Raw Thought

by Aaron Swartz

The Afterparty

It was Halloween, after all, so we donned costumes and headed to Harvard Square. (“What are you?” people asked me. I looked them straight in the eye, scrunched up my face to look a little angry, and said “I’m a dot-com millionaire” with utter seriousness. That was my costume.) Alexis carried a sack of candy, Steve a sack of shirts. People in all sorts of bizarre costumes waited for the train.

We grabbed dinner at Border Cafe. Alexis handed out candy and shirts to the waiters while flirting, and offered to bribe them into voting for him in the Halloween costume contest.

I ordered a meal, but couldn’t make myself eat it. The food just sort of seemed to stick in my mouth, each swallow painful.

“So what are you going to buy first?” someone asked each of us. When it came to me, I stared blankly. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted.

“Who’s going to pay for the check?” Steve asked. “Oh, wait. I just realized, for the first time, that it’s relevant.”

Afterwards, we walked down Church Street back to Harvard Square. There were a bunch of young girls loitering. Alexis struck up a conversation. “Want some candy?” “Yeah!” they all cried. He opened up the pillowcase. “Want some shirts?” “Uh, sure,” they laughed, and started fussing over colors and sizes. It was the strangest transformation, two mild-mannered guys suddenly become showmen, a horde of girls at their feet. “It’s times like these I wish I was a Vanity Fair reporter,” I tell Chris.

“What’s reddit?” the girls asked as they tried shirts on. “Oh, it used to be a website.”

“So why are you girls all just standing here?” “We’re waiting for the Rocky Horror Picture Show! You should come.” “Oh. Well, we were going to go get crunked.” “Well, you can get crunked and then come see it!”

We demurred and continued on, finding a flock of well-suited men, visiting from other countries, who fell for the same trick. “I’ll have to give this to my daughter.”

As we walked to a bar, we passed three young girls in bunny costumes who Alexis tried to pick up. The oldest-looking one wanted to hang out with us, thought it would be fun, started giggling suggestively, a glimmer into a pasttime I didn’t understand (my feeling is “men suck”, on both sides of the equation). But despite her best efforts, her two younger-looking friends shied away and wanted to just go to Rocky Horror. There was a struggle, and I saw the girls walking towards the bar and away from it several times after that.

By the time we finally reached the bar, my head was pounding and my stomach was nauseous, and I didn’t want to go in, I didn’t want to be here, I didn’t want to know these people. I went home instead and watched a show about a serial killer and found myself identifying with the lead.

When I woke up the next morning, my head was fuzzy. And while I saw the costumes strewn about the floor, the girls brought home who slept in our living room, the odd emails asking me what I’d do next, I still felt funny. For a shining moment in the morning, it felt as if this whole acquisition thing might have simply been a dream.

You should follow me on twitter here.

November 2, 2006


The surrealness of this whole thing has go to be amplified by the fact that it all came to a head on Halloween. I’m sure many successful people share your ambivalence about the “day everything changes.” It’s such an abrupt ending to the journey. It’s probably not much easier on your head than abruptly stopping a 70MPH car would be on your body.

posted by Daniel Jalkut on November 2, 2006 #

so the implication was that you didn’t complete the trifecta of being a dot com millionaire and getting laid on halloween

posted by Alaska Miller on November 2, 2006 #

Oof. A lot of craziness all at once. The cash can be a good thing; just don’t think about it too much. Good luck, brother.

posted by Kurt Christensen on November 2, 2006 #

another story to add to “a lifetime of dubious accomplishments.”

semi-guarded truthfulness is always a joy to read.

posted by Daphne on November 2, 2006 #

You’re rich. I get it. Nice brag post disguised as typical Aaron navel gazing.

posted by chaz22 on November 2, 2006 #

I hope you fucking lose every dime you have you arrogant prick.

posted by on November 2, 2006 #


Success is a mind-altering drug. Here’s hoping you weather the storm.

posted by misuba on November 2, 2006 #

Wow, this is probably one of the most self-serving posts I’ve ever read. I rarely post comments, but this one deserves a public bitchslap. Come back to reality for a moment— you guys had good timing and luck — time to stop the melodrama.

posted by Joey on November 2, 2006 #

Can someone explain to me what’s bragging, arrogant, or melodramatic about this post? I’d like to fix it if I could.

posted by Aaron Swartz on November 2, 2006 #

It’s a good post man, don’t worry about it.

Listen to Hush Hush Hush by Herbie Hancock (feat Annie Lennox) and enjoy

posted by Lorenzo Bolognini on November 2, 2006 #

“Can someone explain to me what’s bragging, arrogant, or melodramatic about this post? I’d like to fix it if I could.” - Nothing, their just jealous as fuck.

Congratulations on your success!

Best of luck on your next project and remember if you manage to hit the big time twice you get to write a book :)

posted by Parker on November 2, 2006 #

A friend just clued me in that I had missed something in the first paragraph.

For those that are as dense as me: reddit was purchased for a pittance. The founders got little more than a full-time job. Aaron was actually a dot-com millionaire for Halloween. The rest of the post was written from the perspective of a bragging, arrogant, melodramatic millionaire, which Aaron is not.

It’s a good post man, don’t worry about it.

posted by chaz22 on November 2, 2006 #

I don’t see anything arrogant or melodramatic about this.

It’s a huge change, and while change can be good, it can also make you lose yourself for a while. It takes some time to get your bearings back.

posted by Josh Charles on November 2, 2006 #

Good post Aaron, don’t sweat it.

posted by Ethan on November 2, 2006 #

Are the critics familiar with the normal tone of your writing? If not, that would explain it.

posted by Jason F. on November 2, 2006 #

(the normal somber tone, that is)

posted by jason F. on November 2, 2006 #

Don’t worry about people insulting you. Success in other people does that. We’re all a bit envious (or jealous) of course, but you should not worry about that.

posted by the visitor on November 2, 2006 #

That’s odd; I thought you were writing about angst over bragging, arrogance, & melodrama. That doesn’t make you a bad person or this a bad story.

posted by Ben on November 2, 2006 #

It’s not bragging if you can back it up. -Muhammad Ali

posted by Rich on November 2, 2006 #

Lesson #1 of having money: people will hate you for it.

posted by Anonymouse Superhero on November 2, 2006 #

Great read Aaron.. These last two posts of yours have been the best you’ve ever written. Keep it up!

Oh, and you had this coming, I’m not the least bit surprised.

posted by Tomas Jogin on November 2, 2006 #

Aaron — when I met you at ChiPy a couple months ago you struck me as a very level-headed guy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this post, the negative reaction is just a malingering puritanism that reads any report of success as immodest bragging.


posted by Peter Harkins on November 2, 2006 #

Thanks for the frank and entertaining post Aaron. It’s better to be honest about stuff than worry that some people will take it the wrong way. I wish you and the rest of the crew the best of luck. Don’t forget about us other YCs! ;-)

posted by Bryan Kennedy on November 2, 2006 #

I just want it to be known that I am not the Joey in the comment above!

posted by Joey deVilla on November 2, 2006 #

You seem the kind of person who needs a vacation. Go to Vancouver and hike/ski. You only live once and Vancouver won’t be the same after 2010 Winter Olympic.

posted by on November 2, 2006 #

I love that crunking it up was part of the post-acquisition celebration plan… congrats man!

posted by Mike D. on November 3, 2006 #

Congrats with the acquisition. I’ve really enjoyed reading your last 2 posts. I’m sometimes feeling the same (is it real or not?), after I wake up, but not as much as you this time, I guess. You’re bragging a bit, but that’s just because you’re being honest, actually, I’m enjoying that too, so again, I hope to see more of this soon.

posted by Laurent Van Winckel on November 3, 2006 #

Good post.

posted by Mike Cantelon on November 3, 2006 #

NIce post Aaron, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It seems people can be blinded by their hatred as well.

posted by john gillespie on November 3, 2006 #

Can someone explain to me what’s bragging, arrogant, or melodramatic about this post? I’d like to fix it if I could.

Assuming this post isn’t satire, I’d say people are complaining because you sound too cool to feel happy about reddit’s acquisition. You have to admit there’s some leverage in being unhappy: it implies that what’s good enough to make other people happy doesn’t have the same effect on you. You’re a pretty straightforward guy, so we can rest assured you’re not acting a certain way for effect. Spend enough time with your local college’s hipsters and you’ll see the dance of people trying to feel more cynicism/irony/disenchantment than those around them.

“It was the strangest transformation, two mild-mannered guys suddenly become showmen, a horde of girls at their feet.” That sentence sounds melodramatic because I think you’re exaggerating. You were chatting with some chicks on a street, not in the middle of a cocaine-riddled orgy. Maybe I’m wrong; I wasn’t there. It also sounds like you’re talking smack about your fellow reddits.

If you rewrite this, I suggest you focus more on yourself and the emotional triggers for you wanting to disengage from the celebration. Reading your posts over the past few days has inspired me. You accomplished a goal without falling for the hype.

posted by Dan Stowell on November 3, 2006 #

That’s a pretty sweet halloween costume.

posted by Jimmy Gambier on November 4, 2006 #

Some advice from random guy on the internet:

Start thinking about the next big thing - reddit is a nice start, but you were right that it’s just a bunch of links. You’re one of the few people out there that’s smart and ambitious enough to really change the world. What’s the plan?

posted by Andrey Fedorov on November 4, 2006 #

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