Muli Ben-Yehuda's journal

August 18, 2004

People who refer to themselves as hackers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Muli Ben-Yehuda @ 3:29 PM

People who refer to themselves as hackers, without having done enough IMENHO to merit it, annoy me. I should use procmail to minimize annoyance.

hacker: n.

“It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe oneself that way. Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. There is thus a certain ego satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker (but if you claim to be one and are not, you’ll quickly be labeled bogus). See also geek, wannabee.”

22 Comments »

  1. Does someone who recognizes the quote without following the link deserve the title?
    INENHO?

    Comment by mux2000 — August 18, 2004 @ 5:52 AM | Reply

    • > Does someone who recognizes the quote without following the link deserve the title?
      Sorry, it takes a little bit more than that – IMENHO 😉
      > INENHO?
      Typo. In My Entirely Not Humble Opinion.

      Comment by mulix — August 18, 2004 @ 5:59 AM | Reply

  2. OTOH, calling oneself “just a hacker” is fine.

    Comment by reddragdiva — August 18, 2004 @ 5:58 AM | Reply

    • Hmmm, depends on the person and circumstances, I s’pose.

      Comment by mulix — August 18, 2004 @ 6:00 AM | Reply

      • Usual usage is as opposed to a proper computer science hotshot, I expect.
        I am not even a “hacker.” I am a sysadmin who beats other people’s hacks into working 😉

        Comment by reddragdiva — August 18, 2004 @ 6:06 AM

      • I know… I used to frequent the Scary Devil Monastery when I was young and Usenet ruled the earth.

        Comment by mulix — August 18, 2004 @ 6:10 AM

  3. My thoughts
    Well, I think what this entry in the jargon says is that it’s alright to say you are a hacker if you are positively sure you are. Some people (including you) can readily prove that they hacked on something and have a hacker attitude. Such people can safely say they are a hacker. (without being too smug about it).
    For instance, if Linus Torvalds said “As an open-source hacker, I think that…” would you think less of him? I won’t. And RMS has labeled himself as a hacker countless of times. (he once said he was the last true hacker, as well).
    I personally say that I’m an open-source user, developer and advocate, which are all objective occupations, that I can easily show proof of. I admit that I like to think of myself as a hacker, and the various things I do as hacking on stuff, but I do my best not to boast of it. (and only others can determine if I’m successful)
    Regards,
    Shlomi Fish (who joined LJ so he can post this comment)

    Comment by shlomif — August 18, 2004 @ 7:54 AM | Reply

    • Re: My thoughts
      > For instance, if Linus Torvalds said “As an open-source hacker, I think
      > that…” would you think less of him? I won’t. And RMS has labeled
      > himself as a hacker countless of times. (he once said he was the last
      > true hacker, as well).
      It’s obvious that Linus and RMS have done enough to merit calling themselves whatever they wish.
      > I personally say that I’m an open-source user, developer and advocate,
      > which are all objective occupations, that I can easily show proof of. I
      > admit that I like to think of myself as a hacker, and the various
      > things I do as hacking on stuff, but I do my best not to boast of it.
      > (and only others can determine if I’m successful)
      Not entirely, I’m afraid.
      > Shlomi Fish (who joined LJ so he can post this comment)
      You can comment anonymously.

      Comment by mulix — August 18, 2004 @ 8:00 AM | Reply

      • Re: My thoughts
        Re RMS and Linus, I suppose you’re write. I gave an extreme example to show that some people can call themselves hackers and get away with it. Obviously, I won’t hold it against you if you called yourself a hacker, or if Gabor Szabo called himself a hacker, etc. Our famous mailing list is called Hackers-IL, not Hacker-Wannabees-IL, or Open-Source-Enthusiasts-IL. I think it indicates that:
        1. People who join it are either hackers or wish to become ones.
        2. People there think most of the other residents are hackers.
        As for the fact that I’m not entirely successful in not boasting – I suppose you are right. I’ll try harder, but I don’t worry about it too much. You, BTW, are making an admirable job at it.
        As for commenting anonymously – I’d rather not. I like people to know who I am. I hate these anonymous posts where you have to guess who the poster is.

        Comment by shlomif — August 18, 2004 @ 10:20 AM

      • Re: My thoughts
        You never cease to amaze me.

        Comment by mulix — August 18, 2004 @ 11:46 AM

  4. One one hand, the term “hacker” is qualitative and not quantitative. This makes it more difficult to argue with a self-proclaimed hacker. On the other hand is the bullshit test. The real hackers don’t need to self-proclaim. We are not talking about a fight between two people, one of which has written 200,000 lines of useful code and the other 210,000 (eg. Linus vs. RMS). No. We are usually talking about someone who is a project maintainer and guru with years of experience and someone else whose only claim to fame is a low Slashdot member number and a Tux doll (Eric Raymond vs. anyone on Slashdot).
    Since 99% of the comparisons between who is a real hacker and who is a fake do not make it past the bullshit test, I do not see a problem.
    Note that I use Slashdot as a reference. Not because it is not a nice site with hard working people behind it but because that clicking the “Read Comments” button and reading the comments there is cruel and unusual punishment.

    Comment by yrk — August 18, 2004 @ 9:20 AM | Reply

    • I agree with everything you said. Please stop doing that.

      Comment by mulix — August 18, 2004 @ 11:48 AM | Reply

    • Well, LInus vs. RMS is not that intriguing.
      But let me ask you: who has a bigger hackis – RMS or Gosling?
      Before you jump to the decision, please refer to history of FSF emacs vs. Gosmacs.

      Comment by omerm — August 24, 2004 @ 11:47 AM | Reply

  5. Among the things I like with my new job is that I got hired by IBM as a “Linux Kernel Hacker”, they even put that on my business cards 🙂
    When going to OLS, I got the full search shit at the airport in Ottawa. The guy asked me for a business card (probably to check I wasn’t saying all bullshit about working for IBM). When he saw the word “hacker”, he frowed ! I had to spend 10 minutes explaining him I wasnt about to break into anybody’s computer, we weren’t plotting total takover of the Canadian’s Gov. computers etc…

    Comment by _benh_ — August 18, 2004 @ 3:15 PM | Reply

    • One of the things that constantly amaze me about IBM is that some people actually “get it”.
      r.e. Hackers vs. Crackers, if you remember that “Hacking Contest” we put together a couple of weeks ago and I wrote about here, there was a reporter there who did a story for one of the Israeli papers about it. Basically every person she talked to made it a point to explain the difference between hackers and crackers. It almost worked, too 😉

      Comment by mulix — August 19, 2004 @ 4:11 AM | Reply

      • Envy bit is on
        Hacking Contest? May I ask you to elaborate?
        Regarding hackers vs. crackers. I was witness to someone deliberately using the word “hacker” to mean “one that exploits software” in article he wrote about open source etc. The person was quite aware of the difference, but preferred to use the layman terms in order to make himself clear to his assumed audience.
        Let me say that it is customary for a customer to expect you to do whichever he desires, as long as he pays…

        Comment by omerm — August 24, 2004 @ 11:44 AM

      • Re: Envy bit is on
        http://linmagazine.co.il/node/view/3271

        Comment by mulix — August 25, 2004 @ 1:40 AM

  6. I am definitely a hacker
    Whenever my friends and I walk through a jungle, I’m the one out front swinging the big ass knife.

    Comment by 77azkkr — August 18, 2004 @ 3:25 PM | Reply

  7. Heh. I must admit I am curious as to what brought this on.

    Comment by the_p0pe — August 18, 2004 @ 4:23 PM | Reply

    • I think you can deduce the answer from the comments, if you read them carefully 🙂

      Comment by shapirac — August 19, 2004 @ 2:42 AM | Reply

  8. So, you want to label someone as “bogus”?
    Muli, IMPHBMNEO[0] you should stop comparing apples and oranges, hackers to crackers and free artists to hired professionals.
    [0] IMPHBMNEO – in my presumably humble, but maybe not enough, opinion.

    Comment by omerm — August 24, 2004 @ 11:39 AM | Reply

    • Re: So, you want to label someone as “bogus”?
      I’m not the one making the comparisons. I wrote the above in response to a specific message on hackers-il. If you look at the other responses, you can probably discern which message, and who wrote it.

      Comment by mulix — August 25, 2004 @ 1:41 AM | Reply


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