Being a hacker is not cool. Being a hacker is not The Matrix, and it’s not always Kevin Mitnick either. Being a hacker is about being inquisitive. How does radio work? What can I learn from these logfiles? How easy is it to crack this encryption? Where does all the lint go? How do you make cheese?

That may sound funny, but hackers by nature want to know everything. Hackers prize knowledge above all else, and often times knowledge that we want is on a computer we’re not technically supposed to be on… The latest hackers are products of the informational revolution, spawn of the Information Age. Da Vinci was a hacker. So was Tesla, and Marconi. Personally, I’d throw Jesus into the mix too. The guy was an awesome social engineer.

Not that long ago, some hackers were asked to find a way to connect computers across the country, and find a way to communicate between them. Now you have the Internet. Some more hackers wondered about how to store information that could be easily read by any computer, and we gave you the World Wide Web. Hacker products form the very essence of the Internet, from BIND to Apache to BSD to PHP. Without us, you’d have no Internet. Where would you get your porn then?

The Internet offers tremendous amounts of fun. It’s a huge, borderless barrel of fun, when you log onto the Internet, well, you just kind of start getting curious. What happens if I manipulate this URL? How about bouncing an email between two auto-responders, what will that do?

We cross all socio-ethnic boundaries, and we are adept at becoming great friends with people we’ve never met who live in countries we’ll never go to. The easiest way to become friends with a hacker is to ask questions. Good questions. “Why doesn’t my mouse work?” is a god-awful question. “How can I move an entire MySQL database across the net from one server to another without transforming it?” is way more fun. Knowing how to ask smart questions will get you a long way.

Hacking into so-called restricted computers is by far one of the most fun things to do. It’s a great feeling to get in, beaten only by the feeling you get when you send the computer’s admin a note telling him about the hole. Hackers, in general, have great ethics. We’re subject to way more peer review than doctors for example, and judgement is taken swiftly – one wrong move can cost you your reputation for life.

We also, or at least most of us, hate the cracker (compare hacker vs. cracker) types; malicious users intent on harming other people’s property.

Hackers believe in freedom of information, whether it be information about encryption technology or information about the Bosch fuel injectors in your car. We believe in solving a problem and sharing the solution, so it doesn’t have to be solved again. We believe in keeping busy, and we believe in giving back to the community. We epitomize community of practice, and collaboration. We birthed the new business models Vignette and Documentum and high-priced consultants are trying to sell you.

Hackers tend to regarded as “odd” or “weird”, and usually with good reason. Many hackers, software and otherwise, suffer from various so-called disorders, so-called because they are outside the accepted norm, but I know of few who actually consider their differences a disease. Asperger’s Syndrome is highly prevalent among hackers, as is Social Anxiety Disorder, and oddly-enough, Attention Deficit Disorder.

ADD in hackers tends to manifest itself in the subjects’ inability to pay any attention whatsoever to anything that isn’t interesting. Doesn’t sound like a disorder to me.

Aspergers Syndrome is often called Geek Syndrome, but again, just because it’s outside the norm doesn’t make it an illness. We just tend to fire differently than most, we relate to society in a very different way. We’re not superior, nor inferior, just slightly different.

So try to think less evil of the term “hacker”, we do a lot for you, we keep your email up, we make sure Amazon.com is there when you want it, we move your files across international borders, we generally make your life a hell of a lot easier than it should be. If you must refer to someone doing a Bad Thing, then use the accepted term “cracker” – and next time you’re passing by that weird dude who lives in the computer room and fixes your laptop every time you get back from a conference, buy him a coffee, he needs it.

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