[Hpr] What's a "hacker"?

Ken Fallon ken.fallon at gmail.com
Wed Mar 20 14:43:00 PDT 2013

Seriously guys get a room, the HPR room on mumble.openspeak.cc Port:
64747. There's even a event planned in 2 days 19h 19m 41s on next
Saturday at 17:00 UTC (2013-03-23T17:00:00Z)

For the rest of you if you want to know if you are a Hacker or not, I
was able to extend the back end analytical system that drives
to answer this very difficult question.



On Wed, 20 Mar 2013 16:37:44 -0400
epicanis+hpr at dogphilosophy.net wrote:

> I actually get the impression that we probably aren't much in
> disagreement over what "hacking" is, so I'm just going to nitpick
> instead :-)
> > > I wouldn't use those sources because...well, for one thing,
> > > they're not definitions.> 
> > I disagree, as do you, two sentences down.
> Okay - bad wording.  What I was trying to convey is that one source
> is not a "definition" at all, and the other is not "a definition" but
> rather 8 different "definitions" (several of which overlap). And then
> you mention a THIRD ESR essay in your reply :-)
> My basic problem with defining "hacker" as "what Eric S Raymond says
> a hacker is" is not so much that I have a problem with ESR or even
> that I think he's "wrong", but more that he doesn't really get around
> to actually DEFINING it in a useful way. Instead, I think his
> writings both over-emphasize "computer programmers" (perpetuating the
> idea the a "hacker" is someone hunched over a computer in a dark
> basement or something) and amount more to "examples of hackers"
> rather than some definition someone can look at to understand the
> concept better.
> One reason I've shifted to defining "hacking" rather than "hacker" is
> to get away from some of the baggage around the term, and avoid some
> of the self-identification angst that might come up as a result of
> trying to define "hacker" ("He's trying to define what I am! What if
> it ends up being a definition that I don't fit? Then he's trying to
> take away my Hacker badge!") - though I don't THINK the definition I
> use (and that I'm proposing others might want to use) would end up
> kicking any actual hacker out of the "hacker" category.
> I'm suggesting just that a "hacker" is defined by what they DO,
> therefore defining the act is important and not the actor.  For
> example:
> > > 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.
> Definition #7 was "One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of
> creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations." My issue with
> that one was not that a hacker wouldn't fit that definition, but that
> there are people who'd fit that definition who would not really be
> "hackers" - this definition does not say that a "hacker" actually
> ever DOES "creatively overcome or circumvent limitations", only that
> they "enjoy" it.  Shoving aside my somewhat flawed "athlete" analogy
> - imagine a six-year old child who one day comes up with a truly
> unique way to combine glue, macaroni, and glitter to make a
> completely unexpectedly brilliant representation of a duck. For
> purposes of this discussion, lets assume that this combination is
> sufficiently brilliant and clever that everyone involved would agree
> that the making of this macaroni duck counts as a "hack" and that the
> child in question really enjoyed coming up with it.
> Then, this hypothetical 6-year-old gets caught up in the "No Child
> Left Awake" (Uh, I mean "Behind") program and spends the rest of his
> or her school career learning to memorize crap for tests and never
> gets around to indulging in this enjoyment ever again. 30 years
> later, this hypothetical child has a BA in Accounting and works 50
> hours a week in a moderately-well-paying job putting numbers into
> pre-made spreadsheet templates for a living and never gets around to
> indulging their enjoyment of creative problem solving ever again.
> Dang, that's depressing...but the point is - this fictional
> accountant I've just described still meets definition #7, but I think
> most of us would agree that one act of genuine "hacking" 30 years ago
> does not mean we should now call this person a "hacker".
> tl;dr: my contention is you can't be a "hacker" unless you regularly
> engage in "hacking" (and by extension it is possible to be a "former
> hacker", e.g. "JoeSchmoe used to be a brilliant amateur radio hacker,
> but these days he just sits around all day playing 'FarmVille'...")
> > I, arguably an expert computer programmer, found the coleman, urban
> > camping and cooking episodes of great interest.[...]
> > > 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.
> My point here was that although those topics were of interest, they
> were NOT of interest because you were an "expert computer
> programmer", but because you were a "hacker" (or at the very least
> possess or desire a substantial amount of "the hacker nature", which
> I have intentionally avoided trying to define in any specific way so
> far...), and that the two concepts are unrelated although they are
> often associated with each other. (Nearly all truly EXPERT computer
> programmers are probably also hackers, but not all hackers are expert
> computer programmers is what I'm trying to get at...)
> (I fundamentally maintain that one has not truly "mastered" any
> subject until one can "play with" that subject, and one CAN not
> "master" a subject unless one DOES "play with" it - for any subject
> at all, and "playing with" things seems like not a bad description of
> the way hackers interact with their respective fields of endeavor...)
> To crunch it all back down to my central point, I'm contending that
> being a "hacker" isn't about what you ARE, but what you DO and how
> you do it (hence, defining "hacking" rather than "hacker").
> I'm curious whether anyone objects to my proposed definition (and,
> separately, whether anyone LIKES it or not).  Can anyone think of an
> activity that meets my definition but should not be counted as
> "hacking", or an activity that DOESN'T meet the definition but SHOULD
> count as hacking?
> Finally:
> > > (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!
> I should clarify that my offer of a murmur server shouldn't be taken
> as dismissal of the existing murmur servers that people have already
> kindly set up for HPR use, just me looking at an opportunity to push
> "Opus" and encourage people to use current Mumble clients so we don't
> all have to downgrade to Speex all the time...
> I had another thought - how does this sound?
> While continuing this discussion in email, everyone who is interested
> goes and records (individually) a short essay/episode on "what
> 'hacking' means to me and why I care". Then, at some deadline, we
> exchange these episodes with each other (and submit them to the HPR
> queue - want some more episodes, Ken?) and listen to them all
> individually.  THEN we have a combined roundtable discussion (also
> recorded and then submitted).  This way we get both "how we felt
> before we started exchanging ideas on the subject" AND "what we think
> after discussing it together" and see if it made a difference...
> (Seems to me this format could work for a lot of topics, come to
> think of it, and generate a few additional "mini-series" episodes for
> HPR.)
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