Aaron Swartz, who helped cultivate the Reddit, committed suicide by hanging himself in his Brooklyn home this past weekend. There is much to say about this Internet activist, but here are five facts you might not have known.
1. He was a whiz kid.
At 13 he created his own online encyclopedia, much like Wikipedia. And at 14, he helped create RSS (Really Simple Syndication), which is a tool which allows you to subscribe to online information. So if you use Google Reader or anything of the sort, you can thank him for it.
2. Like most computer/Internet geniuses, he dropped out of college.
He attended Stanford University before leaving after a year. We can compare that to Steve Jobs who dropped out of Reed College after six months of attending, and Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard his sophomore year.
3. He was an Internet badass.
He was a key member in trying to stop SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), so the Internet could be kept open and free for us all. He was also being prosecuted by the federal government for downloading too many free JSTOR articles. He hacked into MIT’s database to get the JSTOR files, and although JSTOR nor MIT decided to press charges, the government charged Swartz with 13 counts of felony indictment. He could have faced up to 35 years in prison as well as pay back $1 million worth of fines.
4. He loved books.
Swartz was an avid reader, and he worked on Open Library. It was a websites whose goal was to put one page “online for every book ever published,” according to Mashable.
5. Swartz was an amazing writer who suffered from depression.
He admitted to his depression in a blog post he called “Sick” back in 2007. Not long after Reddit was sold to Conde Nast in 2007, they forced him to resign, and this was said to spark his depression.
Surely there have been times when you’ve been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless. You wonder whether it’s worth going on. Everything you think about seems bleak — the things you’ve done, the things you hope to do, the people around you. You want to lie in bed and keep the lights off. Depressed mood is like that, only it doesn’t come for any reason and it doesn’t go for any either. Go outside and get some fresh air or cuddle with a loved one and you don’t feel any better, only more upset at being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel. Everything gets colored by the sadness.
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