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January 15, 2013

Yesterday morning when I got to my office, where I’ve been doing a temporary consulting gig, I was surprised to learn that I’d been working in the same room with Aaron Swartz for the past 3 weeks.

The company is called ThoughtWorks, and I’d learned about it through my last company, where some of the best developers had come from the “ThoughtWorks family,” and one of them was still going back to the office every week to work on a volunteer coding project which uses technology to help find missing children. And that’s not all.

The first time I formally met the ThoughtWorkers was on a retreat in lower Manhattan, when I came as an Occupier to pitch a web app to help people find a credit union. I got immediate response, and they quickly formed a team of developers and product people to help our Occupy group build the app (for unrelated reasons this project has stalled, namely we couldn’t find a long-term home for the app inside the credit union community).

So it wasn’t that surprising to learn that they’d hired Aaron 9 months ago, knowing full well what legal problems he was having, understanding and valuing his activist activities, and hiring him on with a new project aimed to promote justice.

It just made me wish I’d introduced myself to everyone last week rather than yesterday, when we were talking in sadness and anger at losing him. As I said yesterday, it speaks well of ThoughtWorks that they’d made a home for Aaron, and I am proud to be working there now, even if it’s only for a short time.

They expressed a desire to carry on in Aaron’s name, which of course different people will go about in different ways. But if you ask me, that means promoting justice and fair access to resources through scrappy technology, broadly understood. Because as I’ve learned, he was a generalist of the best kind when it came to working towards a fairer society.

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