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Aaron Swartz

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It was a late night in May. Renderman, the computer hacker notorious for discovering that outdated air traffic control software could be used to reroute planes mid-flight, was feeling shitty. The stress of digging himself out of debt he’d accumulated during years of underemployment was compounded by the feeling of being trapped in a job he hated. He was forgetful and couldn’t focus on anything. “Depression has sapped my motivation and lust for life,” he later wrote. “I can't remember the last time I worked on a project ... it's like I'm a ghost in my own life. Just existing but with no form ... I’m most definitely not myself.”

Feeling slightly buzzed after a few beers, he decided to speak out. “My name is Renderman and I suffer from depression,” he tweeted.

Within minutes, other hackers started responding.

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w0051977 asks:

I have been working on a system alone for about four years. I have built it from the ground up. It is not a perfect system. It is very complex, it is buggy, and the business is now becoming aware of this.

After all this time, other developers at the company are getting interested in the project, and they are becoming more involved. I am a bit worried they will blame me for the problems.

Am I being paranoid? Have others experienced a similar situation? How can I soften the glare of the spotlight on my buggy code?

See the original question here.

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Nerval's Lobster writes "Nate Silver feels a little odd about his fame. That's not to say that he hasn't worked to get to his enviable position. Thanks to his savvy with predictive models, and the huge readership platform provided by The New York Times hosting his FiveThirtyEight blog, he managed to forecast the most recent presidential election results in all 50 states. His accuracy transformed him into a rare breed: a statistician with a household name. But onstage at this year's SXSW conference, Silver termed his fame 'strange' and 'out of proportion,' and described his model as little more than averaging the state and national polls, spiced a bit with his algorithms. "It bothered me that this was such a big deal," he told the audience. In politics, he added, most of the statistical analysis being conducted simply isn't good, which lets someone like him stand out; same as in baseball, where he made his start in predictive modeling. In fields with better analytics, the competition for someone like him would be much fiercer. He also talked about, despite a flood of data (and the tools to analyze it) in the modern world, we still face huge problems when it comes to actually understanding and using that data. 'You have a gap between what we think we know and what we really know,' he said. 'We tend to be oversensitive to random fluctuations in the data and mistake the fluctuations for real relationships.'"

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aaron swartz lead

I met Aaron Swartz in Cambridge shortly after he’d been indicted for downloading lots of JSTOR articles on MIT’s network in 2011. My Wired colleague Ryan Singel had been writing about his story, and I’d talked a lot with my friends in academia and publishing about the problems of putting scholarship behind a paywall, but that was really the level at which I was approaching it. I was there to have brunch with friends I’d known a long time only through the internet, and I hadn’t known Aaron that way. I certainly didn’t want to use the brunch to put on my journalist hat and pepper him with questions. He was there primarily to see his partner Quinn Norton’s daughter Ada, with whom he had a special bond. The two of them spent...

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When Joel Spolsky, my business partner on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, asked me what I wanted to do after I left Stack Exchange, I distinctly remember mentioning Aaron Swartz. That's what Aaron was to us hackers: an exemplar of the noble, selfless behavior and positive action that all hackers aspire to – but very few actually achieve.

And now, tragically, Aaron is gone at the tender age of 26. He won't be achieving anything any more.

I never knew Aaron, but I knew Aaron.

Aaron-swartz-stack-overflow

Most of all, I am disappointed.

I'm deeply disappointed in myself, for not understanding just how bitterly unfair the government charges were against Aaron. Perhaps the full, grotesque details couldn't be revealed for a pending legal case. But we should have been outraged. I am gutted that I did not contribute to his defense in any way, either financially or by writing about it here. I blindly assumed he would prevail, as powerful activists on the side of fairness, openness, and freedom are fortunate enough to often do in our country. I was wrong.

I'm disappointed in our government, for going to such lengths to make an example of someone who was so obviously a positive force. Someone who actively worked to change the world for the better in everything he did, starting from the age of 12. There was no evil in this man. And yet the absurd government case against him was cited by his family as directly contributing to his death.

I'm frustrated by the idea that martyrdom works. The death of Aaron Swartz is now turning into an effective tool for change, a rallying cry, proving the perverse lesson that nobody takes an issue seriously until a great person dies for the cause. The idea that Aaron killing himself was a viable strategy, more than going on to prevail in this matter and so many more in his lifetime, makes me incredibly angry.

But also, I must admit that I am a little disappointed in Aaron. I understand that depression is a serious disease that can fell any person, however strong. But he chose the path of the activist long ago. And the path of the activist is to fight, for as long and as hard as it takes, to effect change. Aaron had powerful friends, a powerful support network, and a keen sense of moral cause that put him in the right. That's how he got that support network of powerful friends and fellow activists in the first place.

It is appropriate to write about Aaron on Martin Luther King day, because he too was a tireless activist for moral causes.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Let's be clear that the penalty in Aaron's case was grossly unfair, bordering on corrupt. I've been a part of exactly one trial, but I can't even imagine having the full resources of the US Government brought to bear against me, with extreme prejudice, for a year or more. His defense was estimated to cost millions. The idea that such an engaged citizen would be forever branded a felon – serving at least some jail time and stripped of the most fundamental citizenship right, the ability to vote – must have weighed heavily on Aaron. And Aaron was no stranger to depresson, having written about it on his blog many times, even penning a public will of sorts on his blog all the way back in 2002.

I think about ragequitting a lot.

Rage Quit, also seen as RageQuit in one word, is Internet slang commonly used to describe the act of suddenly quitting a game or chatroom after either an argument, extreme frustration, or loss of the game.

At least one user ragequits Stack Exchange every six months, because our rules are strict. Some people don't like rules, and can respond poorly when confronted by the rules of the game they choose to play. It came up often enough that we had to create even more rules to deal with it. I was forced to think about ragequitting.

I was very angry with Mark Pilgrim and _why for ragequitting the Internet, because they also took all their content offline – they got so frustrated that they took their ball and went home, so nobody else could play. How incredibly rude. Ragequitting is childish, a sign of immaturity. But it is another thing entirely to play the final move and take your own life. To declare the end of this game and all future games, the end of ragequitting itself.

I say this not as a person who wishes to judge Aaron Swartz. I say it as a fellow gamer who has also considered playing the same move quite recently. To the point that I – like Aaron himself, I am sure – was actively researching it. But the more I researched, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like what it really was: giving up. And the toll on friends and family would be unimaginably, unbearably heavy.

What happened to Aaron was not fair. Not even a little. But this is the path of the activist. The greater the injustice, the greater wrong undone when you ultimately prevail. And I am convinced, absolutely and utterly convinced, that Aaron would have prevailed. He would have gone on to do so many other great things. It is our great failing that we did not provide Aaron the support network he needed to see this. All we can do now is continue the mission he started and lobby for change to our corrupt government practices of forcing plea bargains.

It gets dark sometimes. I know it does. I'm right there with you. But do not, under any circumstances, give anyone the satisfaction of seeing you ragequit. They don't deserve it. Play other, better moves – and consider your long game.

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maijc writes "Computer activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday in New York City. He was 26 years old. 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 is best known for co-authoring the widely-used RSS 1.0 specification when he was 14, and as one of the early co-owners of Reddit."

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The Independent Games Festival has announced the eight Student Showcase winners for the fourteenth annual presentation of its prestigious awards, celebrating the brightest and most innovative creations to come out of universities and games programs from around the world in the past year.

This year's showcase of top student talent include the lithograph-sketched 2D logic puzzler The Bridge, from Case Western Reserve University, Art Institute of Phoenix's magic-moth platformer Dust, and DigiPen Institute of Technology's part-psychological-evaluator, part-boot-camp-instructor, possibly-part-malware action game Nous.

In total, this year's Student Competition took in nearly 300 game entries across all platforms -- PC, console and mobile -- from a wide diversity of the world's most prestigious universities and games programs making the Student IGF one of the world's largest showcases of student talent.

All of the Student Showcase winners announced today will be playable on the Expo show floor at the 26th Game Developers Conference, to be held in San Francisco starting March 5th, 2012. Each team will receive a $500 prize for being selected into the Showcase, and are finalists for an additional $3,000 prize for Best Student Game, to be revealed during the Independent Games Festival Awards on March 7th.

The full list of Student Showcase winners for the 2012 Independent Games Festival, along with 'honorable mentions' to those top-quality games that didn't quite make it to finalist status, are as follows:

The Bridge (Case Western Reserve University)
Dust (Art Institute of Phoenix)
The Floor Is Jelly (Kansas City Art Institute)
Nous (DigiPen Institute of Technology)
One and One Story (Liceo Scientifico G.B. Morgagni)
Pixi (DigiPen Institute of Technology - Singapore)
The Snowfield (Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab)
Way (Carnegie Mellon University, Entertainment Technology Center)

Honorable mentions: Be Good (DigiPen Institute of Technology); Lilith's Pet (University of Kassel); Nitronic Rush (DigiPen Institute of Technology); Once Upon A Spacetime (RMIT); Tink (Mediadesign Highschool of Applied Sciences)

This year's Student IGF entries were distributed to an opt-in subset of the main competition judging body, consisting of more than 100 leading independent and mainstream developers, academics and journalists. Now in its tenth year as a part of the larger Independent Games Festival, the Student Showcase highlights up-and-coming talent from worldwide university programs, and has served as the venue which first premiered numerous now-widely-recognized names including DigiPen's Narbacular Drop and Tag: The Power of Paint, which would evolve first into Valve's acclaimed Portal, with the latter brought on-board for Portal 2.

Others include USC's The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom (later released by 2K Games for XBLA); Hogeschool van de Kunsten's The Blob (later becoming one of THQ's flagship mobile/console franchises as De Blob); and early USC/ThatGameCompany title Cloud, from the studio that would go on to develop PlayStation 3 arthouse mainstays like Flow, Flower, and their forthcoming Journey.

For more information on the Independent Games Festival, for which Main Competition finalists were also just announced, please visit the official IGF website.

For those interested in registering for GDC 2012 (part of the UBM TechWeb Game Network, as is this website), which includes the Independent Games Summit, the IGF Pavilion and the IGF Awards Ceremony, please visit the Game Developers Conference website.

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