[Hpr] Hpr Digest, Vol 54, Issue 16

Patrick Dailey pdailey03 at gmail.com
Wed Mar 20 03:23:21 PDT 2013


I'd like to see epicanus and lostnbronx collaborate and do a podcast
episode on the topic of "what is a hacker?"

If only there were a network to air such a show on.

On Mar 20, 2013 6:16 AM, <hpr-request at hackerpublicradio.org> wrote:
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> Today's Topics:
>
>    1.  What's a "hacker"? (epicanis+hpr at dogphilosophy.net)
>    2. Re: What's a "hacker"? (Nido Media)
>
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: epicanis+hpr at dogphilosophy.net
> To: hpr at hackerpublicradio.org
> Cc:
> Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2013 20:25:12 -0400
> Subject: [Hpr] What's a "hacker"?
> > Why not just use the definition from how to become a hacker?
> > http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html
>
> (also..)
> > The definition as in the jargon file,
> > http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html , is arguably the most
> > authoritative definition of the word.
>
> Since when would a hacker accept "appeal to authority"? :-)
> This is a topic that's been simmering in the back of my brain for a few
years now, and of course
> it's all tangled up with a desire for pro-"hacker" activism which colors
my thoughts.
> (Oh, crap on a stick, this is going to turn into an email essay, isn't
it?...)
>
> I wouldn't use those sources because...well, for one thing, they're not
definitions.
>
> The "How to become a hacker" document is a good one, but doesn't do
anything but give some (completely accurate in my opinion) general examples
of hacker characteristics (and then essentially says "become a computer
programmer" which is one way to do it, but I suggest is neither necessary
nor sufficient.)
>
> The jargon file has *8* "definitions", which appear to be based on the
computer-programmer community over a quarter-century ago, and all of which
I have problems with for modern usage.
>
> Going through them, they are (to paraphrase)
>
> 1. Someone who enjoys computer-programming theory.
> 2. Someone who REALLY enjoys computer-programming theory.
> 3. Someone good enough at hacking to appreciate a good hack.
> 4. Someone who is good at one particular computer program and/or a
specialist computer programmer.
> 5. A fast computer programmer
> 6. Someone who is really good at something or really likes something.
> 7. Someone who likes puzzles
> 8. A criminal computer expert even though you shouldn't use this word for
that.
>
>
> These all look like examples (and unfortunately almost entirely defined
by "computer programming") rather than any definition one could apply to
something that someone may engage in to determine if what they are doing
counts as "hacking". The first five all boil down to "someone who's really
into computer programming", which I think is neither sufficiently inclusive
nor entirely accurate (I find it UNLIKELY that someone could get really
good at computer programming entirely by rote, but such a person could
hypothetically exist. I consider the idea of any activity devoid of
creativity being "hacking" to be oxymoronic, so someone who was really good
at/really "into" putting together software in a manner that was entirely by
rote and devoid of creative input should definitely NOT be called a
"hacker" - at least not a "software" hacker.).Furthermore, definition 3 is
just plain circular. Definition 6 implies merely being "into" something
would make one a "hacker", but being "into" something doesn't necessarily
translate to being creative or even necessarily competent, and conversely I
would NOT deny the term "hacking" to someone who wasn't especially familiar
with or even fond of a particular area of knowledge but happened to spot
and implement some clever application of it anyway.
>
> I think 7 is an almost-mandatory characteristic of "hackers", but doesn't
seem like an appropriate definition (this is like defining an "athlete" as
"someone who is strong".)
>
> 8 is "the media SAYS this is what hackers are but they're wrong" (which I
agree entirely with, but isn't really helpful for defining what a "hacker"
IS).
>
> I said a "hacker" is "someone who engages in hacking" (which is NOT
defined by ESR, and the definitions of "hack" are pretty vague) because I
suggest that the central definition that is important is that of the
ACTIVITY, not the person doing it.
>
> I'm going to reject "computer programming" as a necessary element of
"hacking" (though it is rightfully an extremely popular medium with which
to conduct hacking - I'm only saying that an activity may still be
"hacking" even if it's not "computer programming") in the modern era, and
in particular in regards to "hacker public radio(tm)".
>
> Should we be assuming coleman lanterns, urban camping, and cooking are
"of interest to expert computer programmers"? (I argue "no", obviously). I
suggest that the pleasantly inclusive and wide-ranging topics that are
appropriate for Hacker Public Radio implies that we accept the possibility
for a listener to be a "hacker" in some field other than computer
programming.
>
> At this point my thoughts split between two subtopics: the "purpose" of
HPR, and exactly why I am currently using the definition that I mentioned,
and I'm wondering if I shouldn't just shut up for now and either wait for
someone else to chime in or just go add it to the topic list for my backlog
of HPR episodes to record...
>
> Actually before I shut up let me take a stab at the former topic.  I
doubt this is "official", and I'm not even sure everyone (or anyone even)
else would agree, but I would suggest that the "purpose" of Hacker Public
Radio is the encouragement and support of "the hacker nature", which I will
(intentionally vaguely) for now define as "the constellation of personality
traits and thought processes that results in the likelihood that its
possessors will regularly engage in hacking". In short, I suggest that
Hacker Public Radio's "purpose" is to encourage people to become "Hackers",
and to encourage those who already are "hackers" to become better.ones.
Society would benefit greatly from a lot more hacking these days in my
opinion.
>
> I'll stop for the moment before I start rambling worse than I already
am...
>
> (Oh, and I like the idea of a round-table discussion - if everyone who
wants to participate is willing to use the current release-candidate client
so I can try/promote Opus support, I'd even be willing to set up and host a
murmur server of our own to host it on. I would like to get it rolling in
writing first though so I can try to get my own thoughts on it together...)
>
> Shutting up now...
>
>
>
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Nido Media <nido at foxserver.be>
> To: hpr at hackerpublicradio.org
> Cc:
> Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2013 11:16:23 +0100
> Subject: Re: [Hpr] What's a "hacker"?
> On 3/20/13 1:25 AM, epicanis+hpr at dogphilosophy.net wrote:
>>>
>>> Why not just use the definition from how to become a hacker?
>>> http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html
>>
>> (also..)
>>>
>>> The definition as in the jargon file,
>>> http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html , is arguably the most
>>> authoritative definition of the word.
>>
>> Since when would a hacker accept "appeal to authority"? :-)
>
> On its own? Ever since there are cases where there is legitimate
expertise and expert consensus, together with a lack of interest of
persuing the matter further.
>
> On this particular subject matter, an authoritarian answer is in my
opinion never a bad place to start finding a better definition. Please
notice though, I said 'arguably'.
>>
>> This is a topic that's been simmering in the back of my brain for a few
years now, and of course
>> it's all tangled up with a desire for pro-"hacker" activism which colors
my thoughts.
>> (Oh, crap on a stick, this is going to turn into an email essay, isn't
it?...)
>>
>> I wouldn't use those sources because...well, for one thing, they're not
definitions.
>
> I disagree, as do you, two sentences down.
>>
>>
>> The "How to become a hacker" document is a good one, but doesn't do
anything but give some (completely accurate in my opinion) general examples
of hacker characteristics (and then essentially says "become a computer
programmer" which is one way to do it, but I suggest is neither necessary
nor sufficient.)
>>
>> The jargon file has *8* "definitions", which appear to be based on the
computer-programmer community over a quarter-century ago, and all of which
I have problems with for modern usage.
>
> 8 definitions even, that's 8 more then not having any definitions! :p
>>
>>
>> Going through them, they are (to paraphrase)
>>
>> 1. Someone who enjoys computer-programming theory.
>> 2. Someone who REALLY enjoys computer-programming theory.
>> 3. Someone good enough at hacking to appreciate a good hack.
>> 4. Someone who is good at one particular computer program and/or a
specialist computer programmer.
>> 5. A fast computer programmer
>> 6. Someone who is really good at something or really likes something.
>> 7. Someone who likes puzzles
>> 8. A criminal computer expert even though you shouldn't use this word
for that.
>>
>>
>> These all look like examples (and unfortunately almost entirely defined
by "computer programming") rather than any definition one could apply to
something that someone may engage in to determine if what they are doing
counts as "hacking". The first five all boil down to "someone who's really
into computer programming", which I think is neither sufficiently inclusive
nor entirely accurate (I find it UNLIKELY that someone could get really
good at computer programming entirely by rote, but such a person could
hypothetically exist. I consider the idea of any activity devoid of
creativity being "hacking" to be oxymoronic, so someone who was really good
at/really "into" putting together software in a manner that was entirely by
rote and devoid of creative input should definitely NOT be called a
"hacker" - at least not a "software" hacker.).Furthermore, definition 3 is
just plain circular. Definition 6 implies merely being "into" something
would make one a "hacker", but being "into"
>>   something doesn't necessarily translate to being creative or even
necessarily competent, and conversely I would NOT deny the term "hacking"
to someone who wasn't especially familiar with or even fond of a particular
area of knowledge but happened to spot and implement some clever
application of it anyway.
>
> I think the creativity is a required aspect of being a 'good programmer'
(to set it apart from 'hacker'). Don't get me wrong, uncreative people are
able to create computer programs; however, I suspect these rote
'programmers' to be responsible for gems like
http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/Reusable-Code.aspx (what? copy/paste worked
before...). I don't see a problem with having a definition include its
requirements.
> Also, if any of the 8 definitions was sufficient and complete on their
own, why give the other 7 definitions? 1 gives the example of a hacker who
specialises in the theory of programming, 2 is a counterpart example who
actually puts theory into practice. 3 refers to appreciating hacks, which
are not necesarily computer programs, and given how a 'hack' is not defined
as 'soemthing a hacker does', i don't see how that definition circles. 5 is
a specialisation into computer science of 6. I believe you swapped 4 and 5
though.
>>
>>
>> I think 7 is an almost-mandatory characteristic of "hackers", but
doesn't seem like an appropriate definition (this is like defining an
"athlete" as "someone who is strong".)
>
> I disagree. Strength is something that can be acquired even when not
enjoyed. However, "enjoying the intellectual challenge of creatively
overcoming or circumventing limitations" is not something that is a quality
of the person itself. Enjoyment is key in this definition, and is why your
rote example person is not a hacker.
>>
>>
>> 8 is "the media SAYS this is what hackers are but they're wrong" (which
I agree entirely with, but isn't really helpful for defining what a
"hacker" IS).
>>
>> I said a "hacker" is "someone who engages in hacking" (which is NOT
defined by ESR, and the definitions of "hack" are pretty vague) because I
suggest that the central definition that is important is that of the
ACTIVITY, not the person doing it.1
>
> I'd say it is general rather then vague. 'hack' definition 4 6 and 9
refer to 'hacking', but since we're talking about the meaning of hack,
there's a jargon definition for it too
http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/meaning-of-hack.html , which, to my
summation, comes down to the  "Hacking might be characterized as ‘an
appropriate application of ingenuity’" by reviewing a few 'hacks' (in the
sence of, something that has been hacked). And now we have 3 entries in the
jargon file to explain what hacking/hacker/hack is. Something tells me that
even with all the resources in the world, we are never going to bring this
definition down to a size appropriate for a dictionary, with a definition
which is sufficient and complete enough to satisfy the people it defines.
>>
>>
>> I'm going to reject "computer programming" as a necessary element of
"hacking" (though it is rightfully an extremely popular medium with which
to conduct hacking - I'm only saying that an activity may still be
"hacking" even if it's not "computer programming") in the modern era, and
in particular in regards to "hacker public radio(tm)".
>>
>> Should we be assuming coleman lanterns, urban camping, and cooking are
"of interest to expert computer programmers"? (I argue "no", obviously). I
suggest that the pleasantly inclusive and wide-ranging topics that are
appropriate for Hacker Public Radio implies that we accept the possibility
for a listener to be a "hacker" in some field other than computer
programming.
>
> I, arguably an expert computer programmer, found the coleman, urban
camping and cooking episodes of great interest. Perhaps I appreciate the
engineering that went into the coleman lamps that makes that it still
functions 80 years after (do we even have programs this old). Maybe the
concept of not having a house to live in works as metaphore for blatant
ommisions of functionality in embedded  devices. Maybe cooking is how I
feel like a compiler, taking a recipe (source code) and using it to turn
arbitrary ingredients into a meal (program).
> Now I kinda don't know where I was going with this. Probably something
about a 'hacker' and 'expert computer programmer' being very much alike.
>>
>>
>> At this point my thoughts split between two subtopics: the "purpose" of
HPR, and exactly why I am currently using the definition that I mentioned,
and I'm wondering if I shouldn't just shut up for now and either wait for
someone else to chime in or just go add it to the topic list for my backlog
of HPR episodes to record...
>>
>> Actually before I shut up let me take a stab at the former topic.  I
doubt this is "official", and I'm not even sure everyone (or anyone even)
else would agree, but I would suggest that the "purpose" of Hacker Public
Radio is the encouragement and support of "the hacker nature", which I will
(intentionally vaguely) for now define as "the constellation of personality
traits and thought processes that results in the likelihood that its
possessors will regularly engage in hacking". In short, I suggest that
Hacker Public Radio's "purpose" is to encourage people to become "Hackers",
and to encourage those who already are "hackers" to become better.ones.
Society would benefit greatly from a lot more hacking these days in my
opinion.
>
>
>>
>>
>> I'll stop for the moment before I start rambling worse than I already
am...
>>
>> (Oh, and I like the idea of a round-table discussion - if everyone who
wants to participate is willing to use the current release-candidate client
so I can try/promote Opus support, I'd even be willing to set up and host a
murmur server of our own to host it on. I would like to get it rolling in
writing first though so I can try to get my own thoughts on it together...)
>
> I want!
>>
>>
>> Shutting up now...
>>
>>
> -nido media
>
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