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Aaron Swartz Documentary – The Internet's Own Boy (kickstarter.com)
244 points by corny on Apr 24, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

I find the blurb on this Kickstarter very off putting. It describes Swartz as both an "Internet pioneer" and "programming pioneer". Both seem exaggerated.

Also, I find the whole 'first name terms' thing where the director calls him "Aaron" all the time annoying. I saw the same thing when I was involved with Alan Turing-related events where people would refer to him as "Alan". They did not know him (in either case).

Note to future people: when I'm dead don't refer to me as "John" as if I was your friend or property.

If after my death you care enough about my passing to discuss me you can totally call me Andrew even if you think i was a jerk.

> when I'm dead don't refer to me as "John" as if I was your friend or property

What do you want people to call you -- "Mr. Graham-Cumming"? I wonder if that preference is based on your age or based on British culture (or maybe a little of both?). I think it's common to refer to virtually everyone in our society by their first name -- Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, etc. You never hear them referred to as anything except their first names. Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point...

I guess if someone were writing a hagiography of me I'd prefer that they use "Graham-Cumming", e.g. "Graham-Cumming was best known for knowing too much about GNU make and..."

Could be age or culture related; could also be that it's almost midnight and I'm patching another fucking WordPress vulnerability.

I think referring to people by their last name w/o a title like you describe is the "proper/formal" way to do things. It's certainly how I see people referred to in traditional/conservative forms of publishing (for instance, non fiction business books unless the author really knew them on a personal basis)

I think it's the difference between eulogy and obituary; one is designed to arouse emotion, the other to inform.

The question is: does the first vs. last name convention tie to the speaker (typically eulogy will be written by one who knew them, obituary likely not) or to the listeners. I'd suggest the latter, the same way a priest who didn't know the dead person would give the eulogy as if he knew them, because he is talking to their friends and family.

If 30 years after your death I were to write about your work then I would probably use full name or last name, whereas if someone asked "was he friendly on HN" then forename might be more appropriate?

I agree that using someone's first name can be overly personal and insincere. OTOH last name comes across as formal and stuffy.

How about using their internet handle?

That depends on whether it's a personal handle or a public alias. eg an IRC nick on a private channel would be no different to their first name or a real life nickname amongst their friends. However a public handle like dmr (in the case of Dennis Richie) is -in my opinion at least- little different to how recording artists and actors often choose a pseudonym (eg David Robert Jones uses the stage name David Bowie)

Jobs, Gates and so on are all referred by their surname in formal writing. Take this example from an American new site: "Mr. Jobs will become chairman, a position that did not exist before. Apple named Tim Cook, its chief operating officer, to succeed Mr. Jobs as chief executive."[1]

Some of the less formal publications, such as Wikipedia[2], might drop the title (and as I had also done above), but it's generally considered improper to use first names in reporting.

[1] http://www-nc.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/technology/jobs-steppin...;

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Swartz

You can write notes to future people for after you're dead but trying to control the world beyond your grave is futile at best and megalomaniac at worst so the best course of action is probably to simply let it be.

Easy to get your revenge on me once I'm gone by writing "John would have liked us to call him Graham-Cumming" :-)

Hehe. Hi John ;) I don't intend to take revenge on you and in case I go first feel free to call me anything you want. I don't think I'm at risk of people making movies or writing books about me either :)

The Internet will always be part of mankind's future in one form or another. Given its infancy, in this sense, everyone online today is an Internet pioneer.

I'd challenge the notion that referring to someone by their first name is implying that > I was your friend or property.

I mean, after a certain level of understanding is set forth wouldn't first and last name become a little redundant and annoying? I imagine they say "Aaron" quite a bit. Saying "Aaron Swartz" 112 times just seems a little asinine.

> It describes Swartz as both an "Internet pioneer" and "programming pioneer". Both seem exaggerated.

Based on what? What exactly did he pioneer? I know that he stole all that stuff from his school and called it justice. What else did he do?

Losing all that stuff must've been a great blow to his school.


Troll much dude?

My armchair criticism is that a good documentary is both embracing of AND skeptical of its subject. Can this project, given its angle and backing, possibly resist canonization?

I think the "avoiding canonization" ship has long since sailed.

Slate and the New Yorker both did a great job avoiding canonization in their Aaron Swartz profiles. But those two publications have been the exception.

I think there is still plenty of space to explore criisisms and weaknesses in character in a full length film but in a short promo like this you need to sell the story and answer 'why should I care enough to fund this'.

Maybe we should just create an official internet register of Saints.

And no, Saint Ignucius is not allowed on it.

All I needed to hear was: "My last feature documentary was We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists." It was an outstanding documentary that managed to accurately describe anonymous --a feat in and of itself given how many entities in the news seemed incapable of doing so-- and didn't shy away from calling out its negative antics and highlighting the negative aspects of decentralized action, in addition to mentioning the positive effects.

Given Knappenberger's proven track record thus far, I have every reason to believe this would be an outstanding documentary if funded.

> we have decided in the spirit of open access to release the film digitally through a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

I do not believe that Aaron would have agreed with the use of this non-freeculture license.

Is even CC now unacceptable among the free culture fundamentalists?

The only argument is about some of the "non-free" variants: NonCommercial and NonDerivatives. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/35773

I'm quite confident that he wouldn't have.

Explain? Is this some offshoot from the original Creative Commons licenses that Aaron co-invented?

See http://freedomdefined.org/Definition and https://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/8051.

(This parallels the distinction between free software, on the one hand, and freeware and shareware, on the other hand.)

I don't recall Aaron's views about this issue, so I'm not asserting that he would have been upset about this. It should probably be possible to find documentation of his opinions.

A licence like that, applied to software, would not count as Open Source, nor as Free Software. Hence it is not Free in spirit.

On the other hand, even if you remove the NonCommercial provision it is still not equivalent to Open Source or Free Software, as the actual source is not being distributed, merely the end result.

Sure, it's easier to mashup video than compiled executables or libraries, but even CC is not quite equivalent to a software license.

Well, it says in the campaign text:


(caps in original)

Excellent point. A truly open source movie (like the Blender Foundation flims) would release all the unedited source materials for other people to use themselves. Creative Commons is just the first (minimum) step towards an open project.

Is not a little too much? This young person was unfortunately very ill with depression and that was the primary reason of his death. There are currently dozens of persons unfairly facing prison and they do not kill themselves and they face his destiny even if that means years of prison. I think it's better to honor those persons, they stay alive and fight. Idolizing a suicide victim is wrong. Suicide is a mistake, is a disease.

I don't think Aaron was a "hero," but if you can't do a biography of someone without first doing a biography of everyone else who is plausibly "more deserving" than you'll never end up with anything.

I don't think he's being idolized because he committed suicide. He's idolized because of who he was and what he accomplished. He still deserves recognition even though he committed suicide and his recognition isn't based on his suicide.

Looking at the general reaction around HN to Swartz before and after his death, I find it very hard to ascribe his recent idolization to anything but his suicide.

He was certainly deserving of praise, but his post-suicide lionization (and subsequent Carmen Ortiz bashing) does send some icky messages regarding suicide and its effect on one's legacy.

I'm inclined to agree with this view. Regardless of how he died, I think there would have been a bit of idolization, but I have trouble imagining someone making this documentary had he died in a car accident.

I can see where you're coming from. Suicide, and death in general, in someone's youth when they've been very productive and successful seems to immortalize them forever in that moment. Some people romanticize that, but it's illusory. Anyway, just saying I can see your point. I'm hoping most people can look past that and see who he was instead of just the tragic part of it.

People can rally behind a 'martyr' though

"...depression and that was the primary reason of his death. " His legal battle had bankrupted his entire family, over a matter that could have been handled as a trespassing charge by the local police and a clerk magistrate.

I also don't see any nobility in persisting in becoming a willing victim of what he was up against.

It prompts one to ask: What have you done to prevent such abuse from recurring?

Do his parents / Taren support this? The title could easily cause some (likely unintended) grief. The internet wasn't too kind to Aaron when he turned there for help when he was down, why he'd be its 'own boy' now is a bit weird.

I personally would find a documentary about weev/Auernheimer much more interesting. I'd throw some decent money at that, just because listening to his mixture of genius and craziness is utterly entertaining.

I'm guessing you're probably referring to this, which is, as of now, $8k from its goal: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2120630809/the-hedgehog-...

Thanks for pointing that out! Didn't really know about that. Going to pitch in. Would love to see it more focusing on trolling and the culture of lulz. But if it has to be on the serious side, that's good enough for me to support them.

God, I would love to see a weev/trolling/etc. documentary of the Lolercaust. You could probably cover Anonymous, Sabu, etc. at the same time.

This would be great. I would back that. I did suggested to Weev that he should write a book with his time in prison when he is not fighting his appeal. #freeweev

Agreed. It could also take a deep look at how ridiculous the extent of his sentencing was in a legal and technical context.

There is also a Kickstarter for a documentary in progress entitled The Hedgehog & The Hare, about Aaron, Weev, and the CFAA that they were both charged under. I was interviewed for it on Friday. The guys making it are really cool and talented, it's shot really well, and they're only looking to raise $15k (vs the $75k the OP is seeking).


This doesn't say much about what they've actually done so far. They say it's "currently in production", but don't specify what that means. Have they interviewed anyone? Who? Who's agreed to be interviewed? It's going to be a very different documentary if they interview Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman and Carmen Ortiz.

If it's still in production it might be that even they don't know it all yet. I have a lot of experience with that kind of work (conducted over 200 interviews for documentaries last year alone). More often than not you make a story in research phase only to find out that's really not the case once you start interviewing. Then you find yourself a real story, but you have to start from somewhere. Synopsis in documentaries is more of a Wishopsys, real script comes through interviews. One reason to conduct real, thorough, questions during interviews and not during research is so that you get genuine response. Making a documentary is a like a game of table tennis. You go back and forth numerous times during production and post.

The trailer that they have there seems to show that they've interviewed quite a few people. But yes, they did not mention who they will interview as a result of the funding and what the funding will allow them to do. They should definitely touch on that.

It would be good if they can get both sides and views in the same documentary.

It would be good if they can get both sides and views in the same documentary.

Not necessarily. It depends on what the story in documentary is about. Absolutely nothing wrong with one POV in documentaries. Real devil is editing and narration which isn't structural in its function. By structural narration I mean narration written only to shorten some prologues to sequences in the story structure itself. With narration and editing you can distort your story in any way possible. I found out, through experience, that with sensitive subjects it's best to avoid narration altogether and tell story only through editing. Careful editing, where you weave story only through what you've been told by carefully selected interviewees.

I very much wish I would've had the chance to be more involved with and affected by Aaron and his life. As the events have unfolded, I've felt like a bystander in a kingdom who lost a prince I never knew. I didn't know Aaron personally, only being connected by occasionally reading his blog posts and using software he affected.

The Kickstarter video for this campaign has given me a depth of knowledge, understanding, and connection when it comes to Aaron and his affect on the world and technology. I haven't come across a source, yet, that was able to illustrate his importance, humanity, and influence. Unfortunately, I don't see an external source for the video.

I would invite anyone wishing to know a bit more about Aaron, and the whole debacle, to watch the video.

This morning it was http://www.atotaldisruption.com, now it's this. Such amazing projects. So easy to spend lots of money....

I have high hopes from the project and I will most likely back it, but I found the last document by the director: "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists" some what lacking.

I guess it was more about trying to bring the story to your average Joe rather than dive in super deep, I get that they have to cover the basics for larger audience.

I'm in. I'd like to see a documentary about Aaron Swartz.

Internet pionner? Common! This has gone to far, a movie just for that kid? No way! At most he is an entrepreneur with great ideas that had a lame death.

Kickstarter is staring to suck. I used to donate just like that. No. account etc.. Button click donate. Now I'm forced to create an account. Forced to use Amazon. I have a Paypall account. Not possible anymore. It sucks. I wanted to donate 50 dollar. I still might because I find it important to support all those people that care. There is NO need for Kickstarter at all to create barriers.

Isn't he playing a lot with the music in his documentary to make the watchers feel like what they're watching is bigger than what it seems? I really like the audio but I feel it's a little too much play on the emotion. It's no different than any other TV Show, Movie, Documentary,etc., yet it just seems more obvious in this case.

Made me ill to see Carmen Ortiz being made a prosecutor for Boston last week and her making public statements again.

The more I read about Swartz, the more I feel awful what happened to him.

It's a shame they do not accept bitcoin..

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