May 07, 2003


Winchester Mystery House, San Jose CA

Paul Graham's Hackers and Painters [via Steve Jenson] is a nice insight into what a hacker is.

Several things that I liked:

  • hackers like to design beautiful software. "Over time, beautiful things tend to thrive, and ugly things tend to get discarded. Unfortunately, the amounts of time involved can be longer than human lifetimes."
  • "When Yahoo bought Viaweb, they asked me what I wanted to do. I had never liked the business side very much, and said that I just wanted to hack. When I got to Yahoo, I found that what hacking meant to them was implementing software, not designing it. Programmers were seen as technicians who translated the visions (if that is the word) of product managers into code."
  • "Great software [...] requires a fanatical devotion to beauty."
  • "At Viaweb [...] when we interviewed programmers, the main thing we cared about was what kind of software they wrote in their spare time. You can't do anything really well unless you love it, and if you love to hack you'll inevitably be working on projects of your own. "
  • "Most hackers don't learn to hack by taking college courses in programming. They learn to hack by writing programs of their own at age thirteen. Even in college classes, you learn to hack mostly by hacking."
  • "The other way makers learn is from examples. [...] Hackers, likewise, can learn to program by looking at good programs-- not just at what they do, but the source code too."
  • "I think hacking should work this way [too]. It's unrealistic to expect that the specifications for a program will be perfect. You're better off if you admit this up front, and write programs in a way that allows specifications to change on the fly.
    (The structure of large companies makes this hard for them to do, so here is another place where startups have an advantage.)"
Posted by ovidiu at May 07, 2003 09:05 AM |
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