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[liberationtech] Tragic News: Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Nadim Kobeissi nadim at nadim.cc
Sat Jan 12 22:49:50 PST 2013


Hi Asher,
I'm assuming you're referring to my blog post. I should clarify that
my post in no way refers to you, directly or indirectly. I'm sorry if
it seemed otherwise.

However, the circumstances are definitely pertinent. You yourself have
been subjected to strenuous harassment, and when you complained about
it your website was hacked in retaliation. This is the same sort of
harassment that I'd like eradicated from the community, and I'll be
the first in line to regret if I somehow contributed to this
negativity.

NK


On Sun, Jan 13, 2013 at 1:46 AM, Asher Wolf <asherwolf at cryptoparty.org> wrote:
> But 'ta for your charming post. Excuse me while I deal with the
> crippling depression that I'm struggling with at the moment.
>
> / Asher.
>
> On 13/01/13 2:52 PM, Nadim Kobeissi wrote:
>> I've written a blog post inspired by this: http://log.nadim.cc/?p=107
>>
>>
>> Why Young Hackers Are Killing Themselves
>>
>> “The hacker community needs more mutual support, empathy, and
>> forgiveness. The cattiness and paranoia serves no one but those with
>> the most resilient egos.”
>>
>> This quote was sent to me just five days ago by an old friend. The
>> conversation we were having was one of reconciliation, and I had
>> half-jokingly blamed being part of the hacker community as the reason
>> why I can be so abrasive sometimes. But there was no humour in what
>> she answered. That quote was exactly true.
>>
>> There are sometimes a couple of blog posts, a couple of discussions on
>> some social, behavioural issues we may have in hacker culture.
>>
>> But there haven’t been discussions as to why young hackers, especially
>> those striving towards new methods of sociopolitical change, are
>> killing themselves. And there was no discussion as to whether the
>> hacker community itself might have something to do with it.
>>
>> I cannot speak for Aaron Swartz. I knew Aaron only briefly and
>> distantly. But Aaron Swartz wasn’t the first. There were other
>> suicides: Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the co-founder of Diaspora. Len Sassaman,
>> the renowned cryptographer. They are united with Aaron Swartz via
>> their goals, their methods, their drive and their youth.
>>
>> The hacker community is plagued, and our plague is a plague of
>> ruthlessness, of a lack of mutual reinforcement. A plague of keeping
>> up appearances. A plague that has managed to convince us that seeing
>> people and their efforts in black and white is alright. A plague that
>> makes us believe that personal attacks are valid against hackers,
>> programmers and entrepreneurs we don’t agree with, that defamation and
>> harassment are valid weapons when our online personas are attacked,
>> when there’s a project we don’t like or that we feel somehow threatens
>> us. And the harassment can be ugly. It can be pervasive, as if those
>> committing it see their target as part of a video game that they just
>> know they can beat. It can involve race, sex, and intense gas-lighting
>> and demoralization. It’s a plague that makes us all busy in regular
>> part-time, making each other feel like failures. Criticize ideas, not
>> people.
>>
>> Hackers are unique in that for some, federal subpoenas are a fact of
>> daily life. Handling zero-days that can bankrupt corporations may
>> happen weekly, amongst many other surreal, Hollywood scenario
>> problems.
>>
>> On top of this, the community is not supportive, but jealous. Not
>> empathetic, but insecure. Not forgiving, but spiteful. Hackers, all
>> together facing the same surreal problems that alienate them
>> permanently from the rest of natural society, find themselves stuck in
>> a bubble of self-destruction and self-deprecation. This is what drives
>> young hackers to kill themselves. This may not have been what drove
>> Aaron Swartz specifically, but it is a contributing factor and a
>> serious problem in our community.
>>
>> Criticize ideas, not people. Stop it with all the lip service. Public
>> discourse of the most difficult issues has largely only been elevating
>> the jealousy, insecurity and spite. Endless discussions without any
>> reconciliation as our community so slowly falls apart.
>>
>> NK
>>
>>
>> On Sat, Jan 12, 2013 at 5:18 PM, Gabe Gossett <Gabe.Gossett at wwu.edu> wrote:
>>> While I sympathize with the open access spirit of this thread, and have no intention to detract from the eulogizing of Aaron Swartz, I think that in all fairness a few things should be pointed out.
>>>
>>> JSTOR is not a journal publisher. This is an important distinction since it means that JSTOR's terms are, at least in part, influenced by the journal publishers. It also means that it will not always be clear whether or not an article you publish will end up in JSTOR unless you make sure that you are publishing in a fully open access (OA) journal (which is the route I would recommend for anyone concerned with information equity). A directory of OA journals can be found here http://www.doaj.org
>>>
>>> Also, as a librarian, I have found JSTOR to be one of the least problematic of the academic content providers. This is probably due to the fact that they are non-profit, distribute little in the way of current content (where the profit margins are higher), allow for perpetual access to back runs that are bought, and was established as a way to expand access to journal content in academia. If there was an effective business model to allow for total open access I would not be surprised if JSTOR would be one of the content aggregators most open to such a model.
>>>
>>> The real bad guys in the academic publishing world are for-profits like Elsevier, which was the target of a recent boycott: http://thecostofknowledge.com
>>>
>>> Regards,
>>> Gabe
>>>
>>>
>>> On Jan 12, 2013, at 10:53 AM, "Julian Oliver" <julian at julianoliver.com<mailto:julian at julianoliver.com>> wrote:
>>>
>>> ..on Sat, Jan 12, 2013 at 01:03:52PM -0500, Shava Nerad wrote:
>>> Irony:
>>> http://mobile.theverge.com/2013/1/9/3857628/jstor-opens-up-limited-free-access-to-its-digital-library
>>>
>>> This is JSTOR going 'freeware' rather than Free Software. In the programming
>>> domain it's comparable to source code that is technically open for reading yet
>>> disallows modification or redistribution. Aaron would've been just as pissed
>>> about this.
>>>
>>> On their site they say 'A New Chapter Begins'. There's the irony.
>>>
>>> We should all stop supporting knowledge mafia like JSTOR by discouraging our
>>> peers to publish there. It's bad enough that publicly funded universities push
>>> their knowledge output to a private business interest.
>>>
>>> A great way to channel any despair from Aaron's death is to encourage peers to
>>> publish openly.
>>>
>>> Cheers,
>>>
>>> Julian
>>>
>>> On Jan 12, 2013 3:36 AM, "Yosem Companys" <companys at stanford.edu<mailto:companys at stanford.edu>> wrote:
>>>
>>> This is a tragic loss and a terrible blow to the liberationtech community.
>>>
>>> Yosem
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N61/swartz.html
>>>
>>> Aaron Swartz commits suicide
>>>
>>> Web Update
>>>
>>> By Anne Cai
>>> NEWS EDITOR; UPDATED AT 2:15 A.M. 1/12/13
>>>
>>> Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide in New York City
>>> yesterday, Jan. 11, according to his uncle, Michael Wolf, in a comment
>>> to The Tech. Swartz was 26.
>>>
>>> “The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is,
>>> regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of
>>> Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech.
>>>
>>> Swartz was indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly
>>> mass downloading documents from the JSTOR online journal archive with
>>> the intent to distribute them. He subsequently moved to Brooklyn, New
>>> York, where he then worked for Avaaz Foundation, a nonprofit “global
>>> web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making
>>> everywhere.” Swartz appeared in court on Sept. 24, 2012 and pleaded
>>> not guilty.
>>>
>>> The accomplished Swartz co-authored the now widely-used RSS 1.0
>>> specification at age 14, was one of the three co-owners of the popular
>>> social news site Reddit, and completed a fellowship at Harvard’s
>>> Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption. In 2010, he founded
>>> DemandProgress.org<http://DemandProgress.org>, a “campaign against the Internet censorship bills
>>> SOPA/PIPA.”
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>>>
>>> --
>>> Julian Oliver
>>> http://julianoliver.com
>>> http://criticalengineering.org
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>
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