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The Aaron I knew

I didn’t know Aaron too well in person – I don’t want to pretend we were best buddies or anything. Still, he knew my name enough to connect it to my face, and we moved in more than one of the same circles. I looked up to him.

I’ve known about Aaron for a long time. How could I not? I was there when he rewrote Reddit, over six years ago. I was a fan of Lawrence Lessig – Lessig was a fan (and mentor) of Aaron.

We first actually met through the PCCC – a new grassroots organizing outfit he co-founded with two others. I heard about the PCCC through my blogging life, but I decided I wanted to join up because Aaron was a co-founder. I was on the team when there were just 5 of us. I finally met Aaron at a retreat the PCCC held at the end of May. He didn’t say much at first (the night before when we were just hanging out). I mostly talked to his friend, Quinn Norton. She was full of interesting tales (the history of coffee! Breaking into buildings in San Francisco!) and just a really cool gal.

So exciting! I hung out with him, my friend Yale (who is a tech person similarly awed by Aaron), and Aaron’s brother Ben Swartz, who also went to Brandeis.

From time to time I would run into him at conferences. We’d exchange a few words. I asked him to be on the advisory board of my startup – he said first I had to “show him something impressive”. I never got the chance to do that.

But I think I knew Aaron best through his writing. It’s how so many of us can feel a close connection to him. His blogging wasn’t self-indulgent and vain. It was red-hot but cooly-considered thought. It was brilliant tempered with empathy and wisdom.

I bet I’ll refer to his writing for years to come.

Aaron was pretty much who I aspired to be. Tech-savvy but not bound by that culture. Progressive but not captured by the professional left. A fellow-traveler to many. A generous spirit. Always trying to figure out exactly how the world worked, then sharing what he found.

I’ll miss him so much.

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