I really wish I had the emotional eloquence to express what John Grubb Atkinson did so beautifully:
Aaron Swartz is what I wish I was. I am a bright technologist, but I’ve never built anything of note. I have strong opinions about how to improve this world, but I’ve never acted to bring them to pass.
Aaron Swartz has shown us what is possible and it is now up to us to try to match him.
Like many of us (I imagine) I was only dimly aware of Aaron Swartz’s existence before January 11th. His name would have rung a bell, in my case mainly because he signed off quite a few of the emails I got from Demand Progress particularly regarding the legendary Stop SOPA movement.
I was, however, keenly aware of many of the other things he collaborated on: RSS, the semantic web, creative commons, Reddit, and I feel that his work that I didn’t know about in liberating parts of PACER and JSTOR was probably more important.
Aaron’s work was all towards freedom of information and open access. He saw the amazing potential in the internet and he saw how it was being squandered. And more importantly, he saw that he had the power to do something about it. Now that I know who he was and what he did I want to be like him. And I think, from what I have been reading in the last few days, I am far from alone.
The current version (at the time of writing) of Aaron’s Wikipedia article states:
Members of Anonymous hacked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Web domain and replaced the title page with a tribute to Swartz, calling on members of the internet community to use Aaron’s death as a rallying moment for the open access movement.
I want to answer that call! I have wanted to answer that call for a long time. I have long believed in the power of transparency and crowd sourcing to use free information to incredible effect. But somehow, unlike Aaron, I have never found the momentum to do anything useful, to make any real difference. I make my work and information available and I read about open source and I sign online petitions, as if that makes any real difference.
I want to contribute more, to help free information and help the Internet live up to its immense potential to help mankind communicate, coordinate and learn, by making all information freely available and by fighting corporations who have an interest in keeping information hidden. But I feel that I need some serious community drive to be able to do that.
So please, someone tell me where I sign up? How do I get and keep the momentum to work to make real changes in the way information is treated by society?