Tagged: Stanford University

The life and death of Aaron Swartz

Aaron SwartzAaron Swartz or now more popularly known as “The Internet’s Own Boy”, was the man behind the development of the web feed technology called RSS and the also the social news website Reddit. Aaron was also known to be an Internet Hacktivist, a computer programmer, writer and a political organizer. On the evening of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment because of charges that he faced due to computer crimes.

Aaron was born in Chicago, Illinois, the eldest son of Jewish parents Susan and Robert Swartz. After leaving high school in the 10th grade he joined a course at the Chicago are college. At the young age of 13, Swartz won an ArsDigita Prize, given to young people who create “useful, educational, and collaborative” noncommercial websites. He later went on to attend the Stanford University and while in his freshman year, started the software company, Infogami.

In the year 2005, Infogami merged with Reditt, a social news website. Initially, Reditt found it difficult to make money, but the site later gained in popularity, with millions of users visiting it each month. In 2008, Swartz founded Watchdog.net, “the good government site with teeth,” to aggregate and visualize data about politicians. Aaron was also instrumental in supporting campaigns to prevent the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

The JSTOR controversy:

While attending Harvard University as a research fellow, Aaron Swartz used JSTOR, a digital repository, to download a large number of academic journal articles through MIT’s computer network over the course of a few weeks in late 2010 and early 2011. Apparently, visitors to MIT’s “open campus” were authorized to access JSTOR through its network. On the night of January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by MIT police and a U.S. Secret Service agent.

On the evening of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment by his partner. Swartz suffered from debilitating ulcerative colitis — a bowel condition — as well as crippling depression. His depression became worse as he and his family spent millions defending against felony charges and a steep prison sentence he faced.

Brian Knappenberger’ recently released a brilliant documentary named the “The Internet’s Own Boy” on the life and death of Aaron Swartz. Swartz had been in a two-year legal battle for using MIT’s network to systematically download 4.8 million academic journal articles from JSTOR. He was facing $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison.

Going Public might kill INNOVATION

private-or-public-companyA new research suggests that IPOs can result in diminutive innovation, especially in technology firms.

In general, post-IPO companies create products and inventions that are less ambitious and valuable than do firms that remain private. Innovation may slow at public companies because IPOs trigger “brain drain” as employees’ cash in their holdings. Increased scrutiny and accountability to shareholders may also affect the kind of research and development a newly public firm chooses to pursue. After the IPO, companies become more “cautious,” less ambitious … and lose their top inventors and innovators.

The result? New public companies turned to acquisitions to bring in new technologies and get fresh talent.

According to the research, post – going public, there is a general change in business objective and customer approach. Shareholder value is kept as the prime domain of focus with minimal interest in innovation. Another alarming outcome is attrition. In technology firms where employees focus on delivering quality output, post-IPO, they generally tend to start losing interest due to the autocracy and eventually start finding opportunities with other start-ups.

On the other hand, the study also shows a flip-side to this trend: IPOs are crucial in generating innovation in the early stages of a company, before it goes public, because the promise of public-offering riches helps startups to attract capital from investors in the first place.

So, going public should be a planned approach as it might result in completely change in a firms strategy in pursuing innovation.

From BackRub to Google.com – the facts

Fact 1 – Google began in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were both PhD students at Stanford University in California.

Fact 2 – While conventional search engines ranked results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page, the two theorized about a better system that analyzed the relationships between websites.

Fact 3 – They called this new technology PageRank, where a website’s relevance was determined by the number of pages, and the importance of those pages, that linked back to the original site.

Fact 4 – Page and Brin originally nicknamed their new search engine “BackRub”, because the system checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site.

Fact 5 – Eventually, they changed the name to Google, originating from a misspelling of the word “googol” the number one followed by one hundred zeros, which was picked to signify that the search engine wants to provide large quantities of information for people.

Fact 6 – Originally, Google ran under the Stanford University website, with the domain google.stanford.edu.

Fact 7 – The domain name for Google was registered on September 15, 1997, and the company was incorporated on September 4, 1998. It was based in a garage in Menlo Park, California. Craig Silverstein, a fellow PhD student at Stanford, was hired as the first employee.

Fact 8 – In May 2011, the number of monthly unique visitors to Google surpassed 1 billion for the first time, an 8.4 percent increase from May 2010 (931 million).