I received an email from a friend who is a marketing consultant. She warned me about the liabilities of talking favorably about hackers. She said,
“the media uses the perjorative definition only, so that is why the public does not want to see “hackers” talked about favorably…remember, it’s not just about the technology…it’s about hackers who do a lot of damage to individuals and businesses….hurting the very people you want to support…the tech people who worked hard to develop many fantastic creative things and now whose efforts are being hurt by hackers.”
I forgot people think this way. I know that she’s trying to be protective because people are afraid of what they don’t understand. In my world, hackers hurt no one, crackers and criminals do. Hackers innovate.
Eric Raymond, compiler of The New Hacker’s Dictionary, defines a hacker as a clever programmer. A “good hack” is a clever solution to a programming problem and “hacking” is the act of doing it. Raymond lists five possible characteristics that qualify one as a hacker, which we paraphrase here:
- A person who enjoys learning details of a programming language or system
- A person who enjoys actually doing the programming rather than just theorizing about it
- A person capable of appreciating someone else’s hacking
- A person who picks up programming quickly
- A person who is an expert at a particular programming language or system, as in “Unix hacker”
Raymond deprecates the use of this term for someone who attempts to crack someone else’s system or otherwise uses programming or expert knowledge to act maliciously. He prefers the term cracker for this meaning.
According to Raymond’s definition, you can’t innovate new technology if you’re not a hacker. Ironically, the very people I do support ARE the Tolga’s of the world, the good hackers “who worked hard to develop many fantastic creative things and now whose efforts are being hurt,” by the suits. Not other hackers.
A hacker and an innovator are the same thing.
Wesley Felter, author of The Hack the Planet Manifesto, wrote:
Many people do not understand what it means to hack, to be enlightened by the fire of creativity. Hack the Planet is not a destructive force; it is a creative force that aims to change things for the better. It is the optimistic belief that tomorrow can be better than today. It is based on the fundamental idea that change is good. When I tell you that I want to Hack the Planet, I do not mean merely the physical geography of earth. I want to hack technology. I want to hack the media. I want to hack the economy. I want to hack society. You name it, I want to hack it In the late 70s, an engineer named Steve Wozniak decided that every person should be able to afford a computer. Woz hacked the planet.
A few years later, Richard Stallman decided that every person has the right to understand and control how their computer works and that software should not be owned or patented. This gave birth to the Open Source Project, GNU.
According to Wesly Felter, “Richard Stallman hacked the planet.” The guy who created Burning Man – he hacked the planet too. And so are the people of the Third Culture, hacking the planet – even presently.
The Conscience of a Hacker (also known as The Hacker Manifesto) is a small essay written January 8, 1986 by a hacker who went by the handle of “The Mentor” (born Loyd Blankenship). Today it can be found on many websites, as well as on t-shirts and in films.
To this day, the Manifesto acts as a guideline to hackers across the globe, especially those new to the field. It serves as an ethical foundation for hacking, and asserts that there is a point to hacking that supersedes selfish desires to exploit or harm other people, and that technology should be used to expand our horizons and try to keep the world free.
No, I don’t support criminal crackers.
But hackers and inventors who think outside the box to create something today that didn’t exist yesterday?
Those I love.