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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

The wisdom of Aaron Swartz

January 12, 2013

Aaron Swartz, who tragically committed suicide yesterday, in an interview from 2007 when he was just 20 years old:

If you talk to any woman in the tech community, it won’t be long before they start telling you stories about disgusting, sexist things guys have said to them. It freaks them out; and rightly so. As a result, the only women you see in tech are those who are willing to put up with all the abuse.

There aren’t enough women in tech for a variety of reasons and the male-dominated environment is definitely one of the bigger reasons. I’ve heard stories that I wish I could forget from older, disgusting men who thought they were bragging to me. In every case I’ve almost immediately removed myself from those discussions and, as quickly as possible, stopped doing business with those men. If you were one of those men and are now reading this, now you know one of the reasons why I no longer work with you.

I pulled this quote out because as you read the interview you begin to realize your reading the words of someone who had so many interests and was very well educated on many of them. And, he cared.

Aaron was wise beyond his years. And many will laud his technical achievements like being a co-author of such specs as RSS, RDF, Creative Commons, and co-founding Reddit. I will remember how he thought. Aaron tried to keep firmly in mind the long term. He tried to set things up that would last and even put together a way to make sure they kept going. Too often we see decisions being made that purposefully have a short half-life for the benefit of the few rather than the long-term benefit of the many. In Aaron’s memory lets try to reverse that trend. Stop and think.