March 14

People often ask me “How did you get a job with Creative Commons?” (I suspect what they really want to know is “how did a kid like you get a job with Creative Commons?”, but OK.) And I tell them that I read an early article about Creative Commons in the newspaper (I later found out that the article wasn’t supposed to be printed that soon — lucky me) and it said that they were planning on making Creative Commons licenses machine-readable. I was working on the RDF specification for the W3C at the time, which allowed things like that to be machine-readable, so I sent an email to Larry Lessig (head of Creative Commons) saying there’s this thing called RDF and you should really use it for the licenses and he wrote back ‘OK, you do that for us.’

‘Oh’, people say.

Now Larry just emails me, putting me in charge of big cool projects.

Or there was the time I got a job with the Roosevelt Institution. Someone I met the previous night at a Creative Commons party cornered me in the dining and explained to me about the Roosevelt Institution. He said they needed a website. He would do design, all I needed to do was program it. Was I interested? Sure, I might do that.

Soon afterwards, he took me to meet all the principle people at the CoHo (StanSpe (Stanford Speak) for Coffee House). In a table in a corner sat several very handsome, extroverted, articulate, friendly, stereotypical college students. They gave their little pitch, asked me a bit about myself, were generally charming, etc. When I came in I was being considered for the job, when I left it was clear I had it. And at no point in between did they ever say “Would you like the job?” or even “OK, you’ve got the job”. Things just sort of gradually, magically shifted.

A few weeks later there were large grants and venture capitalists and incredible growth and I found myself head of an entire department — Roosevelt Labs.

And then there’s today. I went to go complain to the person in charge of Psych 1 about how I thought the classes were dumbed-down and psychology was a fraud and so on. And she was very gracious in accepting the criticism and then asked me how I would do things better. And I told her a little bit about how I would use lectures primarily to tell stories and give theoretical structure, packed with details and anecdotes that fit into these larger frames. And we talked about it for a little. She mentioned how it’s hard to teach Psych 1, how she works with other big Psych 1 teachers like Stephen Pinker (who teaches it at Harvard), how there’s so much material, etc. And then she asked me if I wanted a job redoing some of the curriculum.

I guess I better read Pinker’s book now.

I just wanted to be a quiet little college student, working on my own projects, taking a break, learning, and so on, but people keep throwing these amazing jobs at me. It’s crazy. I mean, how can you say no to these things?

posted March 26, 2005 07:30 PM (Education) (1 comments) #


Stanford; Home Alone
Stanford: Private Meeting
Stanford: My So-Called Terrorist Life
Stanford: Schoolwork
Stanford: To the Hypnotist
Stanford: Stop Hiring Me
Stanford: Textbooks for Idiots
Stanford: Feats of Memory
Lessons in Capitalism #3: Sycophancy
Stanford: Spring Break
Home: Spring Break


I remember that some of your previous enteries had the tenor of “this is pablum they’re feeding me!”. Now, this view may not have changed, but the well-reasoned, adult response is, “OK, make it better!” Note: despite the fact that not all respondents will invite you to contribute to something to make it better, you still very well be able to do so in another fashion (e.g., write your own book, etc.) It’s just harder.

Go make it better. :)

posted by Rich at March 27, 2005 02:47 AM #

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Aaron Swartz (