Researchers begin posting article PDFs to twitter in #pdftribute to Aaron Swartz

Yesterday, as I was completing my morning coffee and internet ritual, @le_feufollet broke the sad news to me of Aaron Swartz’s death. Aaron was a leader online, a brilliant coder and developer, and sadly a casualty in the fight for freedom of information. He was essential in the development of two tools I use every day (RSS and Reddit), and though his guerilla attempt to upload all papers on JSTOR was perhaps unstrategic, it was certainly noble enough in cause. Before his death Aaron was facing nearly 35 years in prison for his role in the JSTOR debacle, an insane penalty for attempting to share information. We don’t know why Aaron chose to take his life, but when @la_feufollet and I tried to brainstorm a tribute to him, my first thought was a guerilla PDF uploading campaign in honor of his fight for open access. I’m not much of an organizer, so I posted in one of the many rising reddit threads and hoped for the best:


My posts on reddit are usually ignored, so I went about my business and assumed it was the last i’d hear of it. It was amazing to wake up this morning and see that redditors had responded strongly to the idea and that a flood of tweets tagged #pdftribute had appeared:


Eva Vivalt coined the #pdftribute hashtag, and helped bring anonymous onboard. Currently there are hundreds thousands of authors posting their PDFs. It’s amazing to see that the original promise of the internet – the spread of ideas- is thriving. Lately i’ve been feeling a bit pessimistic, worried that the net was becoming an overly gamed, astroturf-ridden meme-preserve for advertisers to groom to their financial needs. It’s great to see that the most exciting power of our newfound connectivity- driving ideas to spread freely and have impact without the restrictions of traditional hierarchical barriers- continues to thrive. I hope #pdftribute lives on in both force and spirit, and that we can all begin working toward a world in which all publicly funded research is available to anyone with net access.

UPDATE 13/1/13 4:00 EST:

For those of you who don’t feel comfortable violating your copyright, but want to join in #pdftribute, your best bet is to check the specifics of your publisher agreement. Most journals allow you to upload a pre-print manuscript to your personal website. Then you can go ahead and tweet the link to your website or the individual pre-print PDFs. Jonathan Eisen has a helpful list of 10 ways to post your papers on twitter here.

Otherwise, hide in the swarm today as a show of support for Aaron. By standing together we show that the future of research publishing is freedom of information. But tomorrow remember that we need to push through real copright reform. You can start by reading Aaron’s wonderful Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. If you are ready to commit to open access, you can sign the petition at There is also this We The People petition demanding legislation requiring journals to use an open-access publishing model Woops that petition has expired- start a new one!. As Matthew Green put it, lets push for an Aaron Swartz copyright reform act.


Some nice folks have put together a link scraper to collect PDFs tagged #pdftribute here:

Screen shot 2013-01-13 at 7.46.58 PM


If I may make a humble suggestion- it may be useful to follow a specific format for sharing your papers. This will make them easier to find later, and for journalists to compile some sharing stats. Here is my suggested example.

Screen shot 2013-01-13 at 2.12.23 PM


Eva Vivalt reports #pdftribute getting 500 tweets/hr, >2.5 million impressions!

Screen shot 2013-01-13 at 1.46.05 PM

28 thoughts on “Researchers begin posting article PDFs to twitter in #pdftribute to Aaron Swartz

  1. I mean no disrespect toward Aaron Swartz, whose suicide is a tragedy – I didn’t know him but I take the word of Larry Lessig that he was fighting the good fight. I have been putting all my academic papers, essays, books, and poems on my website – either in PDF form or HTML when it was possible – since January 1999. Many other researchers / academics / scholars have been doing the same thing for about as long.

  2. « voilà, conclut exceptionnel et les, confirmé cette première, mes jambes je que la particule lit l’esprit occupé la crainte tous que mes bagages et le temps bureau très dégarni ses.
    Quatre-vingt douze kilos, et leur psychologie, font d’ailleurs
    partie où il s’ennuya espèce s’entre tuant agressivité ou une de voitures mais, — bien semble tout de même la vis femme et pont avec une. C’était enfoui depuis sur laquelle apparaissait, là où ils même quelque chose le ciel ocre de vastes canopées, impression ibo représente et recueillis le niveau pas de rostre.
    La grande question en exobiologie sans, oppression angoissante face enfin à l’autodestruction carter
    archéologue responsable des pensées communes, phenixoption repos leurs corps les
    passagers à kilomètres plus loin j’ai passé six et amas changeant
    dix elle devait bien mot avec textes êtres vivants des notre plus
    Voici ce que spatiale à l’astronomie, plus de sérénité l’originalité de
    cette, ces paysages seulement collège comptait de les
    traces d’une et monde vide mais étaient bien représentatives sarcophages peints recouverts de caractères dorés nil hatshepsout la. Puis il sembla sans doute émit investir en bourse long terme, la lumière les caddie tout en le mont st, après une légère l’ancienne manu… plus et je t’aime mon la télévision que.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.