Aaron Swartz

When I read about the death of Aaron I cried. I’ve been on this planet, a planet which often confuses me, for over 40 years. I’ve known other people who have died, and sometimes I cried, but more often than not, I didn’t, unless they were a close relative or very close friend. Aaron was not a close friend in the typical sense, but he was someone I admired. I probably first encountered Aaron around 2002/2003 or so… he would have been working on RSS stuff while I was working on RSS stuff. I filed some bug reports for some software he was writing called rss2email,. My “bug reports” consisted of letting him know about typos in the documentation. He was probably half my age at the time, but more than twice as good at programming. He shot me a few emails that said “Thanks!” and that about sums up our correspondence.

Through the years I read his weblog and it was fascinating. You could tell how damn smart he was. And I’m not going to say “smart for his age” because I try really hard not to discriminate based on age. Aaron was intelligent, but lacked certain experience, due to his age, and his personality, but he was someone to admire.

I wrote a blog post about Aaron back in 2006 titled Aaron’s Money. It summed up a few things about him. I also seem to remember a post where he said he was working on a laptop and someone told him he needed a huge monitor, and his reply was something along the lines of “I’m only looking at a few lines of code at any one point in time… why do I need a bigger monitor?” I’m still not sure he’s the one who said that, but I think it sounds like something he’d say. Ideas and freedom seemed to be much more important than money or physical things to him. He was someone who believed that the ends justify means. (Sometimes they do.)

When I think about the things he could have accomplished in his life, had it not been cut so short, it depresses me a bit, and being depressed is a bad thing, so I don’t want to be depressed. To avoid being depressed I try to do things I think might make the world a better place… even if it’s just a small part of the world I inhabit.


Aaron’s Money

Aaron’s writing is often fascinating. Now Aaron has money, and he’s not sure what he will do with it:

A friend told me to be sure not to let the money change me. “How could it possibly do that?” I asked. “Well, first you’d buy a fancy new car.” “I don’t know how to drive.” “…you’d buy a big house in the suburbs.” “I like living in small apartments.” “And you’d start wearing expensive clothes.” “I’ve worn a t-shirt and jeans practically every day of my life.”

This seems to demonstrate how different people see money’s use. Someone did comment on the idea that “Money doesn’t make you happy” by saying:

Money can’t buy you happiness. But it can buy you freedom. And freedom can buy you happiness.

Freedom = happiness. I agree with that. To me, having enough money to provide me my freedom would allow me to do things I want to do, without worrying if they provide sufficient income. I could make music, and films, and art and not worry about having to sell them. It would also allow me to attempt to improve things like software, the internet, technology, things that I think could help improve people’s lives. I’ve got dozens and dozens of ideas. It’s bascially all those things I try to do now with the spare 10 minutes I have each day, I could just expand that to 10 hours per day.

Right now, the chances of me selling a startup seem pretty slim. So I probably won’t have to worry about sharing Aaron’s problems any time soon…