The news of Aaron Swartz’s suicide reached me at about 12:30am, as the story was shooting to the top of Hacker News. I was stunned.
I don’t know Aaron, but I’ve known of him for some time. I independently stumbled across his blog and one of his projects, web.py. It was some time later that I realized it was the same guy. I got curious and started reading about him. At this point I became a follower, in the simplest sense. I was simply amazed at how much the kid had managed to accomplish, and how insightful his writing was. I was blown away when he’d publish his year-end review of books that he’d read. But it wasn’t just a “wow, this kid is a genius” reaction. It was seeing a highly capable person tear into all manner of activity and push the limits. And it was motivating.
Now he’s dead. The circumstances are still unclear, but it’s hard not to think that the Federal case against him was unrelated. If you’re interested, you can read all about that story, as well and the hundreds of opinions that have been written on whether what was being done to Aaron was right.
For me, I’m just sad. Steve Jobs used the phrase, “make a dent in the universe”, which was an apt description of what Aaron was doing. Now that is stopped, far short of what might have been accomplished.
I had one correspondence with Aaron. Just over three years ago I wrote him a thank you note, saying how much I appreciated the software he’d written and shared with the world. I got a response:
Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2009 00:49:07 -0500 To: [email protected] From: "Aaron Swartz" <[email protected]> Thanks. It's really nice to hear feedback like this!