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Links I found interesting for 13-01-2013


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Jan. 13th, 2013 10:13 am (UTC)
I've exchanged emails a few times with Aaron.

Back in 2001, I was just starting a postdoc on a project working with Semantic Web technologies, and so had taken to hanging around on various IRC channels and W3C mailing lists. Some of the people there were UK folk who I knew through the UK electronic library community, many from the Bristol area. Then there were the W3C staffers and the internet old-timers - people whose names I knew because they'd written some of the many technical specifications that define how the Web works.

And then there was Aaron, who seemed to be everywhere, but who seemed to have come from nowhere. He was most definitely of a scruffy persuasion, and was very pragmatic; at a time when the 'serious' Semantic Web folk were building large ontologies in expressive logics, he was putting together small ontologies that did a single thing well (RSS1.0, for example), or working out how to write machine-understandable versions of things like Creative Commons licenses.

I never met the guy, though. I can remember asking one of the Bristolians (Libby Miller, I think) if she knew much about him, and she gave me this slightly awed look and said "you know, he's only fourteen".

I heard of his death yesterday morning, through an ex-MIT postdoc who I work with. By yesterday evening, the tributes to him were rolling in from the great and the good of the Web and open data communities (TimBL along with countless other W3C folk, Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, danah boyd of Microsoft, Tim O'Reilly, Brian Fitzpatrick of Google, Larry Lessig), but also from people that I hadn't realised knew of him: Ben Goldacre, Laurie Penny, the Neilsen-Haydens to name but three.

This morning, I woke up to find that he was on the front page of the BBC, the Guardian and the New York Times, and he was the third or fourth item on the 8am Radio 4 news bulletin.

The Web community is poorer for his loss.
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