I didn't know Aaron but I certainly read and followed him. It's a sad day and a big loss. Here's his Freedom To Connect keynote on stopping SOPA:
Oh wow; I hadn’t heard. That’s really sad.
A young man I greatly admired.
And death shall have no dominionhttp://www.poetryfoundation…
Eloquent truth. Thank you.
i think we need to talk about providing therapy and support to entrepnuerial communities, especially to its youngest members who are at highest risk for suicides. The people who join them are attracted to a certain level of risk, which may not be sustainable all the time.I’m angry this happened in the first place.
We never really get very far in that particular conversation, even though it is brought up every time we lose another young high profile developer. It helps when people like Ben Huh step up and tell personal stories to demystify and demarginalize entrepreneurial depression. As a community, we still do not have enough tools and resources and shared stories to prevent losses like this. While we will probably never bring a complete end to suicide, hopefully we can get better at supporting our own and learning how to step in and step up for each other.The entrepreneurial road is *extremely* tough. It is far too simple to glorify swimming against the stream and seeing what others cannot see and persevering through years of hardship to come out the other end a winner. Yet we are required to keep our game face on, convincing everyone around us that the future is bright and we have a winner on our hands. The people around us we probably most need to lean on for support and encouragement of our own, are often the people who are relying on us to ‘keep the faith’ for them. And showing any fear or weakness to those people can feel like a non-option.I don’t know the ultimate solution. But my own small attempt to address this issue in my life and in the companies I advise, is to make sure there is at least one mentor/advisor/friend who is allowed to hear all the fears, all the frustration, any moments of hopelessness… who have opted in to be the listener and encourager (and whose life would not be directly impacted by a business failure). Maybe if more entrepreneurs had this as a habit and common practice we would lose less bright minds to dispair.I did know Aaron. We had multiple conversations which impacted the trajectory of my career. I was not a close friend, and I do not know what was going through his mind these last few days (weeks?) (months?). But I am angry and sad that we lost him.
My deep sympathy for your loss. You were fortunate, I’m sure, to have known him.
i’m sorry for your loss. I’m also a bit burnt out by the non-option being a non-option
Just once, just once! I would like to see an entrepreneurial start-up that did not involve infusion of VC cash, insane hours and insane crashing and burning, but steady dedication over time to build a product that users PAID FOR NORMALLY, you know BUILD A BUSINESS the normal way instead of the technocommunist Stakhanovite way.
I was reading about him that it was known he faced depression + he was facing a big lawsuit with potential millions in fines and decades in prison.If this isn’t a red flag for getting help, I’m not sure what is.
“for getting help”Unfortunately for some people not much can be done. Medications help some people, but there are many people with treatment resistant depression.http://www.mayoclinic.com/h…
“Situational depression” is a term that describes the feelings people have when they have plenty of legitimate reasons to feel depressed. It appears that Aaron Swartz was in that circumstance. He may have felt like the “point man” whose squad had abandoned him.Brad Feld wrote a compelling piece about entrepreneurs and depression. Whatever Aaron’s issues with depression, no one should use that to diminish the courage he showed in the work he took on.
Some of the most heroic people I know battle with depression. Sometimes it is that battle itself that makes them heroic, sometimes it is what they are able to accomplish in spite of it — and sometimes, because of it.
Anyone dealing with depression is a hero for getting out of bed. Beyond that, it’s the courage that creates myths.I never believed that someone couldn’t just “get over it” and “man up” until I was robbed of my livelihood, my credibility, my home, and everything I ever hoped for the future.It took six months of me “toughing it out” before the reality caught up with me and I had reached a point where I couldn’t speak without stuttering, and started to cry for no reason while sitting in public places.I had been victimized by a criminal who was so clever that it would have taken the deepest of pockets to prosecute.I simply say this because I know that people who are very, very “sane” can meet up with circumstances that drive them to a place that they cannot exercise, or counsel, or talk themselves out of. It isn’t even “mental illness: as most think, but it is overwhelming circumstances. I’d invite anyone on this blog to go canvas people whose oceanfront homes were devastated by Sandy to see whether they’re suffering from depression.Until you walk a mile “in their moccasins,” don’t judge.Thank you, Donna, for acknowledging the heroism that goes with somehow dealing with “the impossible.”
Wow, stories like this both anger me and break my heart at the same time. I am so very sorry that you experienced this type of trauma. What an amazing person you must be to have pulled through this without being destroyed and to emerge with such dignity.
Thank you. I continue to be a compadre in this community, sharing so many experiences that we all know, and I keep the blips of my personal life mostly under wraps. But I have also walked a very hard road since the economy and a con-man both shot at me at the same time. It doesn’t make me less of a player, in terms of understanding the game. But I’m not walking into the casino with a $100 bill and asking for a pile of chips. It makes a [email protected]
Destruction leads to creation. I wouldn’t be the path I am on now if the suffering I went through didn’t happen.
I was thinking of his support group around him, like friends and family. I’m not sure if their sensing something might have prevented it. But he was super smart, so he probably would have fooled anyone. I read yesterday was the exact date of his arrest 2 years ago, so there’s some symbolism he had planned for, unfortunately.I wished I had met him a few months ago. His work is fascinating, and I do believe 100% in the power of online advocacies.
I was a support person for someone in that situation. It’s a full time job literally.In the end, and once again depending on the type of depression that Aaron suffered from (long standing or underlying based on the event in his life) there is really very little you can do (with some people – each case is different). I can’t begin to tell you the amount of effort that I put in with both time and energy to the person that I helped. Not trying to present myself as “a good guy” the truth is I found the process very fascinating and was drawn to it (not that I’m not a good guy but I want to make a point that I gained from the process as well to be honest which is why I so easily gave up my time).With another person I’ve sat in many years of their therapist meetings, once again, not only because I wanted to help, but it was a challenge I found it very stimulating and love anything related to psychology and human nature.Most people simply aren’t able to put in the effort to help like I did. It’s not as simple as “call me when you feel down and I’ll help”.
“I read yesterday was the exact date of his arrest 2 years ago, so there’s some symbolism he had planned for, unfortunately.”Or the pressures were so high already and that happened to be a huge reminder and impetus.
we don’t know if he was treatment resistant or if situational depression was making the effects of his clinical depression a lot worse
Oddly enough I thought the following:1) It’s possible that his mental health issues drove him to take the chances and do the things that he did in the first place as a thrill seek. I’ve seen this happen with people with mental illness. Certain “missions” put people with mental illness in a zone (gambling, thrill seeking etc.) and many are always searching for something to end their struggle and a cure.2) Counter intuitively it’s entirely possible that the negative circumstance was a challenge and while he was upset about it he was also rising to it as well (which is not to say he was being done a favor by the event simply pointing out a possibility). If you’ve ever had a random blue day and then have something happen that’s stressful and negative you know what I mean. It hits you in the face and wipes the blue mood right away.And of course what you are saying. That the clinical depression was made worse by the event.All of the above though are possibilities we will never know.People always get the wrong ideas about this stuff. I remember a local man who shot himself in his car about a block from his house in the suburbs. A reasonably successful person. I heard from a number of otherwise intelligent people that they thought that he might have done that because his wife was pushing him to make a big bar mitzvah and he didn’t think he could afford to do so. Seriously!
A few days ago was the 2nd anniversary of when a close friend of mine ended her life. This kind of news can’t happen at a more raw time for me.It is true – you need to balance out increased stress and uncertainty with active coping mechanisms and strengthened support structures – and when necessary completely pull oneself out, or even have it culturally that the people around you strongly suggest or even force you to take a longer break to de-stress — pull you out of the day to day grind so you can see that you aren’t your work, you aren’t what people think of you, you aren’t what is happening to you in the moment or that year.These situations, my friend, and Aaron, and all others, strengthen my drive for wanting to help provide and properly support all people in all communities. You’re right @ShanaC:disqus that entrepreneurs perhaps more likely driven to jump into challenges that in most circumstances feel like life or death because of the needing to be financially successful in order to support yourself – and more importantly to be able to support those future hopes and dreams, a family perhaps that you want, that is driving a person to continue, is what is guiding and maybe even forcing them to act, to face uncertain odds. But realize there are many many other people who would face challenges they need to face in order to grow, to better themselves, to be more productive to society, and make their life better for themselves and for others – though we don’t give the support to them either. There’s no easy solution, and these systems take time to develop, mainly people the human resources needed for these support systems take time to learn and evolve too. I think it can happen though. Sadly it might take 20+ years, if systems are implemented now, before the damage that has let be done will start to subside.
Phil Zimmerman — PGP — was a work friend of mine from many years ago. He might have been in the same place, faced with the power of “Big Brother” threatening to end life as he knew it. Phil was simply a sweet, kind man with a big heart and more courage than anyone might have guessed.My daughter, part of the same generation, has had more suicides in her circle of friends than anyone should have to have in a lifetime, and she is not in what you would call a high-risk group.I offer this song from a Denver-based group, The Fray: http://www.youtube.com/watc…If only we could be there to help tip the scales when it would matter. Whatever anyone believes about his politics or mission, he was a bright light, and he did not deserve to make this tragic decision alone.
Young generations are exposed and even primed for quick fixes, as they are the cheapest (in narrow-minded, not calculating with the holistic) and fastest, and fast fixes just don’t with how we learn, how we evolve / change, how we work through emotions. The problem is now we have 3 or maybe even 4 generations in most societies that don’t have a solid emotional intelligence developed, and so that knowledge can’t be passed down through using it in situations (learn through experience). This cycle needs to be broken, and now. We need to bring people into group settings (economies of scale + other benefits, human discussion and interaction – getting comfortable with people and socializing with strangers – not being afraid of engaging with strangers, having time to do so).Re: Tipping the scales when it matters – I think we hope, imagine, need to believe, need to assume that someone has the supports they need around them – though part of this is people being afraid to ask in a deep way how someone is doing, and for other people to feel comfortable responding truthfully, deeply, honestly – without fear of ridicule, etc.. I still have trouble with this.I will listen to the song when I get home. Doing laundry right now, sitting at a cafe while I wait. I have a feeling I’ll start crying once I start listening to it. Thank you for sharing it, and for your kindness.Just wanted to confirm you saw my email reply? Sent it on the 30th of 2012.
Being under 50 makes you more likely to die than in previous generations….
“we need to talk about providing therapy and support”Well if you are going to do that you also need to talk about screening people in the startup scene for mental health issues. Because there are people who are not stable enough going in that should pursue something else. Really no different then readiness checks in any job.  Note that in reality TV shows it’s the opposite. The mentally unstable people actually make the most interesting characters. Of course this isn’t going to happen almost certainly although I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is already doing it. (I would – it’s the “m” word).
I believe that screening people on some level in the startup scene makes sense. We just don’t quite know how to do that at this point. And the VCs and Angel Investors remain in the dark without having realistic tools at this point.We do know, though, through QEEG (quantitative EEG) that investors and gamblers show through these tools that certain areas of their brains light up when presented with an opportunity to “invest.” I imagine that entrepreneurs show similar patterns. The question is: Who is grounded in the expectation of the win, and who is just saying , “come on, come on” while shaking the dice.
absolutely absurd…. (sorry, meant that for LE).
Care to clarify? Everyone innately is ‘screening’ everyone they interact with on some level. That’s how you decide if you want to work with them or not. Is it appropriate or even possible to do further due diligence on a person? I suggest that the best way is to have the right preventative and proactive systems in place that help people better cope and reach out for support, etc. – learning how to be being healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally.
So what is it–screening or preventative systems in place? you want both? Imagine how many amazing entrepreneurs, advances, open source code, art, music that get cut out because of “normals” screening “crazies”.
I think we need to define what is meant by ‘screening.’ I think conclusions on all sides of the conversation as to what they mean is being assumed.I have to be offline for an hour or so. Will be back.
Screening wouldn’t be done by government fiat. It’s done by individual companies/investors at their discretion. In theory therefore one person’s “crazy” might very well end up at another company judged differently by another “normal” who felt they would be able to handle the stress.My statement in another comment (that you reacted to previously) was:”Because there are people who are not stable enough going in that should pursue something else.”Should anyone involved in start-ups decide not to screen that is their choice and fine. I’m just giving some cheerful advice.
agreed. QEEGs still can’t id normal from not normal brains in mental illness
Take a look at “Inside the Investor’s Brain: The Power of Mind Over Money” by Richard L. Peterson. Published by John Wiley & Sons, copyright 2007.
Or support / facilitate / get everyone into systems that help people work through issues that they might not even realize they have – so no one feels alienated, etc.. Eg: Increasing self-awareness, in a fun, social, and supportive way.”The question is: Who is grounded in the expectation of the win, and who is just saying , “come on, come on” while shaking the dice.”Perfect way to visualize this. The issue is knowing why a person is doing what they’re doing. Are they solving a problem because it’s something they want solved / need solved? Are they solving a problem in order to try to make money so they can survive with paying bills, etc – and how much are they risking by doing it, whether opportunity cost or otherwise?
why shouldn’t investors screen for health?
“why shouldn’t investors screen for health?”I said I would. I didn’t say they shouldn’t I implied they probably wouldn’t.I think for the same reason people don’t screen for mental health when dating. So many factors to consider in front of that and it’s a touchy issue. And most wouldn’t know how to go about it without saying “we need to screen you for mental health”. Once of course there is social proof on this like with anything it would become more prevalent.You could probably hire people to devise tests to determine what you want to know. If you are devious enough you can ping them  and infer from their reaction where their head is at. If you are even more devious you can visit their house (used to hear stories of this happening with execs back in the day ) and see what you can find around the house that might allow you to triangulate their mental health. Won’t get into specifics and not saying to go where not allowed, but the medicine cabinet is a start. Always want to meet with wife spouse and find out if they are on board in case a move is necessary, how tied they are to the area. What their views are on how much their husband spouse works. Whether they have to help out around the house (sorry that this makes it seem like it centers around the man but it normally does in many cases so flip for woman in reverse. ). Bringing up certain issues or making certain jokes and judging a persons reaction is a way to find out as well what their past or situation is. You don’t ask questions as I like to say. You tell stories. You see someone’s reaction to the story and you can judge (works with dating also) what their beliefs are. Asking a question invites gaming the system. Most people aren’t sharp enough to divine people’s intent from a simple story and will react more honestly.
Well, a lot of that is fairly intrusive. The more important factor would be referrals/references, how has this person been to work with – however that doesn’t equate to present state of how a person finds balance in their life. What you say above makes me think of dating. I don’t keep my apartment as clean as I would if I’m expecting company, and it becomes even more clean and organized if it’s someone I’m trying to impress. You won’t figure out my patterns until I’m really comfortable with you, though hopefully you’re someone I’m always wanting and trying to impress – so then I’ll be my best and keep growing to become better. Self-awareness, and being in the flow of increasing self-awareness is the most important part – and essentially once a person finds this then they can learn more and more to balance themselves. it can be very hard and challenging, and a lot of support initially required, for such things as connecting to emotion deeply for the first time; Many of us close off, especially men, at a young age because we don’t have support and are bombarded with much that easily can cause overwhelm.
Shana, you actually want some Silicon Valley-created bureaucratic entity formed to clear entrepreneurs for mental health problems?!You know, there’s something else that does this more efficiently than technocommunist collectivist bureaucracy like this.It’s called “the market”. The market valued Swartz’s genius enough to cash him out. He was very lucky. Had he not spent his earnings on legal fees to clean up after his hacking sprees and incapacitation due to depression, and had somehow been able to get the treatment he needed and found a useful occupation instead of burning out, he might be alive today. His choice. *His* choice.
absolutely absurd. really? imagine the innovations, the amazing startups you’d prevent/block by doing something like that. And the chilling effect would be incredibly damaging…
“absolutely absurd. really”Yes, really.I love these polarizing issues where you can’t even speak your mind without getting jumped all over by someone. Who calls your idea “absurd” as if there is no basis in it whatsoever and further misconstrues the point being made.Making decisions is about information. And with the information you can decide what you want to do. Or not do. Nothing in my statement said that I wouldn’t invest if I knew certain information. It said I would consider the information and act appropriately based on my judgement (and the judgement of others).Note that I said specifically “Because there are people who are not stable enough going in that should pursue something else.” so where do you make the leap from that statement to “the amazing startups you’d prevent/block by doing something like that.” exactly? You don’t feel that some people aren’t suited for the rigors of certain jobs? Remember the story of the pilot recently that went bezerk on the airplane and the calls for why hadn’t he been screened?The “I would” in my  footnote indicates “I would consider”. Mental illness is analog not digital. It’s not “you have cancer” “you don’t have cancer”.
In the context of the news about Aaron, yes, it’s absurd, and if you consider that “jumping all over” you, then I’ll try to soften the tone you perceive.”you also need to talk about screening people in the startup scene for mental health issues. Because there are people who are not stable enough going in that should pursue something else.”Would Aaron–a highly accomplished entrepreneur, advocate, and activist–have passed your “screen”? Where would you draw the line?And no, running a startup typically doesn’t involve risking the lives of people on board.
“Would Aaron–a highly accomplished entrepreneur, advocate, and activist–have passed your “screen”? Where would you draw the line?”The line is drawn with how much risk someone want’s to take.But hopefully if the screening was accurate he would have not passed. Because we have someone that did commit suicide and my personal belief was that there was quite a bit of underlying illness there that would have come out at another time. Or another circumstance. So if you care about people you don’t let them get in over their head even if it benefits you to do so. All this is based on judgement. Doesn’t mean that someone who saw the same thing and got involved though was doing the wrong thing. Each person is different.I just found this which details what happened in 2007:http://www.nydailynews.com/…Which stated this:”The note so worried Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian he called the police and asked them to break into Swartz’s apartment.”I would imagine that even though Aaron passed off the note as benign there was something that made Alexis take it seriously. Note that this was well before the legal issue and apparently (if true) in response to another life changing event that is experienced far more frequently than being prosecuted by the government.
I don’t like the idea of passing or failing. People learn at different speeds, and there’s no reason that people can’t be supported at different degrees according to their own needs. Some people will clearly show they aren’t ready to take on the risks of investment and a startup, though riskier and perhaps arguably the more creative people may be the big crazy idea makers that investment firms want / need to make – and it could be in a team of people there is one or more people who have trouble finding balance.I think the solution, which would need to be keep people anonymous to avoid alienation and to avoid preventing people from moving forward (or for others who aren’t understanding and/or bad judges of character from stopping them) — that knowing this support alone exists would help many people who need to spend a bit more time than average on keeping themselves happier and productive, functional.I live in Canada and all of the things that have actually been helpful for me relating to emotional and mental health haven’t been free. Yoga is one example of that. The current publicly funded health systems in North America deal with disease / damage control, not with prevention / proactive health.Back on topic of screening: Screening doesn’t necessitate blocking or preventing someone from doing something automatically, though they’re usually associated.I could see a system working where once say an investment is made, then $X amount is paid towards an insurance of sorts (maybe by the funds?), and then all of the founders / core team have access to specific resources that the investors aren’t privy to knowing anything about, even if someone or anyone is using the services; Perhaps for all employees, assumingly if a company has more employees then theoretically they have more money. Maybe it’s assumed that health insurance that is currently paid is adequate for this, or that people would use their own funds to seek out different options – even as an experiment to see if it helps – though if you’re a startup then your budget is tight, the stress is likely very high (assuming you’re challenging yourself with deadlines, etc).This is theoretically what a preventative / proactive healthcare system would look like, that would cover a whole country / world, though it’s best to test it and fund it through those a) who will benefit from it, b) who can afford to take / use a small fraction of their income (directly or indirectly) to fund such an ‘insurance;’ The problem with insurance companies though is they are constantly trying to fuck people over and not provide benefits, as to increase their own profits – incentivized by bonuses and such. There are other ways to make sure / check to see that a system is working though, and in reality when people start to gain health and become healthier it will bring up others underlying issues, and so initial costs will be higher too. It won’t be a never-ending cycle though, and in fact the rule of you being happy is good for me is true. There will of course be baseline costs that will always exist, and those will be higher until populations are more balanced and living more healthily. So in that sense it’s really just health being supported, but properly – which doesn’t even exist for many these days.The same real-life aspect of screening is people watching out for others they care, and having a deep relationship where regular problems are worked on and talked through, and particularly with someone who knows you very well and can notice when things become very bad and then be a voice you can trust so you listen to whatever is said. This along with having other tools readily available and be willing to use them are important structures to have in place – for everyone, not just entrepreneurs.
Some nice thoughts.This is a good idea:$X amount is paid towards an insurance of sorts (maybe by the funds?), and then all of the founders / core team have access to specific resources that the investors aren’t privy to knowing anything about, even if someone or anyone is using the services;(In general people aren’t privy to what health care dollars are spent on (Hipaa and all that))But I will take your point as meaning that additional funds and vigilance in healthcare and especially mental health – and I think that’s a really good idea. Co makes sure that they will cover mental health “slush fund” with no deductibles and allow employees to choose care that is part of the standard plan (out of network) to encourage usage given the stresses of early stage companies. For the key team. I think it would be way to expensive to do this company wide. (It’s not the teamsters you know…)
I disagree re: too expensive to do this company wide, at minimum it would be possible for there to be multiple levels that people could have access to. Subsidized / free yoga classes for one, is very beneficial and simple – primarily due to economies of scale; 1 instructor, 40+ people in room from beginner to advanced. There could also be a crisis or emergency pool that would fast-track people into coverage. I can see a part of this system could be courses / learning, to help be educate / teach founders and employees how to be understanding of mental health and other issues (think compassion, at least in handling a situations in a tactful way to not alienate or worsen a circumstance for someone who might be in crisis). It’s pretty common and compassion given for things like a close death in the family, etc. – though there could be other issues a person is dealing with that take longer to work through, and aren’t on the surface. I could also imagine a positive reason for this fund to be contributed to, and providing access to increased health services to people who you care if they are healthy, is that those companies will much more likely be more productive, happy, better at conflict resolution, etc.. Hopefully it doesn’t happen often, though life still does happen. I coders, engineers, and people that I like the best are those with emotional intelligence – mainly because this piece isn’t heavily developed in many people (which allows for compassion and understanding), perhaps especially many programmers/engineers who feel most comfortable/safe with logic and thinking and being dived-into programming, etc.. But this is the most important piece to being grounded, which is one side of the ying/yang that comes with balance (mental, emotional – and you can use physical balance as a part of signal/diagnosis tool for how clear/calm and how well a person is).I can see as I’m evolving to be in a CEO role that I’m really going to need to become a good counselor (not to solve people’s problems, though help them figure out how to solve them), and be very good with communication and feeling out a situation in order to be able to better manage.A not-for-profit charity I am starting this month will help implement and test a subsidized yoga system – among other things. I already have local grant foundations, and some potential private business donors too, very interested in what I am doing – so the outlook is good. I have different incentivized systems I’d like to test. It’ll end up providing pretty important data (which needs to be properly kept track of for an accurate history data set, allow for cohorts, etc), and I hope to create a clear model that can be replicated in expansion test cities, which then could be rolled-out nationally/worldwide; Pretty much mimicking the process I will be using for my business projects — and all of my business projects have a wellness-focus, so the synergy with the metrics and people who will be involved is pretty awesome.
I’m disappointed by this dialog on both sides. I’ll make an effort to improve it.
While nobody wants to read the articles about this now after his death, at the time, when he was cashed out of Reddit, the real founders of Reddit said Swartz was unstable and didn’t show up for work and frustrated them enormously. They bought out his start-up and made him a co-founder, but he didn’t work out. Then he went on to do a bunch of scattered things including the big hack of PACER to make a point and the anti_SOPA campaign — both of which merely exploited his youthful genius and energies in the cause others could sit out much, much more comfortably than he did in facing criminal charges. It’s despicable.
Maybe a play on words, tweet “A. Schwartz made a difference”
That’s irresponsible, Shana. You know full well that Ycombinator, TechCrunch Disrupt, all of these entities fuel and feed a culture of burnout where these stars are supposed to shoot up and burn out in the night sky while everyone says “awwww”. The entire culture is sick, and it is not fixable by having “therapy” for people who stay up all night working for free drinking Red Bull so that some rich guy can buy them out — or so they can fail — and “hopefully fail fast” as it is often said…
He was not really a law abiding citizen…
Neither are jaywalkers or shop lifters but we don’t indict them with federal grand juries, intimidate everyone that knows them into testifying against them, and threaten them with 50 years in prison & personal bankruptcy.
We should reserve that for Bernie Madoff and the ilk.
either was Ghandi.
Gandhi is overrated.
He had nothing to do with the film, and yes a lot of people have personal flaws, but we’ve had plenty of flawed “lawbreakers” (including the founding fathers) spark great things from their “lawbreaking”.
Which laws? A citizen of what state?”Judge not, that ye be not judged,” John.
This is a great article that covers how many people who didn’t know Aaron but still feel a close connection to him http://gizmodo.com/5975463/…
Very sad to hear.The honest truth is that programming (and probably the computer as a whole) can be *very* much like a drug for many of us. The highs are really high, but the lows are also really low…and it can be *very* difficult to pull yourself out of the lows and look towards the future in a positive way.I wish there was a way to get people suffering through those lows to take a step back and see how much time, opportunity, and happiness they truly have out in front of them…if they are just willing to push through towards it…
It can be a distraction, it could be an addiction. It could cause one to not pay attention enough to emotions building, and allow emotions left unsettled by diving into work and thinking/analysis/problem solving. It could have been overbearing shame or feeling stuck or lost for all of millions of dollars in fines and potential decades in prison that he could have faced. Maybe he didn’t feel he was or could get the support he needed.
And all of the above.
Or all of the above. Gasp. Hand on my heart. Tears.
Our general society has been fostering the attitude of “suck it up,” “man up,” “push through.”In addition, those of us who head off into these esoteric realms of development of ideas based on the insubstantial platform of software are too far away from what those a generation or two older than us can understand. We can’t unburden ourselves in the way our counterparts might have a generation or two ago.I don’t know who can nurture people in these places other than those like us, and perhaps in an outside room where the participants don’t risk ostracism by their peers.This is a tragedy that should speak to us all in many ways, regardless of Aaron Swartz’s politics.
May God be with you Aaron as you begin your Glorious Eternal Journey. Rest in Peace.
Perhaps, as a warrior soul a bit ahead of his time, he may come back in a place where he is accepted as normal, usual, routine, and he can have a comfortable life. I respect the battles he chose. He deserved to have a more peaceful exit.
He took his own life.
Let’s hope God is more forgiving than you then.
Lessig was powerful today:”That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.”
I don’t agree with Lessig who is framing this (as many others are) as a prosecutorial issue. It’s not.It’s a mental health issue.It was pretty widely reported (or repeated) that Swartz suffered from depression for quite some time. Not depression brought on by his legal predicament from what I’ve read. He could have very easily changed meds, gone off meds, been prescribed a new med which can cause people to commit suicide.If you have ever know people who have suffered from depression (I have and I’ve even attended the American Psychiatric Convention to gain insight with one person, as well as having done some investigating in this area to help another person) while it could be brought on by an event (like his prosecution) I don’t believe that’s the case with Aaron by the way his fight with depression has been described in the press. And people get prosecuted all the time and most of them do not commit suicide. Just like most people with guns don’t use them to do mass murders.Yes the government might be overzealous in prosecution or, to simplify, act like a dick in many cases. This is true from what I’ve read and observed. And I’ve had personal experience where I was fined thousands for a labor department violation for what seemed to be an arbitrary infraction. But we simply can’t have system where we are worried that that action might bring mentally ill people to do some terrible act (from time to time once again I’m not seeing evidence that this is a widespread problem.) I’ve also known people who have threatened to commit suicide if a relationship is broken. Should a person who carries through and breaks up stay in an unhealthy relationship lest they somehow feel responsible if the person does what they threaten? We now all have to walk on eggshells all the time?Here is one online comment about how people are upset at MIT the institution because of Aaron’s suicide:I very seriously considered MIT for my undergrad work, including doing the requisite alumni interview. I eventually decided the nation’s 16th ranked computer science program was good enough, especially since they wanted to pay for me. This whole time, I’ve had a piece of me that wished I’d done it (a very small piece, since 1/2 of my kids were born in that timeframe). Today is the first day when I can honestly say I’m glad I’m in no way associated with MIT.”Glad in no way associated with MIT.”So it’s MIT’s fault that Aaron committed suicide?!!!Here is what the WSJ is reporting Aaron’s family has said (blaming MIT):http://allthingsd.com/20130…Which is based on this (not verified tumblr):http://rememberaaronsw.tumb…(Note there is no way to even see if this is valid and I fail to believe that after losing a son they jump right the next day and setup a tumblr page.Sorry if this sounds insensitive. But we get nowhere in helping people with depression if we focus on the wrong things and blame the wrong people.
mental health is societal health because collective consciousness is real.they cannot be separated or conveniently categorized.
Read the books by Anna Wise. Her work in studying brainwaves suggests that all of us are connected when we are in the Theta and Delta regions.We are all connected — as the great religions remind us. Science validates this. Aaron Swartz left a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum. Expect that this will be filled by more energy than he left behind. It’s just the nature of things.
I remember an incident some years ago where a man hijacked a school bus in Florida because he had reached all he could take when the IRS was about to destroy him. The children on the bus, as I remember, were OK, but the man died. Given the facts from that time, I am certain that the man had no backup of mental health counseling, and the devastation that the IRS was about to enact on his life was real. His “suicide by cop” may have been the best option he could understand, given the very deep pockets of the US government.BTW, I know of people in Colorado whose lives are forever ruined by US government actions against what is now perfectly legal in that state.I hate to bring up the 2nd Amendment so soon, but the US government has demonstrated a predilection for “shooting first and asking questions later.” Common sense does not seem to prevail among the minions who are on the US government payroll.BTW, a recent item circulating the internet notes that every illegal alien caught represents a cost of $10,000. A cumulative cost well over $1B. The government should be pressed to do cost/benefit analyses.
you do realize we’ve been using jails as low class mental health institutions?
The fact is, a stay in a mental health facility is not pleasant. I have weathered five. Yes, FIVE. To those of you advocating screening for mental health in investment matters, please consider boning up on your understanding of mental illness, how it presents, what the potential risk is, etc. Once you have done this – which would be quite an accomplishment – weigh the perceived shortcoming against the individuals’ merits.I can appreciate this topic from several angles.
You do realize it’s because the ACLU and other law-farers make it impossible to put someone in residential treatment against their will even when they are a danger to themselves and society, right? So the jails take care of the people who are too poor to have Daddy send them to an expensive New England clinic — or Y-combinator.
So MIT has to enable anyone who wants to, to hack into their servers and take anything they want? What do you think would be reasonable?
Not at all.Something happened and MIT reported it.In my book they did the right thing (from what I’ve read).For the last two days for example I’ve been immersed in a security issue at work and spend a fair amount of time trying keep our systems secure 365.My statement”So it’s MIT’s fault that Aaron committed suicide.” should have had a question mark and “!” for that matter (I will add it now if I can). Emphasis was wrong.
” I fail to believe that after losing a son they jump right the next day and setup a tumblr page.”Please don’t forget that for them the suicide didn’t come out of nowhere any more than a death from say cancer comes from nowhere after a long struggle and decline. The family had to have been deeply involved in the process from the moment he was caught and charged and through all the negotiations. They had plenty of time to develop their feelings about how the case was being handled by the prosecution and doubtless more insight into many of the facts than us.
That person was drawn to the edge and over by Lessig, who mentored him since he was 14.
You think Lessig took him over the edge? Really?
Wow. What a hero he was.So sad that so many great people’s work comes to life after their death.
We shouldn’t have to step over that edge to have our hearfelt beliefs at least addressed in a civilized manner. I hate the heavy-handedness of the USG.
A hero? Seriously? He took his own life.
A hero for the work he did on advancing the Internet causes that matter to its future. Everybody that knew him and wrote about him in the past 24 hrs has hailed him that way.
It breaks my heart that you have such a simple view on life. I am thankful that you have apparently never traveled through the dark valleys of life that one can also face amidst their mountain tops of success and joy. I pray that you never face the darkness of depression and dispair. But, if you do, I hope the memory of this comment gives you the strength to fight through and overcome.
William’s clarification on the hero comment is clear: on a business perspective, he accomplished much. On a personal level, apparently he lacked maturity to value his gift from God.Thomas, you do not know me, why do you judge? I speak from experience, brother. I live IN that battle each day, as do many others.If you see someone who takes their own life as a hero Thomas, I’m afraid your value set may be completely upside down.
If you felt judged, I am sorry, as that was not my intent. And, yes, all of my heros are complex humans with highs and lows, successes and failures.
You may see it as lacking the ‘maturity to value his gift from God’ and perhaps you take this literally, but let’s bear in mind that isn’t a universally held perspective. Putting God aside for a moment, it is possible for someone, even a remarkable, brave and heroic person, to be tragically sick.
Heroic is maybe more appropriate.
Less than an hour ago, 25 out of 30 top links on HackerNews were relating to Aaron.
Oddly enough, when I read that it was the administration at MIT who choose to persecute Swartz, I thought of you. Its totally unfair to hold alumni responsible for the actions of anonymous administrators. Its even more unfair to suggest an alumnus has any responsibility based on the very, very, very weak network connection of someone who reads your blog everyday but only comments once or twice a year. But I’m still going to do it.The reality is that the administration at MIT choose to persecute Swartz because it was convenient for them. If you believe this, MIT was close to negligent in the matter. If the administration at MIT told the US Attorney to stop the prosecution, it would have been stopped.What are your next steps Fred? Will you continue to make donations to MIT? Or will you refuse to donate as long the administrators who chose to persecute Swartz continue at MIT?
first thing i thought about yesterday when i heard the news. i’m thinking about it. don’t want to do anything rash. but it is on my mind.
Lawrence Lessig wrote a tumblr post worth reading — (particularly given some comments below about law abiding and all) poses some important questions: http://lessig.tumblr.com/po…
yeah, i read it yesterday. thanks.
the suicide is a human tragedy, horrible. but i hope this doesnt create a martyr — i do not want to explain to my children that killing oneself is a solution to having problems, let alone a solution that is celebrated, no matter how tough or massive or seeming insurmountable such problems may be. true and effective change can only happen when people persevere, not when they abandon hope?
They’ve appointed Hal Abelson to run an internal inquiry. I have little doubt it will be an interesting read.
Yes, Fred, it would be indeed rash to deprive MIT, a prestigious and liberal institutions in the computer science and Internet field, of your contributions as an alumni. In fact, an investigation has been opened but they’ve put Hal Aberson, a very biased individual in from Creative Commons and IEEE to run it — it should be way, way more impartial than it is to be credible.I’m sure you’d be happy with Aberson so at the very least you could wait until he completes his investigation.Keep in mind that you are reading an enormous amount of shrieking and biased tech blogging on this about “50 years” imprisonment when in fact the plea bargain before he committed suicide was…six months.So — crunch time, Fred. Either you are for coercive hacking and making grandiose destructive hacks to “liberate content” at the expense of the *free and liberal choice of institutions* to have walled gardens and pay walls if they chose — or you’re for institutions to find a means of sustaining themselves as they chose and deterring hacking under the rule of law. They can’t just depend on alumni contributions…
(Thanks for your replies to my other comments – especially pointing out what you said in rebuttal to Alex.)With regard to this:”Yes, Fred, it would be indeed rash to deprive MIT”Fred may very well think this but when you are Fred your hands are tied with respect to what you can publicly say lest people a) take things out of context or b) decide to hate you because they are to polarized about the issue and think you are wrong and don’t have a right to not agree with them.It’s like hearing the report of a rape and simply asking “how do we know that …” immediately everyone thinks by asking a question or wanting further info you are condoning the act.
i am for the formerprobably not for the latterfuck them.
Regarding your link (to “the truth” article by the expert witness).Writing a compelling piece (even by a luminary such as Lessig) and “the truth” are two different things. If the truth were so easy to figure out, trials wouldn’t last the length of time that they do and could be settled in an afternoon. The ability to write well (and having credentials and advanced degrees) is a way to get people to agree with your point who aren’t interested in taking the time to vet anything said. A shortcut. We all do it of course. I wish I had money for every time in business and life someone of authority told me something that I was able to prove with some time and energy wasn’t correct. Note the emphasis in the last sentence.While I can’t comment on the accuracy of the information presented that Alex used to make his point “the truth”, this did stand out:”I know a criminal hack when I see it, and Aaron’s downloading of journal articles from an unlocked closet is not an offense worth 35 years in jail.”By using something like that he is simply trying to get people worked up and angry over something that would never have happened. Not only would he not have gotten 35 years in jail (had he gone to trial) but it is well known that prosecutors “throw the book at someone” as a technique to force a settlement. Any good attorney would have taken this into consideration when advising Aaron although from a PR point of view it certainly makes sense to play this angle. Not taking away from the tragedy of what happened, but I really don’t like people taking aim at the usual suspects (including MIT) for what happened.
Right. So the government is throwing the book at Bradley Manning because it’s trying to force a settlement with him too? I think it’s clear that he and Aaron Swartz were pursued so aggressively, and with such harshness, for the same reason — because the government and corporations are desperately trying to control the information that’s made available over the internet and they dared to challenge them.
So let me understand what you are saying here. You are saying that Bradley Manning, who is accused of doing this:”Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and other reports to the pro-transparency website.”…is being prosecuted because “because the government and corporations are desperately trying to control the information that’s made available over the internet”?And where to you get off comparing anyway what Swartz did with what Manning did for that matter?
I drew no comparison between what they’re accused of having done, only the way they were charged and subsequently treated by the government. And in neither case do I believe that the government was trying to force a settlement, which was your point about the charges against Swartz. Rather, I think they are/were trying to make examples of both of them so as to intimidate anyone who would consider doing anything like they did in the future.
I rebutted every single statement in Alex’s expert testimony simply by pointing out the obvious — like about that “keepgrabbing.py” That wasn’t exactly a peace symbol.http://3dblogger.typepad.co…
I’m failing to see why MIT can’t *prosecute* (not “persecute”) a hacker who uses deceit, fraud and coercion to break into their system, disable it and cause damages, and steal 4 million files. It doesn’t matter how open their system was as Stamos’ idiotically claims as “defense” — it seems “open” means you get especially to be chosen for big grandiose hacking stunts, that’s all. The Lenin Library mightn’t have been as easy…The plea bargain was *six months*. That’s really good for these serious charges and illustrate that JSTOR’s dropping of the charges and MIT’s testimony that might have exonerated some of the more serious charges were in fact all part of *due process* instead of “revolutionary justice” working normally.The worst thing about Lessig’s proteges is that they want to do direct action, call it ‘civil disobedience’ which it isn’t exactly, then argue endlessly with everybody that they shouldnt’ be punished at all because…magic unicorns.
I didn’t know him, but this hit me hard today in a lot of ways. What a loss.
Charlie, I just re-read Brad’s post on depression — which led again to your and Jerry’s comments which deeply touched me then and had the same impact just now in reading them again.A number of people who are close to me suffer from depression — most are creative,some are geniuses. It’s a lonely road no matter how many people surround you. Yet, people surrounding can make a huge difference.I wonder if @ShanaC:disqus is right about the need for more support — particularly emotional and therapeutic — directed toward entrepreneurial communities.What do you think?
Game face? Sometimes the best support comes from those who don’t know that you’re struggling. It’s part of our culture. Would people have treated Fred and Joanne as well if they knew they were “homeless”?Entrepreneurial means “survivor mentality.” I’ve always hated it when people looked at me in an extreme situation of disrepair and almost smugly stated, “You’re a survivor. You’ll be fine.””Investors” want to think that you’ll be fine. They don’t really want to contribute if they think that you’re really, really in a tough place, even though a little push in the right direction could make all the difference. If you ask for help in the sort of situation you suggest, you might as well be branded as “untouchable” in our current society.I hate this. I was part of a group working on a non-profit to help those who had been victimized by con-men. Seriously. Easily diagnosable psychopaths. Validated by professionals on the working committee. After two years of hard, unpaid work, I was disqualified because of my financial circumstances, although I was a poster-child for exactly the victim a certain type of con man would leave behind.Unfortunately in our society, admitting vulnerability is tantamount to stepping out of the realm of support, validation, and credibility.
It’s one of the reasons I started Startup Lancaster (and soon Lehigh Valley): founders go through a lot of things they don’t feel safe talking about (and aren’t, usually) with their friends, spouses, investors, board members, team, etc. Fight Club rules–whatever happens at the meetings stays in the meetings. It’s hopefully a safe place where people mostly feel it’s ok to be vulnerable, but it’s also not therapy, it’s just a support group. I don’t know about Aaron, so I’m not going to suggest that anything would have changed his path at all, but chronic depression mixed with situational issues, like money, external expectations, and real or perceived pressures and threats don’t improve things.My comment above is because I’ve been to 3 funerals in the past month, two of which were very close to home, so I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality and the limited time we have and what to do with mine, which I’m grateful to have.
I hope his enduring legacy will be open access to academic papers — by and large you folks are paying for the research.
I’m always startled when I’m doing some research on an academic topic, get pointed to a paper, and run into a website that demands a $60 or more fee just to read the sentences following the three-sentence teaser.You are right. The academic institutions are subsidised by student loans for tuition, write-offs, and god-knows-whatall, and those of us who are “one-ofs” who don’t have the bully-power of masses are denied access to information that effectively we have already paid for.Perhaps there’s an academic research paper on tendencies toward suicide among incredibly talented and intelligent creative people who take on societal “dragons” and are faced with immediate threat of effective lifetime imprisonment for following their beliefs. But, I wouldn’t know. I couldn’t get there. I don’t have the money to subscribe to every educational institution that has those sorts of papers.
Much research is directly funded by a grant of tax payer money.Also, word.
No lie. And the stipulations that go with that grant are that the results belong to the public. Very clear in the documentation. Thank you for pointing out this issue. A lot of people are overlooking it when they think that MIT “owns” something. Or any other US academic institution, for that matter.Tragedy. If only he hadn’t felt he faced this alone.
same. especially science papers.
ipr and copyright are protection rackets. they ignore the unity of life.the usa government is a corporatocracy. it also ignores the unity of life.may this death hasten our evolution as a culture.
Artists used to be supported by the government — patrons of the art. Copyright is a poor substitute for a mechanism of providing sustenance for those who push the boundaries and help create a future. But it’s the only protection an artist/writer has right now.We need a better system, one that respects those who are ahead of the curve, seemingly antithetical to the mainstream, but who are creating solutions to our future problems.
He was a warrior for a cause that deserves consideration. The US recruits the young ones as soldiers because they are still fearless. Aaron Swartz had the intelligence and outside-the-box creativity to take on a war with a system that was far too big for him to handle alone. He remained courageously fearless until faced with what looked like the end of his life — and in his own expression of courage, I’m guessing — he took control in the only way he knew.A tragedy on so many levels. He drew attention to issues that should be addressed. I hope his concerns continue in the public awareness.Thank you for bringing him forward so he can be noted and remembered. May we continue to respect the integrity of his concerns so he can rest in peace.
Thanks for sharing this Fred. A stunning and very sad loss.
This is the official statement from his family & partnerhttp://rememberaaronsw.tumb…
I have been away. I have been studying Twitter.To a large extent, the future of our global society rides on Aaron’s work and it’s extension to education. Let’s rally.
I can say that I not only grieve for the loss but I can empathize…Entrepreneurs are fighters by nature; we always look for fights that we can win. We love to romanticize about “the good fight” but the reality is that sometimes we fight battles that we can only lose.That is an alien concept to most of us.Entrepreneurs are fiercely independent idealists and loners for the most part.I have been involved in two lawsuits involving business partners and I was ready for a 5 to 7 year battle. I was not prepared for the dirty tactics; you cannot prepare for something you cannot comprehend.So after two years of battling a “local office” IRS audit, finding my suppliers had relationships with the other parties in the lawsuit, and having key employees leaving because they were being dragged into the drama I threw in the towel.Sadly, “throwing in the towel” means bankruptcy. But now the IRS and my suppliers can all get their money from the other parties in the lawsuit. You have picked my bones clean and its time for you all to move on….The price for fighting the good fight? Well, you lose your home, your livelihood, your reputation, and your sanity (temporarily at least!).Do you think of suicide? Sure you do!But then again, I would look at all my options and realize that I couldn’t pull off any of them successfully. Besides, my life is all I got left.Over 20 years I have watched as my two business partners destroyed other businesses and the people that owned them; in some people’s minds business success is viewed as a scorched earth mentality; where rules and laws are for the weak.Be aware that entrepreneurship attracts some really unsavory characters; entrepreneurship does not always make us special, or superior. It can also make us very evil people.Remember that the power to do so much good, to change the world, is also a call for responsibility to ensure that we do not do evil.We are capable of both.Personally, I am done with business, job and wealth creation. I am walking away from it all, with my sanity intact, my dignity intact, and my spirit on the rebound. Eventually, I will also have a few million dollars, once my one partner dies, and he is 76 years old.I think its time for a career change; so I have decided to move into the not for profit world, to find a cause I believe in and go to work for them.For the first time in my life I will be an employee; a damn good one too! Its all about priorities and not being consumed by your own priorities.All I can say is that everyone of us needs to step back and evaluate ourselves, our goals, and our motivations from time to time.A quote from John Donne is something all of us need to think about:”No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by theSea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mansdeath diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
Best of luck, Carl.
Thanks for posting Fred. The pathway towards defeat of SOPA was incredible, requiring energies of many. We should make this a main part of Aaron’s legacy. Unfortuantely, the rush to find the one thing to blame his suicide on will blur that accomplishment. We must carry on the fight.
Fred quite often mentions in passing that one measure of whether you are doing something right in the world of entrepreneurial disruption is the commencement of legal challenge to your behavior from a party, usually an incumbent. I agree. However, one needs to have a very well developed sense of risk evaluation when moving in on an incumbent’s territory. Information is power, and people defend their information power bases jealously.It’s a super sad story.
was he on meds? suicide is now the leading cause of death by injury in the US.
Thanks for the post. It is disappointing that I only heard of this genius in death
very misguided soul. swartz didn’t seem to understand the difference between cyberspace and real life.
I think this is a sad misunderstanding of him and his work. It was precisely the intersection of cyberspace and real life that inspired him and he made major contributions to the real world in consequence.
you might want to read this:https://public.resource.org…
people defend their information power bases jealously. 2SK170
I blame Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and John Perry Barlow for contributing to his death — they cunningly purveyed the copyleftist ideology and incited this young genius to do the actual hacking they were too timid to do in their credentialed and prestigious positions. I find it reprehensible in the extreme.Far from the “50 years” that the tech press irresponsibly bruited about, Swartz had an offer of a plea bargain of only six months if he pleaded guilty to crimes that he had in fact undertaken as “civil disobedience” to engage in a “propaganda of the deed” — a massive hack designed deliberately and demonstratively to destroy the capacity of universities to have walled gardens and paid content.You need to question your own role in financing the revolution that keeps eating its children, Fred, as we have discussed before.http://3dblogger.typepad.co…http://3dblogger.typepad.co…http://3dblogger.typepad.co…http://3dblogger.typepad.co…
Imho this is major overreach. By all accounts Aaron was an extremely intelligent prodigiously well informed young man with mature views of his own about the intersection of technology and society. I don’t believe he was anyone’s puppet. He made his own choices.