The Hub screened The Internet’s Own Boy as a kick off for tomorrow’s Open Day. The full movie was released under a CC-BY license and is available on YouTube. It is clear that Aaron Swartz was driven to solve problems and valued open learning from a very young age. Examples were given of him as early as age 3. Throughout his life, his impact on RSS, Reddit, the world wide web, and laws shaped the history of the Internet as we know it today. His story is both inspiring and tragic. I encourage you to watch the movie below.

Movie Trailer

Full Movie

Spoiler Alert

Before Wikipedia existed, at age 12, Aaron Swartz developed something similar. His technical abilities were far beyond his age. He had a strong personality, was always trying to solve problems and challenged the world around him. Aaron was interested in self-directed learning online and challenged the way teachers taught. He challenged the norms and questioned societal structures (from the classroom to the government) and copyright.

“I started reading…” Aaron Swartz [650×500] from r/QuotesPorn

What an amazing contribution he has had on the development of the commons, open education and the free world in general. He was committed to a set of beliefs that conflicted with corporations and rejected the world of business and the pursuit of wealth. He used his technical abilities to make the world a better place. Ironically, he was targeted as a malicious hacker and arguably unjustly prosecuted for a crime that could have been dealt with using less severe means. Still, Aaron did a lot of good during his lifetime. He founded many companies, got involved in politics and founded the progressive change committee.

You should always be questioning.

“Aaron Swartz” by Owen Carver is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Questions Raised

  • Who gets control over who gets heard on the Internet?
  • Programming is magic. If you had magical powers would you use them for good?
  • How can you bring public access to the public domain? (i.e. Pacer is an example of forcing people to pay for access to public domain documents. You need to pay to see the law. The video makes the case that Pacer is actually illegal.)
  • He questioned access to journal articles. The current system denies the public access to essential knowledge that is funded by governments. It sounds like a scam. I speak from experience – it is a system built on the volunteer labour of academics who are mostly employed by governments. The the only one getting rich is publishing corporations.
  • Is sealing, stealing? Should all forms of stealing have the same consequences?
  • What is the line between more serious offenses and less serious offenses?
  • For prosecutors, what is ethical when trying to make a case against someone?
  • Similar to yesterday’s session, there remain unanswered questions about where the line between surveillance and privacy should be.

What is the most important thing you could be working on in the world right now? ... And if you're not working on that, why aren't you? - Aaron Swartz

The lasting message for me is we should be working on what we believe in. Find something you are passionate about and make sure you are focusing your energy there. Life is short. Another key message from the movie is that we can (and clearly should) impact positive change in the world. How appropriate that this video was used as a lead-in to Open Day.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge – we’ll make it a thing of the past.
— Aaron Swartz

Aaron’s top 10 Roles for Success


“Aaron Swartz Graphic” by Kris Newby is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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