I personally didn't meet Aaron Swartz.
Of course I didn't, I haven't even heard of him before his much
publicized death\suicide. Well not really, I have came across his
simple but powerful web
server. However, almost many people over the internet have came into
contact with one of his other more popular contribution to our
internet experience: the RSS protocol which he co-authored. Well,
many non geeks will not know or appreciate what RSS is, but at least
every single firefox user who has installs the browser for the first
time would have the BBC live news update feed (Feed Location
; If you know how can I make it so that you can be able to drag it to your address bar comment me).
Also many websites have live news feed use it, Google Reader and Blog Aggregators like the ones this blog was subscribed to (http://www.manalaa.net
). These use the RSS protocol. Actually he was only 13
years old when he participated in that. He was a prodigy who haven't
got to eat fava beans and have his IQ diminish as we say about smart
kids in Egypt.
But this is not only his contribution.
He also was an open access advocate for research. Personally, my
biggest disappointment of 2012 (aside than the failure and setback to
reform in Post Mubarak Egypt) was the fact that I learnt during a
graduate seminar course that publishing academic peer reviewed papers
cost money; not just any amount of money, but that can reach a hefty
price of $5000 USD!!!! Already academic institutions pay a lot for
accessing academic indexing and database services, individuals pay
also for accessing single articles. Elsevier's Biochimica et
Biophysica Acta, costs $20,930 USD as per this article in the Guardian
. For example accessing a single article
served by Springer costs $40. The American University in Cairo for
example doesn't have access to groups like Elsevier
and Nature Publishing Group. (Well technically I can order a paper
using the document delivery system, the Illiad, but have to endure a
2-4 days wait at AUC). Publishing groups makes billions in dollars of
profits out of our efforts, people working in academia and research.
According to the previous link
, Elseviers profit were more than 1
Billion USD in 2010!!! That's the real motive behind writing this blog post
before the death of Aaron by a month.
Well, this raises many ethical
questions. Without science and research, there will be no
civilization. Research requires a lot of funding (ask the tech guys
or those working in pharmaceuticals). A decent end product, may it be
a medication or a breakthrough image detection alternative reality
gadget, has years of hard work of research (and investments) behind
them. Shouldn't this knowledge, if it is life saving, be provided for
free (the knowledge)? But what about the efforts of people behind it?
Well what about those who want to take it a step ahead and improve
the research by making their own? Those who want to share their
results? Of course maintenance and running costs of servers that host
these are high. Also part of the costs before the last decades went
to the actual hard copy printing and ink. Although I had a
professional stint of my career in research but I didn't get into
much details regarding the grants and funding, but it seems
publishing costs eats a lot of funding grants. I
will check with some research professors and update that later on.
I do not necessarily accept the actions
of late Aaron (may he RIP). Actually I have access to JSTOR account
through my AUC library account. I would help friends by getting
articles from it when in need. I personally ask my friends doing
their graduate studies abroad to fetch me some articles for research.
However, the means through which the justice system in the USA
reacted towards him is questionable. May be he is hunted down for his
activities against SOPA. Usually such brave moves that societies may disregard of bring true and real change. I am not sure if this can be said to be an ugly side of capitalism buts its definitely an abuse of authority, and power, and corruption.
As with the faltering revolutionary
trend going on in Egypt since the Jan 25 uprising, usually deaths
related in confrontations with the government or conspiracies are
labelled martyrs. Hence, I declare Aaron Swartz as a martyr. I am not
that of an activist to call for a sit-in at the US Embassy in protest
of the actions of the District Attorneys. Anyways, its not safe due
to ongoing clashes in Qasr Ainy street. So the least I can do is to
share this petition to remove Carmen Ortiz from office.
It had already passed the necessary threshold but a bigger number would cause a bigger impact.
Only American citizens would be able to sign it though.
Some people have wrote this little
script bookmarklet: the JSTOR Liberator
to download articles from JSTOR. Well JSTOR hasn't
pressed charges as previously stated! I think more effort and
supporting and promoting open access journals should be made,
actually from the writer and then from those who seek to cite
sources. Impact factors (which is a not that fair systems of grading
how credible journals are) would increase. May be also expressing
solidarity and participating in Hactivists attempts in DDoSing and
defacing websites related. Well I don't think I will ever be admitted
or be accepted to MIT, so I fear nothing.
Read More Here
Know more About Aaron and his Cause
Support Open Access Journals like PLOS