Whether you like to call him a martyr or not, his death did lead to some interesting movement in the scientific internet world. Since Aaron Swartz, co-creator of Reddit and a strong defender of open access, died last week, thousands of scientists freely published their work under the brandnew hashtag #pdftribute.
Famous programmer (he co-authored the standard for RSS at the age of 14) and internet activist Swartz was facing trial for hacking into the JSTOR database and downloading millions of research papers to publish freely online.
He didn’t wait for the conviction and ended his life Friday, 11th of January. The most important motivation for this would be his suffering from depression, as tech reporter Christina Warren describes in her blog.
While many now argue over the details of the trial and its influence on Swartz’s decision, two researchers started an actual movement. Economist Eva Vivalt and Computer scientist Jessica Richman introduced #pdftribute. It encouraged thousands of researchers to publish their pdf’s online and send out links and advice to go about copyright agreements.
It’s a movement Swartz probably would have loved. In his 26-year long life he coded various open access enabling programs and was actively opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act, writing for instance his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. Now let’s hope the tribute paid to him isn’t temporary.