Tag Archives: Software

Jew of the Week: Aaron Swartz

The son of a software company owner, Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) grew up immersed in computer programming. At 13, he won the ArtsDigita Prize, awarded to websites deemed most useful and educational. At just 14, he was part of the team that developed RSS, the now-ubiquitous web syndication tool. Shortly after, he worked for W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, where he authored RFC 3870, a program for web resource management that is part of the complex framework of the web that very few understand (and less appreciate). After trying Stanford University for a year, Swartz left to start the wiki-site called Infogami. It later merged with Reddit, and Swartz elevated Reddit to one of the world’s most popular social news sites, with millions of visitors every month. Reddit has also become well-known for being a platform to quickly raise awareness (and funds) for important causes around the world.

Swartz was angered by the steady destruction of online freedoms, and focused his attention on fighting back. His work made him a champion of online freedom. He helped defeat the SOPA bill, and through his online hacks and activities, became the face of the “open access” movement. However, this activity got him into hot water. After downloading articles from JSTOR to the point of crashing their servers, Swartz was arrested and put on trial. The allegations were silly, The New York Times reporting “A respected Harvard researcher who also is an Internet folk hero has been arrested in Boston on charges related to computer hacking, which are based on allegations that he downloaded articles that he was entitled to get free.” The prosecutors wanted to make Swartz an example, and pushed unjustly harsh penalties including up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines. Tragically, unable to cope with the legal onslaught, Swartz took his own life last week; found dead in his Brooklyn apartment at the young age of 26.

Words of the Week

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.
– Edward R. Murrow

Jew of the Week: Michael Bloomberg

The World’s Mayor

The 10th richest person in the U.S., Michael Rubens Bloomberg was born in Massachusetts, the grandson of immigrants from Europe and Russia. In the 1970s he worked for a Wall Street firm where he learned that information is the key to success, and people are willing to pay for it. So, when the company he worked for was bought out, he used his severance money to start a company called Market Systems, which built terminals that gave their users on-the-fly and up-to-date financial information, presented in various graphs and charts to make it simple to understand. The company started selling its terminals in 1982 and they were an instant hit. By 1990, over 8000 ‘Bloomberg’ terminals were in use around the world. Today, that number has risen to 310,000, and Bloomberg LP also includes a news channel, radio stations, magazines (such as BusinessWeek) and software. Michael Bloomberg himself left the helm of the company to become popular mayor of New York City. His mayoral salary is a symbolic $1. A mayor of the people, Bloomberg often rides the NYC subways to work. More impressively, The Chronicle of Philanthropy lists him as the leading individual donor in the U.S. for two years in a row. Bloomberg has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals, schools, environmental causes, and scientific research, as well as the arts. Many of his contributions are anonymous. He recently pledged another $500 million together with Bill Gates. Some have stated Bloomberg is the greatest contributor to higher education institutions in history, donating over $800 million to Johns Hopkins alone. All of these factors may be why Bloomberg has been elected to a third term as mayor, despite the two-term limit. And some say he will be president in the near future. If so, it would make him the first Jewish Commander-in-Chief.


Words of the Week

My brain is only a receiver. In the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength, inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know it exists.
– Nikola Tesla