what we want is computers to be able to read. Aaron knew this. We’re all building this, and he got ensnared anyway. Let’s let our computers read.

Because of this tragedy, JSTOR, whom I talked to this morning, and the Internet Archive, have agreed to meet to discuss the broad issue of data mining and web crawling. I hope that we really make progress. At least there’s reasons to be positive.

This assault on Aaron would disillusion, discourage and depress any principled young man, and if there ever was a principled young man, it was Aaron Swartz.

We miss you, and we will carry on your important work.

Link to Brewster’s talk on video at archive.org

All Speakers, SF Memorial, at archive.org

Open Mic Portion of memorial (Includes John Perry Barlow and many other incredible talks)

Raw Thought “Q & A Event” 7:30 PM January 11th, DNA Lounge SF

By Lisa Rein

Remembering Aaron – A thoughtful “Q & A Event”

Come to the Raw Thought Q & A event – with vegan pizza and discussion – on Friday, January 11th, at the DNA Lounge from 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm (before the music starts at  our  monthly RAW THOUGHT event, at 10pm- TICKETS HERE).

Many of the volunteers and attendees at last year’s Aaron Swartz Day event asked us to provide a smaller get together for discussion. This is us trying to do that :-)

We will be discussing and learning about Aaron’s life & history, including some Q & A time that I’ve been promising for a while.

We will also discuss some of the new things we have learned over the past year about the bizarre situation around Aaron’s court case.

Vegan pizza will be served! (It’s really yummy! :-) (Gluten-free crust available upon request – email aaronswartzday@gmail.com)

Besides myself, Ryan Shapiro, who headed up the recent FOIA case where he discovered Aaron was on the FBI’s radar as early back as 2007, will be there in person to tell us about his FOIA lawsuit – where he was able to obtain parts of Aaron’s FBI file that were previously unavailable.

Ryan’s lawsuit, and the documents it obtained, helped us to understand that Aaron had been erroneously swept up in a 2007 terrorist investigation. This most likely caused the FBI to treat him with rougher hands during its subsequent encounters with him afterwards. Here’s the article explaining more: https://gizmodo.com/fbi-secretly-collected-data-on-aaron-swartz-earlier-tha-1831076900

Email me at AaronSwartzDay@gmail.com to RSVP & get on the guest list. If you wish to purchase a $10 ticket, great! – you can do so here.

Afterwards, we are having another “Raw Thought” music and art event – with an art installation by Grumpy Green.

Artwork by Grumpy Green.

DJs include: Mochipet, Tha Spyryt, Cain MacWitish and Ozlo Glowing (Ailz). Projekt Seahorse is doing visuals and is also displaying his art.

Raw Thought, of course, was the name of Aaron’s prolific blog, which you can read more of here: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/archive

We will move forward together and make the world better!
No one can stop us <3

Raw Thought DJ “Tha Spyryt” Interviewed in Mondo 2000

Tha Spyryt will be performing at 11:30 pm, at the next RAW THOUGHT at the DNA Lounge (A Dance Night with a Psychedelic Chill Room) on January 11, 2019 at the DNA Lounge – 10pm – 2am. Also performing: Mochipet, Ozlo Glowing and Cain MacWitish.

Check out Tha Spyryt’s complete set from the first ever “Raw Thought” music event – at the Aaron Swartz Day opening night party, November 9, 2018.

Tha Spyryt is performing on January 11 at the DNA Lounge at this month’s “Raw Thought” Event

A Conversation with Tha Spyryt – A Raw Thought DJ Performing January 11 at the DNA Lounge

If “Raw Thought” sounds familiar, it should. It was the name of Aaron’s prolific blog – and one of the main goals of these events – besides providing a great place to meet people and dance – is to continue to spread Aaron’s knowledge and ideas to a larger audience.

Tha Spyrytis a member of Aaron Swartz Day’s Raw Thought Crew that performed for the first time together on November 9, 2018.

LR: So how long have you been creating music?

Tha Spyryt: Creating music? Music is more of a translation or interpretation of creation.

Four years off and on learning production seriously, my friend Moda Graphik taught me Ableton in 15 minutes which got me into it, however stopped for awhile and now refocused on it as a means to harness all mediums of art I work on, or “create” / translate. Before that spent many years in the underground, club, and festival scene performing live visuals with major headliners, participating in tour life, or creating new media content and being immersed in music production/event culture…

LR: What’s your favorite new piece of equipment?

TS: My friends :). Making noise with people seems to be one of the best parts about performing or playing instruments music what have you. Lately I have been learning to understand that we are all the best machines we will ever need.

Technology is just an extension, but implementing our strengths can be a place that new possibilities arise. + Along with new friends is new studios, new instruments, and new spaces to travel to. Experience, vision, & inspiration: equipment that is intangible yet crucial to the construction of any piece. Bliss random answers always serve hot meals, though a miracle is often the luck of decisive reaction.

***Remembering Aaron – A thoughtful Dinner Party***

Come to the Raw Thought dinner party on Friday, January 11th, at the DNA Lounge at 7:30 pm (before the music performances start at 10pm). We will be discussing and learning about Aaron’s life & history, including some Q & A time that I’ve been promising for a while. We will also discuss some of the new things we have learned over the past year about the bizarre situation around Aaron’s court case.

Please do RSVP by writing: aaronswartzday@gmail.com. (Space is limited.)

We will move forward together and make the world better!
No one can stop us <3

Check out Tha Spyryt’s All Purple EP

A Trip Down Memory Lane With John Perry Barlow For Mondo 2000

RU Sirius, over at the newly revamped Mondo 2000 asked Lisa Rein if she would write a few words about her memories of hanging out and working with John Perry Barlow, who gave her very thoughtful and enthusiastic advice on all three of her “life’s work” archival projects. (That is, her projects of cataloguing and explaining the lives of Dr. Timothy Leary, Aaron Swartz, and Chelsea Manning.)

John Perry Barlow Through the Lens of Lisa Rein’s Archival Memories

From the piece:

We didn’t realize it, but John Perry Barlow really identified with Aaron and was greatly inspired by him. Barlow showed up at Aaron’s San Francisco memorial and read a short prepared statement, the first in a large collection of many other folks who were not part of the “official memorial.” (Brewster and I had so many requests from people that wanted to speak, we figured we’d better open it up afterwards to give people a chance to share their stories.)

It was in part due to John Perry’s words that night that Brewster and I realized we needed to have an Aaron Swartz-inspired celebration every year, to harness the sad energy into something constructive and positive that could reach out and protect future generations of precocious youth.

Here is John Perry’s speech from the San Francisco memorial:

“I will be brief. My name is John Perry Barlow, and Aaron Swartz was the embodiment and the apotheosis of everything I’ve stood for for the last 25 years. And it is paradoxical that even though that is true, and even though he was profoundly involved with most of my best friends and greatest heroes, I spent almost all the time I ever spent with him, one afternoon in, I think 1996, when he really was a very little kid.

I had been asked by the Headmaster of Northshore Country Day to come and speak to the middle school. And, for some reason, there was this 10 to 11 year old that was among the middle schoolers.

And I spent the afternoon —- and this was a time when I don’t think there were that many people that felt the way I did about this stuff — most of them are in this room now… and I was promoting the idea that we could make a world where anybody anywhere could give his thirst for knowledge and curiosity everything that it wanted to know, and that anybody could know as much as any human being knew about anything in the future.

And, he didn’t say much. He was extremely memorable however. He was much younger. He was all eyes and mind and spiritual radiance, in a way. And I scarcely saw him again.”

Read the rest here.