Category Archives: Remembering Aaron

The Kitchen Sisters Profile Aaron Swartz Day Co-Founder Lisa Rein as “The Keeper of the Day”

Aaron Swartz Day as told by Lisa Rein

Aaron Swartz Day co-founder Lisa Rein talks about about her work with the annual hackathon. Founded in 2013 after the death of activist and programming wunderkind Aaron Swartz, the event draws attention to Aaron’s story in hopes of protecting others from similar circumstances and offers a yearly showcase of the many projects initiated by Aaron as well as new projects inspired directly by him and his work.

Lisa also talks about her background as archivist for Chelsea Manning: “When I learned more about Chelsea, without getting into whether you agree with what she did or what she didn’t do, she definitely followed her heart and wanted to improve the world and that’s an Aaron Swartz Day thing.”

The original tracks by Lisa used in this piece include: Hiding, Slipping Away, and It’s Alright.

Produced by Michal Wisniowski and The Kitchen Sisters

Lisa Rein, Co-Founder, Aaron Swartz Day. Chelsea Manning’s Archivist, Dr. Timothy Leary’s Digital Librarian (Photo: Kevin Footer – Art Design/Concept: Kenneth Bryan Smith)

A Little Note About All John Perry Stuff We’ve Been Publishing Lately

Hey you guys! We hope you know that you are not expected to read all of this John Perry Barlow Syposium content at once. On the contrary: there is so much of it because it’s not going to matter until later: when someone is researching that particular topic, about something relevant, happening in the present.

These posts are not about John Perry Barlow as much as they are discussing relevant questions about the future of our movement and our world.

Yes siree, we here at Aaron Swartz Day are into the present, and protecting the rights of living people. Not wallowing around in the shadows and sadness of the past; unless those shadows cast light on a current topic.

It was one of the requirements of Aaron’s family and friends that these events be celebrations and calls to action. (Although it’s important to continue to spread awareness about what happened to Aaron, as we keep learning.)

Why is it so important to look back on these and all events? Because, unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself. Not knowing that an idea has already been tried, and would have worked except for that one thing, is, potentially, our strength and their greatest weakness.

When they divide us, we are less likely to share this kind of information with each other. That’s why we need to share this kind of information with everybody constantly.

Our only hope is to index the truth faster than the powers that be can whitewash it.

Again, these indexes are for the future. Believe us, they will come in handy. Our archivists have learned from past experience: It’s a lot easier to index the present while you’re in it. And the inaccurate associations that historians often draw is a testament to that.

Plus how often is it that you get to index a historical time period while you are living it? That is the position that the Aaron Swartz Day team has found itself in. (That’s what our main partner, Internet Archive, tries to do on a daily basis.)

Alas, it would appear we have to fight many of the battles over again that we worked so hard on in the past. Net Neutrality, the First Amendment, and having control of our own bodies, just to name a few.

So, hang in there, as the content starts flying out, over these next few weeks and months.  It might not seem like everything is connected at first, but it is.

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.

John Perry Barlow Has Left Us Meat Space Folks Behind

We will be remembering John Perry for quite a while, as he was an Aaron Swartz Day advisor and a good friend to this community.

John Perry Barlow (October 3, 1947 – February 6, 2018)

John Perry only met Aaron once, when Aaron was twelve years old. John Perry describes it here.

(Although you often see he and Aaron together in this famous photograph, which of course, was taken much later.)

 

 

The Freedom of the Press Foundation, of which John Perry was a co-founder, has written this piece.

Here’s the EFF’s post, written by Cindy Cohn.

ArsTechnica’s Cyrus Farivar covered it here.

John Perry Barlow Recalls A 12 year-old Aaron Swartz

aaron and john

Although you often see John Perry Barlow sitting behind Aaron in the famous photograph by Daniel J. Sieradski, above, the two of them never actually met each other.

From John Perry on November 8, 2014: “Correction! Aaron and I met and met heavily… But primarily on that one day. We were casual friends later but I think he never got over the initial awe enough to relax and really tell me what happened that day. But he did tell his father.”

John Perry walked up to the front of the room at the very beginning of the “open mic” segment at the end of Aaron’s San Francisco memorial, and explained that they had actually met before, sort-of, many years earlier, when  John Perry came to talk to his school one day, whe Aaron was 11 or 12 years old.

When John Perry ran into Aaron’s father, Robert Swartz, after he had accepted Aaron’s Internet Hall of Fame award last year, he asked if he thought he’d had made an impression on Aaron that day?

Robert replied that he most certainly had.

The rest, as they say, is history.

John Perry Barlow’s speech during “open mic” portion of the San Francisco Memorial, January 24, 2013:

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

I’d 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 or 11 year old that was in among the middle schoolers. And I spent the afternoon – this was a time when, I don’t think there were that many people who 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 his curiosity everything that it wanted to know. And *anybody* could know as much as any human being knew about any thing, in the future. 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.

But years later… Last year, at one point, when I was with a bunch of copyright barons in Paris at the EG8, and they were all talking about how enforcement and education was gonna come out right, and it was gonna be just like the War on some Drugs. And I happened to be on a panel with these guys. I said “you know, you think you’ve won this thing, or you will win this thing. But the truth is that you’ve turned a whole generation into an electronic Hezbollah. And you will be dead when they are alive. And I was thinking of Aaron Swartz and it’s really very difficult for me to see that he is dead, and they are alive. But he is not dead, and they will be.

****

Historical notes:

  1. This was originally republished on November 8, 2016, and republished on February 8, 2018.

2. This post used to say “EFF and Freedom of the Press co-founder John Perry Barlow will be appearing with Freedom of the Press co-founder and executive director Trevor Timm, and Brian Knappenberger, Director of “The Internet’s Own Boy,” for a Q & A with the audience at tonight’s Aaron Swartz Day celebration.” at the top :)

Howl For Aaron Swartz by Brewster Kahle

Aaron would have been 31 years old today.

It seems fitting to revisit this poem about Aaron, written by Brewster Kahle, shortly after Aaron’s death, in 2013. It was filmed in 2015, and just published for the first time earlier this year, in January.

Howl for Aaron Swartz

Written by Brewster Kahle, shortly after Aaron’s Death, on January 11, 2013.

Howl for Aaron Swartz
New ways to create culture
Smashed by lawsuits and bullying
Laws that paint most of us criminal

Inspiring young leaders
Sharing everything
Living open source lives
Inspiring communities selflessly

Organizing, preserving
Sharing, promoting
Then crushed by government
Crushed by politicians, for a modest fee
Crushed by corporate spreadsheet outsourced business development

New ways
New communities
Then infiltrated, baited
Set-up, arrested

Celebrating public spaces
Learning, trying, exploring
Targeted by corporate security snipers
Ending up in databases
Ending up in prison

Traps set by those that promised change
Surveillance, wide-eyes, watching everyone now
Government surveillance that cannot be discussed or questioned
Corporate surveillance that is accepted with a click

Terrorists here, Terrorists there
More guns in schools to promote more guns, business
Rendition, torture
Manning, solitary, power

Open minds
Open source
Open eyes
Open society

Public access to the public domain
Now closed out of our devices
Closed out of owning books
Hands off
Do not open
Criminal prosecution

Traps designed by the silicon wizards
With remarkable abilities to self-justify
Traps sprung by a generation
That vowed not to repeat
COINTELPRO and dirty tricks and Democratic National Conventions

Government-produced malware so sophisticated
That career engineers go home each night thinking what?
Saying what to their families and friends?

Debt for school
Debt for houses
Debt for life
Credit scores, treadmills, with chains

Inspiring and optimistic explorers navigating a sea of traps set by us
I see traps ensnare our inspiring generation
Leaders and discoverers finding new ways and getting crushed for it

Brewster Kahle: Howl For Aaron Swartz

It’s never easy on January 11th. This year will be no exception.

Brewster Kahle recorded this in the Fall of 2015. Today is the first time it has been published.

Howl for Aaron Swartz

Written by Brewster Kahle, shortly after Aaron’s Death, on January 11, 2013.

Howl for Aaron Swartz
New ways to create culture
Smashed by lawsuits and bullying
Laws that paint most of us criminal

Inspiring young leaders
Sharing everything
Living open source lives
Inspiring communities selflessly

Organizing, preserving
Sharing, promoting
Then crushed by government
Crushed by politicians, for a modest fee
Crushed by corporate spreadsheet outsourced business development

New ways
New communities
Then infiltrated, baited
Set-up, arrested

Celebrating public spaces
Learning, trying, exploring
Targeted by corporate security snipers
Ending up in databases
Ending up in prison

Traps set by those that promised change
Surveillance, wide-eyes, watching everyone now
Government surveillance that cannot be discussed or questioned
Corporate surveillance that is accepted with a click

Terrorists here, Terrorists there
More guns in schools to promote more guns, business
Rendition, torture
Manning, solitary, power

Open minds
Open source
Open eyes
Open society

Public access to the public domain
Now closed out of our devices
Closed out of owning books
Hands off
Do not open
Criminal prosecution

Traps designed by the silicon wizards
With remarkable abilities to self-justify
Traps sprung by a generation
That vowed not to repeat
COINTELPRO and dirty tricks and Democratic National Conventions

Government-produced malware so sophisticated
That career engineers go home each night thinking what?
Saying what to their families and friends?

Debt for school
Debt for houses
Debt for life
Credit scores, treadmills, with chains

Inspiring and optimistic explorers navigating a sea of traps set by us
I see traps ensnare our inspiring generation
Leaders and discoverers finding new ways and getting crushed for it

Ortiz is Retiring – January 11 Approaching…

Be sure to tweet your January 11 events to us, so we can let everyone know about them.

Well, Carmen Ortiz is finally retiring:

From a Daily Beast article, that gets it about right (although it spells Aaron’s name wrong):

During her time in office, Ortiz came under fire for pursuing harsh charges in some high-profile cases, including that of internet activist Aaron Schwartz. Schwartz was accused of downloading free articles from an MIT archive, against terms of use. Ortiz’s office charged Schwartz with 13 felony accounts, which threatened up to 30 years in prison. Schwartz committed suicide before his trial. The incident prompted over 60,000 to accuse Ortiz of “overreach” and petition for her removal.

There is a rally going on at the Boston courthouse in memory of Aaron, from 3-6pm EST on the fourth anniversary of Aaron’s death, January 11, 2017.

Here’s more about Marty Gottesfeld, from ShadowProof’s Kevin Gosztola:

Wife Of Activist Jailed For Digital Sit-In Seeks Help From Trump

Dana and marty

 

From the article:

Gottesfeld was arrested in Miami in February last year and faces a conspiracy charge and charges of “intent to damage a protected computer,” which are offenses under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison and could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.

Carmen Ortiz, who zealously prosecuted Aaron Swartz until he committed suicide in 2013, is the federal prosecutor leading the effort to prosecute Gottesfeld.

“I’d like [Trump] to use his influence to get the charges dropped against Marty because of the nature of the whistleblowing, because Marty didn’t hurt anybody whereas the doctors at the hospital did hurt people and they’re not facing any charges,” Dana Gottesfeld, Marty’s wife, told Shadowproof in an interview.

She also would like Trump to support Justina’s Law, which she said is legislation that “would protect children that become wards of the state from medical testing that doesn’t benefit them.”

 

 

Chelsea Manning Reviews “The Boy Who Could Change The World”

boy_who_could_change_the_world_finalRemembering Aaron Swartz: My Review of “The Boy Who Could Change The World – By Chelsea Manning

From the review:

For me, reading this book was a revelatory experience. This compilation reminded me of when I read The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a teenager a number of years ago. Unlike Dr. King, I honestly never really knew just deep the brilliance and idealism of Aaron was until I read some of his lesser known and older pieces…

Throughout his writing, Aaron ceaselessly and confidently expresses his underlying ideology. At times, Aaron — being a young person throughout — is inconsistent and contradictory. However, at the root of it all, is his unwavering belief in the power of the people — especially the average citizen. He believes in the strength of the little guy. Aaron also prods us to create tools that make the world better for everyone, whether rich or poor…

I feel like the world abandoned Aaron in his time of need. I feel like the world — myself included — took Aaron for granted. He intelligently and thoughtfully challenged everything and everyone: software companies, corporations, multimedia conglomerates, governments, and even modern school systems! Yet, in his final challenge — we only stood on the sidelines and rooted for him, waiting for him to win again. Instead, he lost. Then, we lost.

Read the complete review here.

Brewster Kahle at Aaron Swartz San Francisco Memorial 2013

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.

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)