The Hacker Way

Facebook (ala Mark Zuckerberg) filed their Registration Statement, the S-1, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week.  It made plenty of news, primarily for the expected $5 billion dollars it is looking to raise, for a total valuation of Facebook for something like $100 billion.  This is all good news if you are one of the lucky ones in the Initial Public Offering (IPO), and since I’m not, this really does nothing for me.  What I do find interesting though, is a brief statement in the Facebook S-1, a short but critical aside, on the Hacker Way.

The Hacker Way as described in the S-1, is a commitment to the MIT hacker culture of the 1970s, which was also the premise of a book by Steven Levy (regular WIRED contributor), Hackers.  This (sub)culture even has an official emblem and an unofficial anthropologist.  All of this is documented in an essay by Eric S. Raymond (said anthropologist) “How to become a Hacker.”

The main tenants of the ethos are (from Levy’s book, Hackers):

  1. Access to computers—and anything which might teach you something about the way
    English: A "glider" from Conway's Ga...
    Hacker Emblem via Wikipedia

    the world works—should be unlimited and total.

  2. All information should be free.
  3. Mistrust authority — promote decentralization.
  4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not criteria such as degrees, age, race, sex, or position.
  5. You can create art and beauty on a computer.
  6. Computers can change your life for the better.

These generally agreed upon set of values have inspired some great works.  Richard Stallman and the GNU\Linux Project, which is a great free (as in speech and in beer) operating system.  Eric Raymond even has a book called Hackers and Painters, talking to point number 5.  The Hacker Way is also internationally accepted.  There is a German artist, Aram Bartholl, in the true Hacker Way, who shows how to turn code directly into art.  While number 3 may get some eyebrows, it is really talking to decentralization of information.  Which, is why most of the Internet loving crowd are fired up about things like SOPA.

Not surprisingly, both Steven Levy and the NY Times pick up on Zuckerberg’s comments.  And while I’m not a Facebook fan, nor did I like the movie, I do tip my hat to Mark for committing to this ethos in the S-1.  As Facebook goes public, we’ll see how well they stay on target.  There are some that believe that the even the once well-intentioned Google has strayed from the path, especially with their recent privacy setting merges.  But it is clear that the Hacker Way is the standard to which those that claim the title are judged.

Inspired by the S-1, but more as a tribute to the ethos behind it, I have decided on a tagline for my blog.  I was waiting to get some data points, and as one can see, I only have two categories.  I think this works, and ties in my insistent use of the blog’s title:

fortune datko

Cookies of wisdom on books and culture along the Hacker Way.