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The Longest Now

Aaron’s first wiki concept: TheInfo, circa 1999
Monday January 14th 2013, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is the project with which Aaron became a finalist in the ArsDigita Prize contest when he was 13:

Swartz’s contending creation was The Info Network (, an ever-growing encyclopedia-like site filled with “a vast repository of human knowledge” focused on content — real information for people to use, as he calls it.

The site works like this: Anyone can submit information about what they know in a totally open environment, which means they can add to the information freely.

“In the style of the popular GNU/Linux operating system,”Swartz added.

Users are allowed to edit another’s submission, but the program will always copy any original material so as not to permanently overwrite any copy.

Swartz’ online encyclopedia include sections on art, with subsections on rubber stamping and square dancing; a section on science, with subsections on treating burns and finding out what a palindrome is; and a chapter on life, with subsections on genealogy and religion.

It was two summers ago that Swartz starting toying with the idea of building such a site.

“I spent my days typing away at the keyboard, bringing my ideas into action,” he said.

Swartz said the kicker was when he realized (although it may have been easy for him) that it was really hard for people to post information online. “You have to set up a server, find a place to host it, learn HTML, or learn to use a Web editing program,” he said.

from the Chicago Tribune, June 23, 2000

Of all of the encyclopedia projects covered in Mako’s recent overview (there were almost a dozen in the years just before and after Wikipedia’s founding), this was closest in spirit and inspiration.

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