Global 'hackathon' set as tribute to Swartz
Jan 19, 2013 (Boston Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Computer brainiacs will gather in workshops from Boston to Bangalore for a "memorial hackathon" dedicated to spreading the legacy of Aaron Swartz, the cyber whiz and Web activist who championed online open access to information before taking his own life.
"Aaron cared a lot about making the world a better place," said Yan Zhu, an MIT grad and Stanford University physicist spearheading the cyber tribute. "He cared about people around the world all having education and information being readily available to everyone on the Internet."
Swartz, 26, co-founder of Reddit, was found hanged in his Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment Jan. 11. He faced prison after federal prosecutors in Boston charged him with illegally downloading millions of academic journal articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology fee-charging database.
Zhu, 21, of San Francisco said so far 500 people have signed up to take part in the memorial hackathons -- to be held starting Jan. 25 at hacker labs, college classrooms and other spots -- in 15 cities, including Chicago, New York, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Paris. The event in India is already underway.
"We don't intend to do anything illegal or that would harm anyone," Zhu said, noting projects code-writers and computer savants will work on include trying to archive Twitter, contributing to Wikipedia and exploring ways to make scholarly data publicly available for scientists.
Most hackathoners, Zhu said, agree with Swartz that "journal articles locked behind a paywall are a major impediment to scientific progress."
Matt Stoller, 31, a friend of Swartz's, said the cyber activist would be honored by the tribute: "Aaron spanned the world of technology, politics and activism in a way very few people have ... He touched a lot of lives."
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