2013-01-13: on aaronsw
It's a sad weekend for the tech industry. It's not just about Aaron Swartz's suicide. It's the fact that a person, who we can empathize with, needlessly died because of an over-zealous federal prosecutor. Of course it's Aaron's own fault for killing himself, but it's also the fault of the New York federal prosecutor for adding additional charges to the existing case against Aaron. Maybe the laws should change regarding the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Maybe DemandProgress should get some more support. Maybe that prosecutor should be fired. Maybe TheVoterApp needs a little work.
Was the criminal case warranted? I read the indictment. Aaron downloaded data from JSTOR too quickly and so (arguably) maliciously interfered with the network. I downloaded the entire student database of MSU back when I was working on smithiscrazy.com (Michigan State University Student Reverse Search) Zuckerberg did the same thing when he was working on thefacebook.com. It's what software developers do sometimes, we download a lot of data. Worth a civil lawsuit? Maybe. Worth a federal criminal lawsuit? No. I certainly wouldn't have convicted Aaron of any crime if I were on his jury.
I empathize with Aaron's life. We were approximately the same age. Him 26 and me 28. We're both software developers. We're both personally interested in freedom. He had DemandProgress and the SOPA-resistance, I have Boycott and TheVoterApp. He blogged well, a habit that I'm only getting back into. I can see myself getting caught up in a trivial criminal case.
So what's to be had in his suicide? I don't know. At least his work has had a spotlight shown upon it.
Aaron's life and death to me is an inspiration to be myself every day. He did good work and I hope I do too.