As for yuppies vs. hackers, it helps to go back further, to understand how hippies morphed into yuppies. Hippies were mostly self-indulgent types who spouted bogus philosophy to justify their existence. Yuppies are mostly self-indulgent types who spout bogus philosophy to justify their existence. Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame, led the transition from hippie to yuppie, from the commune to the "lifestyle industry", from growing your own food to Whole Foods.
What happened to the hacker ethos was the absorption of computing into the advertising industry. The hacker ethos survived the Microsoft era, but not the Google era. Microsoft was about tools, which was consistent with the hacker ethos. Google is about ad clicks, and its success created a whole industry focused on ads and user exploitation, not tools for user empowerment. That's what destroyed hacker culture.
It's telling that a place where products that ought to make money are showed and discussed on a place called Hacker News, and that earnest attemtps at hacks-for-the-sake-of-it are usually met here with at least 4-5 commenters asking "What's the point of this? It's not profitable.'
But the hacker culture is alive and well. Take for example the TOR project, GNU, the EFF. They don't seem to be out for a buck, at least in my view.
Depends on how you define "buck". The Free Software Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation both have explicit agendas and goals that they wish to be promoted.
In terms of DnD-style character alignments, folks like the EFF and FSF can be characterized as "chaotic/neutral good", whereas the hacker ethos is closer to "chaotic neutral". The article's Wikileaks and Anonymous both lean chaotic good/evil (depending on perspective). TOR is closer to that "chaotic neutral".
The differences among hackerdom, Valleydom, and crackerdom lie in these alignment deviations, too. Valleydom swings hard-lawful, while crackerdom tends to swing too far in either direction on the good/evil spectrum for it to really fall into the realm of hackerdom (which tends toward neutrality). The cases where crackerdom and hackerdom overlap (including the cases that the article describes, like "Cap'n Crunch") tend to share that "chaotic neutral" alignment; the differences between a grey-hat cracker and a hacker are often nonexistent in this particular sense (though differences may arise based on ingenuity; for example, a grey-hat cracker might not be a hacker if one relies heavily on existing information (i.e. a "script kiddie") instead of seeking to discover new things for oneself).
For what it's worth, I think a similar study of the flattening of hippy culture into a one-dimensional caricature, could be quite relevant. A counter-cultural segment is stripped of elements critical of the mainstream and repackaged, undermining the validity of the original movement.
That said I think the author does sort of mix and match between the mainstreamification of a counter-culture for profit and the role technology plays in extracting huge amounts of wealth from the reformation of commerce and funneling it into the hands of relatively few.
I love this paragraph--I think you nailed it. Netheads and bellheads.
Though perhaps we've reached the end of the road with communications - the interconnected net of networks seems all encompassing, like globalization and the end of history. Can there be any new, technically difficult means of communication?
* technology-mediated telepathy
* space internet
* network communication to support pervasive augmented reality
* various new forms of symbolic communication supporting collaborative cognition (eg argument mapping in a way that allows a community to have a debate without any individual participant understanding all the details of either side; eg systems for an online community to speak in real-time through a human representative via voting on what the rep is to say)
* various new forms of technology-enabled language (eg going to a party and seeing a person talking and as they talk, around them appears various projected icons offering nuance, more information, or structured conversational protocol information regulating eg turn-taking; eg a form of language in which neither human understands all of the words they use, but in which both are using a computer assistant in the manner of computer-assisted chess)
* lowtech versions of advanced communications protocols, practiced by survivalists in case of an apocalypse and/or by people who want privacy from online surveillance (not that this would help unless there is no IRL surveillance in the vicinity), eg human-mediated blockchains, eg sneakernet message routing (eg Pynchon's Crying of Lot 39's Trystero), eg encryption by hand. And then variants of these which can interoperable with the electronic/high-tech versions.
* communication mediated by networks of AIs that dynamically modify/invent new communications protocols
Doubtful that all of those will be feasible/useful but probably some of them will be. I imagine that most of these will be difficult to use, at least at first.
I'm assuming you meant "technically different"?
Either way: I can't think of any, but given the last few millenia of progress, it seems unlikely that we've reached the peak.
The elitists came to Northern California - a vanguard of social liberalism, student protest, and most importantly communitarianism - and brought their elitism with them.
Northern California still exists in the nostalgic hippie image of the 60s, but it's compartmentalised, like the Dropbox brogrammers elbowing out kids at a playground. Public spaces increasingly become private in the name of profit.
Over time, the feel of free love will fade away entirely in the Bay Area. Everyone interesting who isn't a millionaire will be pushed to the margins, and eventually, more welcoming spaces, like Detroit. I implore the tech elite of Silicon Valley to consider a future where an expensive tech-centered monoculture makes the Bay Area an unattractive location for long-term employees, and instead relying on mercenary college grads who put up with the cost and the crazy for a few years before moving on to a more fulfilling job and place to call home.
I mean - who was Leland Stanford, anyway? Railroad baron. Similar deal.
This IS normal for America, from the Mississippi Bubble onward.
If there is a 'hacker ethic', it's a variation on ham radio, maintaining your own vehicle ala John Muir, the Unix philosophy and possibly DOS using int21 calls. That's not a complete list.
I knew of much more Hacker Ethic in the people who went through the Depression and WWII. They were Maintainers, the sworn enemy of the dread lord Entropy. I worked for one; he used a 40 horse Ford tractor to move these giant sandstone rocks - hydraulics popping like doom; stand carefully - to build these phenomenal, beautiful houses of native materials. The houses looked a bit like Frank Lloyd Wright houses.
What came later is a caricature of this; college kids who'd read about Emma Goldman, or read Jack Kerouac, or Richard Farina, or...
The counterculture per se got coopted long ago. "Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform, don't kid yourself." - Frank Zappa.
(Either through the unwillingness or incompetence of any of the original disciples to popularize the true meaning, or simple giving way beneath ever better funded commercial interests)
That's exactly what coopting is. See definition 2b here:
I'm quibbling over words too. But the difference to me is that the problem is not that "hacking" (or "hippie culture", "patriot", "environmentalism", or "American") gets used in a context at odds with what its founders would espouse.
It's that a lot of times that secondary (historically speaking) definition then becomes the dominant definition in the public's mind. Whatever mutually exclusive word for that is the one I want to use.
Because, ultimately, it doesn't matter a rat's ass if my local LUG knows the more positive definition of a hacker, if a geeky 8-year old with a penchant for figuring out interesting things to do with computers is surrounded by exposure (news, adults, school, popular media) to the negative definition.
SF has changed. It's becoming Manhattan West.
I have mixed feelings about it...my burner friends (most are techies) do some incredibly weird and impressive things as part of Burning Man but why can't some of that happen right here in the Bay for everyone.
Because then all of the people that protest things like high-rise apartments, and Google shuttle buses will show up to protest that too.
All these well known famous tech founders such as the FB guys or Larry and Sergey are big burners and certainly participate in arts there but are nowhere to be found right here in SF/Oakland. Same can be said about my peers sadly.
Many, if not the majority of the most interesting, art pieces can't even be safely installed or operated (yes, operated in the case of art cars) anywhere near a suburban or urban environment. Where else can you build several climbable three to five story buildings with labels like "Bank of Unamerica" and "Goldman Suchs"  just to destroy them in a blaze of glory more symbolic than the art itself? Where else can you drive around a giant party boat , explore a sunken pirate ship buried in the playa , or watch action movie style explosions light a giant effigy on fire ?
If you've ever seen the LED lights lining the Bay Bridge a few years ago, that was an art project costing in the same ballpark as some of the most impressive Burning Man art (i.e., like the dancing lady now found on Treasure Island) and took several years to get properly off the ground with all of the local politics involved in installing something on a major landmark.
Not to mention countless parties, maker spaces, artist spaces, (eg: american steel), and many other space which are all very open to newcomers and hold a lot of parties and host and support all sorts of arts.
As for the indulgence of burning man, put in a certain way, anything but work seems like an indulgence. So you're going on a cruise? Putting all that fuel oil into a remote inaccessible place and slowly lighting it on fire? Or a road trip - really, burning all that petrol?
As for _my_ burner friends, most of them are NOT "techies".
These days, with $600+ tickets, it is just a rich kids place to go. But there are still all those warehouses full of weirdos that burn and remain in the Bay Area. Just because Burning Man is now frequented by rich frat people doesn't make it too much less weird and anti-puritanical, the way the SF Bay Area used to be.
Are you, though? What would your younger, broker (perhaps more idealistic?) self think if they met modern-day wealthy-you? Would they like you? Everyone changes as they age. For most people, they become some variations of more mature, more cynical, more conservative, and more set in their ways.
That feels about right. Except that it's nowhere near as tall.
We're dealing with a similar phenomenon here. We have a lot of Colleges and Universities and big money is coming in and heavily recruiting people. Instead of a large number of start-ups, we have a culture that favors going straight to work for big businesses.
Just in time for Manhattan to try to become Brooklyn West.
So now we just have New Francisco, and a half-bulldozed New Orleans?
Regardless of your definition of a hacker, hacker culture was born out of interaction. It's sharing of information and exploring together that made programmers, hobbyists and tinkerers into hackers. I think one thing that makes "hackerdom" so easily distorted is that people don't look at what actually happened. It's quite illustrative how the article, in it's first paragraph, gets the story wrong. Which no one seems to have commented on so far.
From the article: "A young Air Force serviceman named John Draper – aka Captain Crunch – discovered that he could manipulate the rules of tone-dialling systems by using children’s whistles found in Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes."
From Wikipedia: "While Draper was driving around in his Volkswagen Microbus to test a pirate radio transmitter he had built, he broadcast a telephone number to listeners as feedback to gauge his station's reception. A callback from a "Denny" resulted in a meeting that caused him to blunder into the world of the phone phreaks. [...] A blind boy who had taken the moniker of Joybubbles had perfect pitch and was able to identify the exact frequencies. They informed him that a toy whistle that was, at the time, packaged in boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal could emit a tone at precisely 2600 hertz—the same frequency that was used by AT&T long lines to indicate that a trunk line was ready and available to route a new call."
After three years I moved to SF, but in terms of cost and general atmosphere it's starting to feel more and more like the population is being split between the same two groups as I saw in NYC.
From everything I've been reading, Detroit has become THE place to live now if you like more edgy, but affordable, neighborhoods.
Still new and hard to say, but this might be a good place to meet a more eclectic group: http://denvertoollibrary.org
I've only been here for a little over a year but I've seen the city change very much in that short amount of time. Old abandon buildings are now apartment complexes for tech kids. In May of 2014 there was _maybe_ 3 co-working spaces. Now there are at least 7 or 8 (including a newly put together `we work`). Rent has risen more than 7% this past year and housing prices are poised to increase 15% in 2015 alone.
I moved to Portland mostly because it was a west coast city that didn't get snow and had a cool vibe the one time I visited. I'm definitely adding to the problems Portland is having but at least I didn't move here from California and don't have a trust fund...
Yup. You being born in a state that is not California and moving to Portland makes you very superior to those living in Portland but born in California. You should put on your very superior hat and feel good about your total authenticity and unquestionable non-yuppiedom.
The other serious half was in reference to Bay Area yuppies moving here and subversively driving up the cost of pretty much everything.
I have coworkers from Oregon in the Bay Area. Some would say that by moving here they're 'driving up the price of everything'. At this juncture if they move back, they'll then be 'driving up the price of everything' at home. It's meaningless.
For my part I'd recommend Montreal - I was impressed by the hackerspaces and coworking there
In 2009 the libertarians and Singularitarians launched a campaign to take over the World Transhumanist Association Board of Directors, pushing out the Left in favor of allies like Milton Friedman’s grandson and Seasteader leader Patri Friedman. Since then the libertarians and Singularitarians, backed by Thiel’s philanthropy, have secured extensive hegemony in the transhumanist community. As the global capitalist system spiraled into the crisis in which it remains, partly created by the speculation of hedge fund managers like Thiel, the left-leaning majority of transhumanists around the world have increasingly seen the contradiction between the millennialist escapism of the Singularitarians and practical concerns of ensuring that technological innovation is safe and its benefits universally enjoyed. While the alliance of Left and libertarian transhumanists held together until 2008 in the belief that the new biopolitical alignments were as important as the older alignments around political economy, the global economic crisis has given new life to the technoprogressive tendency, those who want to organize for a more egalitarian world and transhumanist technologies, a project with a long Enlightenment pedigree and distinctly millenarian possibilities.
It isn't something that just happened. It's something that was done to the area.
(Also the timing is bizarre, the hippie image was already solidified in the summer of '68, but the old money came in increasing tides of the 80s 90s and 00s.)
I suggest you try Wall Street and Silicon Valley, both.
Good mercenaries know a lot more than fresh grads.
Companies (as a class of socioeconomic entity) have, since the 80s, been continually shirking their duties to their employees. At this point, the employer-employee relationship is adversarial. Thus, if it makes more sense for prospective employees to view their next job as resume padding, that's what they'll do.
If companies bothered to treat their workers well, to pay them well, to tie their fortunes to those of their employees, maybe we'd have something to talk about.
As the movie "Killing Them Softly" said:
This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fuckin' pay me.
And yeah, that makes life hard for people starting new companies. So it goes.
The writing is spot on but will cause some cognitive dissonance for some as the words ring true but conflict with the structures they have set up in their minds and in their lives.
I think that the commercialization can be good though... the culture gets to live on and propagate when there is a way for hackers to make money doing what they love. Any successful counterculture is bound to be co-opted and exploited, but that doesn't mean that true participants in that culture shouldn't be able to subsist off of it.
Author makes the comparison to hip-hop culture which I think is a good one... there is a highly commercialized side of that culture in rap music, but there are still "underground" emcees not to mention deejays, beatboxers, graffiti writers, and others who are able to build up their culture due in no small part to the money coming in. Of course, to maintain a good balance, you need keepers-of-the-faith like the author who are willing to smack down arrogant upstarts who think they can piss all over and redefine the culture they claim to hail from.
Sorry, but this author is no "keeper of the faith". He's a finance journalist, for goodness sake! See my comment above for more details.
Although the author poses some interesting ideas the piece feels long and muddled and I'm not at all sure who the audience is or what the call to action might be. Voice is unclear as some paragraphs are personal statements ("I") and others are observations about culture and economics.
It might be more powerful if it was drastically shorter and simpler ... or maybe if it was three times longer with more references and a stronger set of recommendations. I really can't say.
The last few paragraphs bring it home: hacking is being subverted as a tool of the establishment and no longer, in common use, means working against the establishment.
Words in the english language change all the time. Hacking in the sense of gaining a deep understanding of things by tinkering is alive and well and isn't going anywhere. So some one co-opted our label. So What? We can get a new label. It doesn't mean we somehow vanished or are dying out. We're still here. We still buy kits to get screw drivers that let us open that box and void the warranty. We still poke and prod at computer systems in ways they weren't designed to be poked and prodded. We still create things with materials no one else thought to create with. And in the sense of hacking he is referring to we still do it whether it has a label or not.
He even talks about hacking being something as old as the human race. And then he goes on to complain that this label got co-opted. Of course it did. Everyone is a hacker. Everyone is looking to game the system. Hackers don't have a monopoly on hacking. So the "yuppies" hacked our terminology. Good for them. Now we get to go hack some other terminology. Hack used to refer to a kludge. We co-opted the term to mean something else. Now it has been co-opted again.
The author is in many ways complaining about something that isn't a real problem. We were hacking before there was a label for it. We will still be hacking after the label is gone. Nothing has been lost here.
And how does one co-opt a culture? What does that even mean? I can see how one might destroy a culture, force a culture into hiding maybe, but co-opt it? That's a fancy way of saying they took our label. That's the thing about label's though. They change meanings over time.
I think the real reason the author and many others are upset is because they thought the "hacker ethos" was going to go mainstream. Then they looked around and realized that what went mainstream wasn't hacking as they saw it, and got upset.
Hackers have always been a minority. We were a minority during the internet revolution. We are minority now. We'll be a minority in the future. Expecting anything else will just result in dashed hopes.
The prevalence of computers in modern commerce makes this easy to overlook. Hacking isn't about building things the rest of the world appreciates and understands--it's about mastery and appreciation of abstract systems.
Edit: to make myself completely clear, profit is inherently evil, c.f. the notion of selflessness.
Acquiring money is not the only way to profit; it's whatever your "utility function" is. Money is just an easy one to quantify and analyze.
If you spend 10 hours on Saturday freelancing for $130/hr versus spending 10 hour working on OSS versus fucking around with code, you are still applying your capital (time, skills, hardware/software) to obtain a profit (money, fulfillment, enjoyment).
That's what's great about capitalism: you get to choose how to apply your capital to obtain the outcomes you want, even those outcomes are not monetary.
there are plenty of lazy people, but in their midst are hardworking people trying to survive. Profit chooses to oppress.
The optimal system grows only for the sake of its own employees.
But it is fun!
I'm on the other side of the fence, I have yet to find a good argument that defends profit when you weight it against all its fault. As far as I'm concerned the profit race is about the worst thing our specie ever came up with, it's directly responsible for destroying our planet, for the death of millions and as we speak for the lack of future for our specie.
It's worth noting that "hacker news" was probably never meant in the sense of "excellent programmer", but rather in the sense being criticized by the article: one of venture-capitalist-backed businesses "disrupting" industries to dominate said industries (bringing money to the venture capitalists in turn). The implication that HN - which was created and is owned and maintained by YCombinator, arguably among the more prominent of such VCs - was named in reference to anything but the very thing the article describes is inaccurate.
I think your notation is revisionist history.
Here's an example of a PG's use of "hacker" from 2001. PG is very much talking about "hacker" as an above-average programmer not content with an inferior "blub" language:
YCombinator was started in 2005. The "Hacker News" was started in 2007. The audience it intended to serve was the type of "hackers" mentioned in the 2001 essay.
PG also later uses "hacker" in the sense of a tech nerd who would rather focus on a startup rather instead of being discontent working at a corporate job. This definition of "life-hacker" is also not relevant to the article's definition. The article is talking about programmers who serve VCs' agendas instead of pursuing their true desires. PG has never advocated that. The essay also complains about the VCs who are pseudo-hackers because of their monetary influence. PG isn't talking about them either. Ergo, this website was not trying to attract them as an audience. (The "demo days" does try to attract VCs but that's an event separate from the website.)
One can look at Internet Archive Wayback Machine and see that the front page was dominated by topics unrelated to "chasing the money". Just a bunch of tech geek topics. Programming languages, algorithms, etc. It was very much "news" for "hackers" in the positive connotations of that term.
> YCombinator was started in 2005. The "Hacker News" was started in 2007. The audience it intended to serve was the type of "hackers" mentioned in the 2001 essay.
Are you sure about that? Plenty of large companies have worked to build cultures around their products. Should we really trust YCombinator's motives more than, say, Apple's when they build a product that claims to be geared toward makers while gradually pulling said makers into a particular ecosystem?
In other words, just because YCombinator / Paul Graham claim Hacker News to be geared toward technical-loving programmers and tinkerers v. VC-backed (or prospective VC-backed) entrepreneurs doesn't mean that neither of them are lying to us or themselves.
> PG also later uses "hacker" in the sense of a tech nerd who would rather focus on a startup rather instead of being discontent working at a corporate job.
That happens to describe a lot of people who wouldn't be classified as "hackers", or even future ones in their larval stage. It also happens to describe many (if not most) startup founders of the variety being criticized in the article.
> One can look at Internet Archive Wayback Machine and see that the front page was dominated by topics unrelated to "chasing the money".
There were a lot of technical topics, yes, but "dominated by topics unrelated to 'chasing the money'" seems to be false, seeing that the top result has a plug for a startup called "ThriveSmart" and is basically how why some startup uses Rails, result #4 is Betteridge's-Law-invoking clickbait rhetorically implying that VC-backed startups should for some reason be ashamed of themselves for not towing to puritannical sensibilities regarding pornographic content (though, to be fair, Paul Graham did post in that article's comment section calling it out on said puritannical and rather hypocritical bullshit), result #7 is about having dinner with YC folks and being acquired by Conde Nast, result #8 is about Caterpillar making money through "Web 2.0", result #16 is a WSJ piece praising the open-office concept and disparaging cubicles "because it's what Silicon Valley does, and therefore deserves attention for some reason", result #29 is some blog post about entrepreneur burnout, and result #30 is a rather-uncritical NYT piece on advertising strategies of large businesses. I haven't even gotten to the second page yet.
And yet you cite this as proof that my viewpoint is revisionist somehow. Yeah, there were quite a few awesome technical articles back then, but even back then the Valleyesque distortion cuts through the purported hacker-centric focus of HN.
This isn't to say that Paul Graham wasn't or isn't an excellent hacker, nor is it to say that his own definition of hacker back in 2001 was somehow incorrect or out-of-line with the proper (and admittedly nebulous/vague) definition, and nor is it to say that he or YCombinator had motives out-of-alignment with the purported target audience. Rather, it's to suggest that maybe - just maybe - folks around here are taking the "hacker" part of "hacker news" too strongly at face value when its YC heritage ought to be warranting at least a small grain of salt, and that a lot may very well have changed in six years.
It's fine to be vigilant about subliminal marketing or secret motives (hailcorporate!) but I think in this case, HN is transparent in its goals.
If HN is brainwashing us to redefine "hacker" to suit their needs, what is their end game? HN doesn't have ads. They don't have constant popups nagging us to pay for a subscription. They do have periodic "YC Random Company is hiring" posts (if you consider those "ads"). But they also have the weekly hiring posts from non-YC companies. There are the weekly posts about "basic income" and "minimum wage should be $15" and "programmers should form a union" that routinely make the front page. Those are not topics the money men like to push. Any time a "Uber taxi" thread is posted, the top comments always complain about the "sharing-economy" being a VC-funded scam on society. Lastly, the vast majority of readers will never submit an application to YC so that link is also mostly irrelevant.
In other words, if HN is tricking us with a redefinition of "hacker" to suit their nefarious agenda, what have they gained and what did readers lose?
>It also happens to describe many (if not most) startup founders of the variety being criticized in the article.
Your interpretation of the article is incorrect. The article explains how some startup entrepreneurs with counter-culture tendencies, rebellious attitudes, and subversive agendas can be neutered of their free spirit and be put into the service of entities with money (VCs, Barclay's so-called "hackathon", etc) -- the "yuppies".
The article is criticizing the "yuppies" and not the startup entrepreneurs that might enjoy articles currently on HN front page such as "Reversing NvAPI to Programmatically Overclock Nvidia GPUs" and "Go and Rust – objects without class (2013)"
>the top result has a plug for a startup called "ThriveSmart" and is basically how why some startup uses Rails
I guess one can see whatever they want to see. To me, that article is a Rails article, and the secondary trivia is that the company happens to be ThriveSmart. If that article was written anonymously with no company mentioned, one of the HN commenters would inevitably ask, "where do you work?" and the company name would be revealed in the comments. People try languages, frameworks, databases, and they also tend to work at companies. The company is part of the color of the presentation. If we got manipulated by ThriveSmart exposure 8 years ago, I don't see evidence of it. The other articles on the front page are topics hackers voted up. It doesn't mean every article is a programming article about Lisp or MongoDB.
>- just maybe - folks around here are taking the "hacker" part of "hacker news" too strongly at face value when its YC heritage ought to be warranting at least a small grain of salt, and that a lot may very well have changed in six years.
To proof to me is what types of articles show up on the front page. HN's audience is not all uber-Lisp clones of PG but the intended audience is definitely not the "yuppies" that the article is criticizing. I can't see how anyone can look at the HN front page as a whole and conclude it is designed for "yuppies" instead of "hackers".
I believe there are so many misinterpretations of his thesis because he writes in a very convoluted style but here's an example excerpt of author's criticism of yuppies: "We are currently witnessing the gentrification of hacker culture. The countercultural trickster has been pressed into the service of the preppy tech entrepreneur class. It began innocently, no doubt. The association of the hacker ethic with startups might have started with an authentic counter-cultural impulse on the part of outsider nerds tinkering away on websites. But, like all gentrification, the influx into the scene of successive waves of ever less disaffected individuals results in a growing emphasis on the unthreatening elements of hacking over the subversive ones."
Promoting the startups YCombinator has funded over the years? Promoting YCombinator itself for prospective entrepreneurs looking to get funding? Those are the most obvious ones.
> Lastly, the vast majority of readers will never submit an application to YC so that link is also mostly irrelevant.
In a "vast" majority of even a thousand people, that's still up to a few dozen or so in the minority. And YC would have plenty of motive to encourage that minority to grow, and especially for said growth to have YC in their list of seed funders to apply to because "well they host Hacker News and I'm a Hacker News regular".
Everyone has ulterior motives. Just because YCombinator doesn't explicitly state "Welcome to Hacker News, where we basically cozy up to you in the hopes that you'll apply for seed funding and consultation from us so we can make money off the success of your business" doesn't mean that such an ulterior motive doesn't exist.
I'm probably being excessively critical, of course, and maybe YCombinator really is totally benevolent and running Hacker News out of the goodness of its venture-capitalist heart. It's hard to really know, however, and for that reason I tend to err on the side of caution.
> Your interpretation of the article is incorrect. [...]
How does any of that paragraph invalidate my remark? Just because someone has "counter-culture tendencies, rebellious attitudes, and subversive agendas" doesn't mean that they're suddenly "hackers". You need creative ingenuity and a desire to understand how things work, and those traits don't come automatically with the ones you mention.
> To me, that article is a Rails article, and the secondary trivia is that the company happens to be ThriveSmart.
You're probably right that I'm characterizing that one a bit harshly. To me, though, it reeks a bit of the whole "look at us, we're hip and modern and use Rails so you should totally buy our hip/modern/Railsy product". Especially considering that the product in question happens to be a web development product.
Not that there's something particularly wrong about this - as a buyer of services, the technological implementations do often matter to me, since it gives me a vague idea of whether or not the service I'm buying will be sufficiently-reliable for my needs. It's just that, having been on the other side of that (first-hand experience with companies that want to show off their tech as an advertising tool for prospective customers, talent, etc.), it strikes me as an advertising-first, tech-second article, and I tend to believe it important to recognize such things. Being aware that you're being advertised to is an important part of making wise market decisions; an unawareness of the influence of some subtle bit of advertising can mean the difference between a reasoned evaluation of a product and a gung-ho "this product looks good" based on hard-to-self-identify confirmation biases.
> To proof to me is what types of articles show up on the front page.
As it is to me; on some days the technical outweighs the business, and on other days the business outweighs the technical. As you said, though, one tends to see whatever one wants to see. Perhaps you're looking at HN through rose-colored glasses. Perhaps I'm looking at HN through dirt-colored glasses. It's all a matter of perspective.
Who cares if 'yuppies' 'gentrify' hacking. You neither have to stop doing what you like because groups you don't care for have noticed nor do you have to waste energy and time and fight against them for doing so.
Do what you want to do regardless. That is the answer to the author's questions.
If you are a hacker, or artist or music lover or anything else of a certain type merely because someone else isn't of that type you are not really that thing.
You are going to find posers as a sub-culture enters the general awareness but you are also going to find trickster godlings in suits with boring titles on their business cards if you don't let the trappings blind you.
In the end, it really isn't though.
It is a bad thing when subcultures are overrun by people who did not come to it organically. What I mean by that is at a certain point, members of a subculture gain a perceived glamour, which incentivizes outsiders to come in for superficial reasons. This dilutes the subculture's original ethos, and if it continues long enough it totally replaces it.
A perfect example of this is the Indie rock of 15 years ago. That culture has completely been obliterated and replaced by a microcosm of corporate pop music. Almost anyone I speak to knows what Indie is now. One would struggle to accurately refer to it as a subculture today. The problem is not a mere increase in population, but a dilution of the core values that initially caused people to gravitate to that scene.
It has a real cost to the original members, in terms of their loss of immediate credibility. You see a guy with sailor tattoos. Did he serve in the Fleet, does that speak to his work ethic and skill with a chart or a diesel engine? Or does he work in advertising and drink soy lattes? You see a girl with thick-rimmed glasses. Is she an old-skool assembly hacker, or did she just think they would look cute with her "vintage" dress? It means the genuine people, who have paid their dues, need to prove themselves over and over again to everyone they meet. That is why everyone hates hipsters.
Obliterated? I think not. There is still a very vibrant indie music scene that is still truly independent and innovative and interesting -- if anything it is more vibrant today than it ever was (this is a scene I know a bit about). Some was picked up by the mainstream, sure, but much more was not simply because it wasn't palatable to the corporate pop music listener.
And, honestly, I love the indie music scene's response which was largely 'Well that's nice for them.' and on the other side 'We have this backing or audience, who else wants to play a show or two you normally wouldn't be able to'. Rather than being seen as selling one's soul, it is just a thing that happened -- nothing more, nothing less.
But, otherwise, people was just created what they wanted to create and played shows as usual -- and they continue to do so. The indie scene may have punk ancestry, but that reactionary attitude has withered and fallen away which is good IMHO.
Granted, you are always going to have the people that will rail against 'selling out' because their ego is so tightly entwined in being The Other in these scenes but they aren't dominant in as many of these sub cultures as, say, punk or anarchist scenes for two examples.
Having seen an uncountable number of subcultures in popular music overrun this way, I've come to see it as an inevitability. When a subculture is pure and thriving and exciting, enjoy it while you can, for "this too shall pass."
For me the movement that was "indie rock" ended with the success of Nirvana; after that "indie rock" became the label for a musical genre (which was weird, because "indie rock" was as much the label of a business practice as it was the label of a musical genre).
It's true. The answers are not all found within. An idealized process would more like: Find out about something cool. Working with those people/that scene to improve it. Detect when it's losing its ideals. Nudge it back toward its ideals.
Lots of people who hack out of pure curiosity. It's how humans work and got to be the way we are. That's an ideal. Nowadays, we have people with lots of money distracting the hackers, saying, "Hey, why are you just doing that for the hell of it? You have skills, help me make money and you can have some, too."
It doesn't sound bad on the surface, but it goes wrong for everyone when the idea of someone have "skills" is abstracted to mean "skills that I can use to make $." Most hacking (lock picking, software stunts, diet coke and Mentos) is not commericially useful, at least not directly. But when a hacker suspends their natural desire and directs it toward someone else's ends, the natural "curiosity vector" is not followed. It's not bad, it's just the death of an ideal. The best we can do is help each other identify when we're compromising too much on our curiosity and ideals in chasing that holy billion dollars.
Indeed, the term 'hacker' has survived the media's use/definition of it through the 80s and 90s as a "computer criminal." Today we distinguish between black hat and white hat, but the term "hacker" still applies.
After a while, I just accepted as fact the existence of a large contingent of "hipster web 2.0 wanks" (well, that's the tag I use internally).
But today I'll start an experiment. I'll adjust the internal tag to recognize them by their true name. An old name... Posers.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. :)
I hope this exercise in context will help me be a more discerning reader.
...Forgive me, if you want, when I contradict myself!
I think there's some value in cliques. I was reminded of this recently when some buddies and I started an every-other-Sunday RPG group. (Heroes Unlimited, FWIW.)
The conversations that come up in that group are really great. The common ground that we share allows me to really get down to brass tacks with ease. ...More easily than I can do here!
Granted, wishing that my public-news-and-commentary-website would be more like my-four-man-paper-and-dice-gaming-club is downright unreasonable. That being said, the fact remains that there are little corners of the web (net!) here and there where discussion about changing the world via tech won't get sidetracked by some perverse anti-SJW point-hunting BS. Wait, ARE THERE? :(
0: physics, respect for the rules (of the game/physics/conversation), puns, beer.
What I dislike is not so much the existence of cliques, I agree with you that they have an important place, and I certainly have, and in the past have always had, various "circles" that I enjoy being with far more than other people. What gets under my skin is the way in which cliques think and speak of people on the outside. For instance (to keep picking on you), people who are interested in web applications with lots of user-focused behavior more than other, supposedly "more pure", kinds of applications, whether it's because that's where the jobs are or because that's where the users are or just because they think it's cool, become "hipsters", "wanks", and "posers". The problem isn't with having specific interests and a preference to converse with people who share them, the problem is with the rampant implicit or explicit judgment of people who don't. Maybe it's just an effort to categorize, in order to have an easy shorthand for thinking about what kinds of people you prefer to converse with, but why does this sort of categorization almost always seem to rely on such pejorative language?
In any case, I agree with you that mefi is a great community, but I definitely haven't found any place with as good a variety of technical submissions and discussions as HN, even if it is overrun with bourgeois gentrifiers like myself.
But that's it. I'd oppose somebody if I observed them on the attack, but never start anything. And that behavior was systematic. Frankly, it's exploitable.
So, I dunno. I'm in flux. Rethinking some things. Practicing allowing myself to think, even SAY--"you know what? Some people suck, objectively".
I guess your comment "doing their best to figure out a path for themselves through a mystifying world" inspired me to mention that part.
I think the upshot of rejecting some people is that you can lower your cognitive load in group situations. You mentioned it: categorization. For me, it's a pretty fundamental shift (that I'm not sold on yet): actually adding a new category: those that I'd leave behind first in some sort of lifeboat situation. I know that's really harsh. Fortunately real-world lifeboat situations are rare? Without such categorization, you can land in some REALLY dumb situations...
You're probably right that "some people suck, objectively", but I don't think I've ever met such a person, so I'm never going to assume that someone I meet who seems to suck is actually an objectively sucky person, but rather just a normal person who, like me, is trying to do the best they know how, and just failing at it in that moment, for whatever reason.
A. mosquitoes (or fleas, if you prefer) are in a category that is very difficult to defend, right? I mean it takes an very broad definition of "we" to include bloodsuckers.
B. If the category described in A. exists, if "we" excludes some creatures... then you have to ask yourself where to draw the line, and that's crappy territory to traverse. But what if it is necessary to traverse it?
Come to think about it, I've only heard the HN crowd praise him. Oh, well, and he does it himself.
What HN does do is give me a steady stream of content to consume. Articles about physics followed by code demos followed by ethnographies.
Shit, have I really been spending time in a pro-money, anti-woman poser circle-wank fest just for the free links?
I wonder what's up on mefi today...
Certainly, many of us have gotten older while we've been a part of the community. This is a generality too, and probably not valid, but, I have noticed that for what we would have defined as a "techie" in the period from 1995-present day, many of us have tired with the hamster-wheel of technology.
By that I mean, we have tired with, a new tech or trend comes up, everybody goes crazy whether it is good or not, much hand-wringing and attention and money is spent, and in a few years, it's old and used and beat up and on to the next thing. It's like the wasteful consumer attitude of use and throw away rather than building things that last. I don't meant to say we haven't built things that last because many of our technologies and organizations certainly have. Just that we're quick to throw out the old for the new, and constantly reinventing yourself every few years can be difficult - at some point you hope to succeed because of your core skills and not just because you know the latest or greatest technology (which may or may not flop in 6 months).
Again, generally speaking, as you get older or as the world continues to get more expensive (the time value of money changing) and the requirements to pay the bills continue, the focus tends to shift away from the cool tech and into how to make money, products, etc.
There's good and bad in this - cool tech for tech's sake is nice but does not always solve real problems that create value or utility for people. Endless searching for profit can destroy great ideas. But in general, solving real problems/needs/desires using old (or new) technologies provides real value to society, and when those generate profit that allow us to exist in the world which requires money to survive, then that's great. One needs balance in all things, some people need to do "cool tech for tech's sake", some need to solve real problems every day, some need to pay the bills and some just need to help the world. Some want to do a blend of those things.
Knowing where you as an individual fall in the spectrum of efforts, needs, pursuits, desires, etc. can be difficult. I guess the best thing one can do is be honest with oneself and then project from there.
Perhaps the changing and continued diversifying demographic of HN, along with the dynamics of requirements of the "real world" are partly what has driven the trend in comments that you point out.
FWIW, "cool tech" can mean different things to different people. The Y Combinator is cool tech. It's also about as timeless as it gets, eh?
Trendy tech can be cool. It usually isn't, but it totally can be! :)
But, I'm a midwesterner with a fair salary who's happy with where he is, which is probably a bit alien to begin with (at least in tech circles).
Last time I checked my history books, hackers used to be "good" when they started out. Yes, they were counter-cultural and yes, many had more or less pronounced anarchists tendencies. But they were definitely not the rebellious threat to public safety that the author portrays. In fact, the author gets it back to front: the real corruption of the term "hacker" happened twenty-five years ago, when the media started applying that label to cyber criminals. If anything, Silicon Valley is actively countering that original corruption by their current use of the term. (Though it is quite possible that they are misusing/over-using it in smaller ways.)
In short, this is a prime example of an article about a subculture that is untainted by any understanding of the same.
The two groups do often overlap; even the Jargon File (which is strictly adamant in its distinction between the two subcultures) admits as much. The difference is with intent; a hacker fixates upon the exploration and understanding of a system, whereas a cracker fixates upon the breaking of a system (or the prevention of future breaking, in the case of white-hat crackers). In this sense, the article's actually one of the very few that gets this distinction even partially correct, even if it does lean a bit heavily toward the "cracker" side of said incredibly-fine line.
Even that particular fine line isn't well-defined, of course; there are plenty of cases where a hacker feels the need to resort to cracker-like behavior in order to get a point across (like "your software has this and that bug; here's a program demonstrating them"), in which case the line between "hacker" and "white/grey-hat cracker" is even further blurred.
> But they were definitely not the rebellious threat to public safety that the author portrays.
This isn't always true. See also: http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/meaning-of-hack.html (particularly the story about 'Robin Hood' and 'Friar Tuck').
> If anything, Silicon Valley is actively countering that original corruption by their current use of the term. (Though it is quite possible that they are misusing/over-using it in smaller ways.)
I'd argue that it's just as much a corruption, but in the opposite direction. The hacker ethos really lies somewhere between crackeresque active rebellion and Valleyesque conformity. The article happens to get this right, too, in its remark that hackerdom works "obliquely" and outside the conventional realm of borders and dichotomies. The hacker spirit is one with ambiguous and often even inconsistent goals (at least to someone looking into it from the outside), and this ambiguousness is in contract with both crackerdom (actively rebelling against the concept of authority, to the point of meritocratic anarchy) and Valleydom (actively striving to become authority, to the point of monopolistic totalitarianism).
Of course, the article's characterization of folks like Anonymous and Wikileaks as the modern day "true" hackers isn't exactly accurate, either, highlighting further the difficulty which exists in trying to clearly define what it means to be a "hacker". In theory, such groups could very well express the hacker ethos (namely, by doing what they do for the sake of doing what they do), but I feel that both tend to have a specific bent or agenda to them that subverts what would otherwise be much closer to a manifestation of the hacker ethos.
This theme can be further generalized into "money is ruining <insert_whatever>".
"Money is ruining music. Bing Crosby was a true artist; Today's performers like Lady Gaga is a commercial pandering."
"Money is ruining movies. The 1970s had auteur directors but now all we get at theaters is superheroes in spandex and Disney princesses because they need ROI from international blockbusters."
Writers, thinking they have something new to say, like to write on those themes. Readers, with a predisposition to seeing what's wrong with the world, like to read them. I suppose it's some sort of 1st-World ritual of commiseration. Personally, I find those essays devoid of any insight. I can acknowledge that there are undeniable trends there but I try to avoid categorizing them into value judgments of "good vs evil". I understand the economics of why Disney's "Frozen" is the type of film that theaters prefer to show rather than Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate".
An example of force-fitting his observations into categories of Hackers-vs-Yuppies (aka good-vs-evil) is his claim:
"I’m going to stake a claim on the word though, and state that the true hacker spirit does not reside at Google, guided by profit targets."
That broad-stroked brush is amateur writing. Google is a big place with ~57,000 employees. Sure, there are probably engineers doing soul-crushing work of parsing logs for server reliability or optimizing ad click conversions. But I'm sure there are other pockets of engineering where "hackers" are innovating and trying to change the world: driverless cars, balloon wifi, etc. It's the same contradictory pockets of bored employees coexisting with passionate hackers in different areas of large companies like Lockheed, AT&T Labs, Apple, etc.
As far as "yuppies" ruining the hackers, I'm not sure who's supposed to be an exemplar of the "hacker" that he wants to run SV. Steve Wozniak & Steve Jobs both came from middle class families. They weren't hobos living out of their cars and overturning the world with their hacker ethos. Apple took money from VC investors within 1 year of its founding. Even Richard Stallman's family background can also be considered "yuppie".
As nice as it would be, "encourage play" is not an effective political praxis. The environments that fostered early hackers no longer exist, and outside of rough approximations in occasional backwaters nothing of the sort exists today. Lone hackers do exist, writing code that does things most people would balk at attempting, and their meager Web presence osculates the HN sphere (sometimes people post technical, novel things on HN). But there are no hacker communities... the demoscene is maybe the last bastion of that sort of cult to the technical, and their irrelevance even to the larger programming community is clear. Look at the kind of comments demoscene posts on HN get: adulation, but distant--"I could never do that!" or "It's amazing what ..." dominate over discussion of the technical attributes, the actual hacks, being displayed.
Yuppies (big business, middle-aged slashdotters, startup capitalists, bros, anime communists, whoever) own HN and programming at large, but hacking (or anything so self-centric, e.g. radical libertarianism) is inherently anti-establishment and can't be truly co-opted. Its terminology has been subverted, but the core activity has merely been extinguished rather than harnessed to the establishment buggy. Hacking (and libertarianism) isn't good politics, but casting hackers as a social class is no longer coherent, even if one could claim it ever was (in the '80s?). The real problems are either political ones (for the vast majority of the world, as continued mechanization increasingly removes accountability and autonomy from people's daily lives) or social/lifestyle ones (for those who wish to be hackers).
The author is making a stronger case than that, the article is an examination of a culture being diluted by misappropriation of the term "hacker".
Hacking is subversive at its core, it's an exploration of technology, and in many regards generally pointless, done for ones own curiosity or to change the rules of a system to perturb the owners of that system.
One can't hold onto their own culture for long, thanks to the internet, but the reimagining of hackers from basement dwelling socially awkward nerds to sleek and mysterious agents who can bend the technologies, the world, even their own bodies to their will, has influenced people's perceptions of the culture. Now that it's cool everyone wants a piece, they want to associate themselves with that term like they would a cool brand of clothing. If you can't see that then you're not looking hard enough.
I disagree. Yes, his essay briefly talks about the hollowing out of the term "hacker". But it's really the hackers' "ethos" and "culture" that's in danger from "gentrification" rather the diluted meaning of a particular word.
He uses the word "gentrified/gentrification" over 20 times. Those sentences are more about about geeks & nerds being "pawns" of those with money. Those with money have agendas that are more "mainstream" and "safe". It's not about yuppies fooling the public with their new redefinition of "hacker".
The funny thing about this statement is that the auteur era was a very short-lived period created by the collapse of the old studio system until the studios regrouped and the blockbuster era began.
Go back to the truly old-school days of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and you'll see an environment uttely driven by the bottom line, where oppressive contracts and shady deals ruled the day. At least nowadays you don't have studios signing exclusivity deals with theaters like you had back in the day, the epitome of this was Paramount signing every single theater in Detroit to such a deal. Just imagine living in a major city and only being allowed to see movies made by a single studio.
Concern has been expressed that the new generation of artists (musicians, actors etc.) in the UK seem to primarily come from upper middle class backgrounds. I have started to wonder if the same could be said of the tech startup scene, e.g. in London. This could be due to the increasing difficulties someone would have living on a period of effectively zero income, unless they had the backing of rich parents.
 Could cite lots of articles, but http://www.standard.co.uk/business/markets/confessions-from-... is just one recent one.
Even though many people try to draw parallels between hackers who creatively modify systems and hackers who break into systems, there is little overlap these days, except, maybe some common roots in history and the fact that the latter usually have ample skills to do "creative" hacks as well.
Hacker culture being subverted? With multitude of security conferences, daily news about research into new vulnerabilities and increasingly frequent criminal hacks, I think hacker culture is actually doing pretty well in many of its diverse forms.
People like nice things. There I said it. Most people like nice cedar lined floors, expensive drinks and well cut clothes. And when you have those things, it's marvelous how quickly your disdain for the 'institution' evaporates.
Most of us aren't really hackers in that nostalgic sense. We're normal people, yuppies, kids, nerds, dorks, that one dude really into Aphex Twin in your office (everyone has one). We just happen to be good with computers.
People are made to want nice thing, big difference. It's the result of the exploitation of a natural need (fear) by corporations and the 'institution' through modern advertising and propaganda.
The fact that the disdain reduces/disappears for some is not of any credit to their acceptance of the 'institution', it just shows it works as intended (generating individuals that will not question).
I do not pretend to hold the truth,but I do hold an opinion based on my own experience (I work in advertising, ironic) and I stand by it as I've yet to be convinced of the contrary (and trust me, I'm looking for every chance to be proven wrong).
>Or they have their own minds
You are entirely too certain of this statement. Research/writings dating back to the late 1800' dive into the subject (and we still are) of the human mind, how it works, how and if it can be manipulated. Many of the advances of those days in phychology and neuroscience have been used as foundations of the advertising industry. See propaganda history as well since it's just another -not very liked- name for advertisement.
I for one think you can keep your cedar floors and fancy wine. Maybe I'm just young but I really don't want that at all.
Google cache: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:5gBAj1...
So, that's the whole issue right there-- being a hacker has become a career path, and it's iteratively becoming more mainstream as the expected benefits are formalized and the stigmas exorcized.
That doesn't really sound all that bad, but the problem with gentrification is that it pushes the original tenants out, which is kinda scary when we're talking about the gentrification of an idea.
Of course, I'm not really sure how much such real hackers care.
It'll be inconvenient when you can no longer identify a member of the tribe by a simple shibboleth, but that is not an insurmountable obstacle.
In my opinion, l33t H4x0r status is something you earn.
A yuppie having "hacker" on their business card is likely doing about as much damage to hackerdom as the self-titled programming rock stars, ninjas, wizards, etc. etc. did to those professional groups.
0. Incidentally, does anyone else get reminded of things like The Rebel Sell or The Conquest of Cool by pieces like this? All of this handwringing serves to subtly indicate that the author is the sort of person who happens on these scenes before they were cool.
1. Even if you can't get rid of the more Stallman-esque members of the tribe, they get romanticized, deified, reduced to stories instead of people who could be brilliant, visionary, and kind, but moments later gross or needlessly rude.
2. Generally by spelling with your number keys.
The article misses the mark here mostly because it swings a bit too hard toward crackeresque antisocial anarchy in order to compensate for the Valleyesque prosocial conformity being criticized. Really, the "hacker ethos" leans closer to asocial ambivalence.
Here's a good one (a few MB of text) about hacker encryption: https://www.cypherpunks.to/faq/cyphernomicron/cyphernomicon.... — other traditional sources are the anarchist's cookbook and anything with more of a "fight the man" sense from the 70s and less of a "give us billions of dollars" sense from the post-popular-Internet era.
Hacking is about a nerd underclass fighting an oblivious overclass. Up until the late 90s, hackers had never "won." But with Internet mania sweeping the world, the nerds started to win. They became "the new man." Now the new overclass needs to be brought down themselves. You don't win hacking, you just become a more prominent target.
Hacking is also about exactly not that.
Hacking is just ignoring everybody else and doing good work you can be proud of. It's the only reason Apple exists. Hacking is about not trying to win, it's just about being clever.
Companies promote hiring the second kind of hacker because those people pay no attention to the value they create as long as they're having fun. So, you get someone puzzle-obsessed, give them a $50 million problem to solve, they solve it, and you keep paying them their $125k/year. Everybody's happy and the CEO gets to join the three comma club even sooner thanks to the selfless hackers who enjoy subsidizing billionaires while living at the bottom of the org chart.
The prototypical self-described hacker is an insecure person who attaches themselves to a romantic, powerful identity in order that they might attain these qualities themselves. But the power of the hacker is that of a magician: conjuring tricks in order to amaze the public and seem mysterious, powerful, skilled.
Here you see a normal web server with a firewall. It's totally secure. Nothing up my sleeve, as you can see. But wait... Alacazam! Now I have a remote shell!
If the author wanted to 'resist' traditional economic institutions they could become a circus performer. But then they couldn't fulfill the true 'fetish', which is that anti-authoritarian action through intellectual skill and craftiness is a pursuit to be proud of; one that the audience should revere.
The fact that this author's lofty rejection of traditional economic forces packaged in a sexy identity also has the ability to provide them a very comfortable living is, it would seem, totally accidental.
That's very much how it seems in NY right now.
It's important in these situations to look outside of the context and just see what's actually happening: people are learning. And that has more positives than negatives I'm sure.
$10-18k+ that you can't write off on your taxes.
Full disclosure: I attended such a place myself as I saw it as the best way to shift my career quickly (support/ops). I've been writing code since I was 6 years old.
But over a life time, if they work hard after and keep coding after, they can 10 fold reap what they sow. If they get a tech job, it might be a 10-20k a year increase from whatever other field they're in, more if they were a barista or something. Even if it doesn't lead to coding, but other jobs at a startup like tech support, the income boost might be substantial. Also the time is so condensed, they get a lot of learning out of those 11-15 weeks. Also, unlike grad school, there's no loss of income for 2 years. Worst comes to worst, I'd imagine in many cases their old employers are likely to bring them back.
But for someone with a decade of work experience in tech before switching and no degree, I found the opportunities available -- especially fulfilling ones that provide the mentorship to give foundation to a long career -- few and far between post-graduation. The opportunity that I did take will lead to another year of just scraping by and a lot of uncertainty while I continue to "prove myself" worthy of a decent fulltime offer.
And I'm on the better end of the scale technically and "work-culturally" compared to my peers. There is a huge glut of devs around this experience level out there.
I learned too late that there are better options available. I wish that I had taken them, because now I'm faced with poor options ahead: a) great opportunity but stay poor a while more, b) financial security but no mentorship, c) great opportunity with company with incredibly uncertain future.
Because of my background, most of the places that interviewed me wanted to stick me in a 100% DevOps role, regardless of the position applied for. Frankly I am not interested in that at the moment.
I know it sounds like I'm complaining - honestly I have great options available in front of me and some of that credit surely goes to my school, but the best option and the one that I am taking would have been much more financially acceptable had I not done the school in the first place.
I appreciate the honesty. I think you hit upon a common problem. There's really not a great job track for people coming out of bootcamps. Also, you're right, it deserves mentioning that those months afterward while you hunt for a job are lean months indeed.
I think a company that goes all in on bootcamp grads and makes what is essentially a second program for them might really find themselves with a lot of talent on their hands. But sadly most jobs you'll get afterward lack mentorship.
Which, not to beat a dead horse, but this industry needs to get a better grasp on tech mentorship.
I'm curious to know what better options you're talking about?
> In this context, the hacker ethic is hollowed out and subsumed into the ideology of solutionism, to use a term coined by the Belarusian-born tech critic Evgeny Morozov. It describes the tech-industry vision of the world as a series of problems waiting for (profitable) solutions.
Trade is the ultimate form of autonomy because when someone willingly buys what you're selling you can be self-sufficient (as opposed to dependent on a beneficent family/non-profit organization/gov't). Obviously tech startups have deviated from the hobbyist "I'm getting my kicks" ethos because they're trying to hack the softer domain that is customer behavior. Solutions to real problems are always win-win, and to believe otherwise is pretty weird.
I think the article does rightly note that hackers in a historical sense haven't had that same fundamental limit.
Who win-wins if Uber satisfies a need by flouting established taxi law and asking forgiveness instead of permission?
The ones who win: rider and driver.
I'd say that's more maker culture, but makers tend to be far more comfortable with corporotized tools then I'd like.
Personal identity is weird. It's nice to be able to easily identify people with similar axioms to you, but damn is it a minefield.
That's an instant fail.
People are just not telling you to your face anymore, because they want your money. :/
It always irks me when I hear people refer to themselves as hackers (Zuckerberg for one) and this article articulates why far better than I could.
1. Define what hacker means (prior to the yuppie gentrification), for numerous paragraphs. Bulk of article.
2. Big drop G paragraph: point actually starts here. (Just scroll down until you see a big G).
3. Fizzle on about gentrification of hacking, sort of making a point.
4. Send yuppies home.
It wasn't colonization that yuppified hackerdom. It was evolution. Most of the old school hackers became yuppies when they found out they could make lots of money off this stuff. New school hackers are entering the scene now and this is all they know.
The same thing happened to old school counterculture hippies who found out their ideas and their styles sell. Hippies founded loads of clothing brands, trendy shops, 'new urbanism', and the whole organic food movement, all of which are now massively profitable. Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM, an S&P500 component) is a direct evolutionary descendant of the dirt-worshipping weirdos that spurned 1950s white bread culture and danced in the streets on acid.
Nothing really goes extinct. The dinosaurs are still here. In America we have a custom of roasting one on Thanksgiving.
I grew up with the old school 90s cyberculture, and I miss it dearly. I remember downloading text files on phone phreaking from H/P/V/A BBSes, hacking PBXes to dial demo scene boards in Europe, and watching Second Reality (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFv7mHTf0nA) for the first time on my 80386 with 4mb RAM.
I keep a few museum pieces of stuff I made back then here: http://adam.ierymenko.name/ye_olde_source_code.html
Today I am doing this: https://www.zerotier.com/
In its original form this old hacker culture is mostly dead. Its successor in an evolutionary sense is the startup scene.
If you doubt this thesis consider that you're hanging out at Hacker News, which is run by a billion dollar VC firm. I rest my case.
Yesterday we had Future Crew and L0PHT Heavy Industries. Today we have Y-Combinator and Andressen Horowitz. Today's hacker groups have cap tables.
By saying this I am not claiming that this was an entirely positive change. Evolution is not a progressive march 'upward'. The word evolution just means 'change over time.' Some features are gained, others are lost.
In evolving along these lines the hacker scene gained a lot but it also lost a lot. It lost the creative ethos of play and experimentation, replacing it with an engineering culture ruled by the hidebound plodding competence exported by top-ten universities and their engineering programs -- excellence at doing things we already know how to do. It also lost its countercultural and social ethos, replacing it with a yuppie get-rich mentality. But it gained the ability to act on the world stage. I would argue that hackerdom evolved into a global economic superpower with the capacity to influence not only global geopolitics but the future of human evolution.
You'll say it lost its soul and I won't argue with you. It certainly lost the things that made it great in its time and its place.
But that's the thing. Dinosaurs became birds because the dinosaur thing was played out. 90s hacker culture was great in its time and place. I wonder how relevant it would be today. This is not the 1980s or the 1990s. Everything has changed.
I think the question we need to be asking is what now? Where can we go from here? What might we evolve into that is perhaps more interesting than what we are today and how do we get there? The answer (IMHO) is never going back to the way things were. It's always the forward escape.
Edit: another useful question to ask is: what was it about old school hacker culture that predisposed it to evolve into this? It's particularly interesting to ask this about aspects of today's startup scene and Silicon Valley culture that you don't like. For example: I find the fratty 'brogrammer' thing irritating, but I can see its ancestry in the overwhelmingly male and somewhat sexist hacker culture of yore. It's just that minus the counterculture trappings.
I think the hacker ethic is needed now more than ever. Some old schoolers are still around, and thanks to free software and open source movement it has spread to other parts of the world and is growing.
Indeed change is constant and evolution is always occurring.
I think the world-wide-web has been compromised by avarice and monopolistic corporations. But that doesn't mean the internet as a medium of transferring bytes, or that the ethics of being a hacker have changed.
Ouch. That hits hard.
This gist of the article is that the hacker impulse or ‘hacker ethic’ is a natural human response to large alienating infrastructures that allow little agency on the part of individuals. Hackers take different forms, but are identified by 1) a tendency towards creative rebellion that seeks to increase the agency of underdogs in the face of systems that are otherwise complex or oppressive or that limit access to experts 2) a tendency to acting out that rebellion by bending the rules of those who currently dominate such infrastructures (this is in contrast to the open rebellion of liberation leaders who stand in direct defiance of such rules). They thus are figures of deviance, seeking to ‘queer’ boundaries that are otherwise viewed as concrete and static.
Having set up a definition of what the hacker ethic is, the article goes on to argue that the ethic has been corrupted due to its association with computer culture in the public eye.
On the one hand, in a world where people increasingly rely on computers for subsistence, the bogeyman figure of the criminal computer ‘hacker’ has emerged, a figure of media sensationalism and moral panic.
On the other hand, the increasingly powerful technology industry has honed in on the desirable, unthreatening elements of the hacker ethic to present a friendly form of hacking as ‘on-the-fly problem-solving for profit’.
This is described a process of ‘gentrification’: In most gentrification you have twin processes: On the one hand, a source culture is demonised as something scary to be avoided. On the other hand, it is simultaneously pacified, scrubbed of subversive content, and made to fit mainstream tastes. This has happened to rap culture, street culture, and even pagan rituals. And the article argues, it is now happening to hacker culture: “The countercultural trickster has been pressed into the service of the preppy tech entrepreneur class.”
The article concludes with a reflection on whether you abandon the gentrified form, or whether you fight for it. There is reflection on whether the hacker impulse perhaps has always been an element of capitalist commodification processes, but argues that it is an ethos that needs to be protected: “In a world with increasingly large and unaccountable economic institutions, we need these everyday forms of resistance. Hacking, in my world, is a route to escaping the shackles of the profit-fetish, not a route to profit.”
Let's consult the Jargon File. It was written by old-school hackers, and it hasn't been updated in years. It should have a handle on what it means to be a hacker. Let their definition of "hacker": http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html
The first seven senses all give the same impression: a hacker is somebody who likes to tinker with stuff out of intellectual curiosity and for the sheer fun of it.
And here's "hacker ethic" while we're at it: http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker-ethic.html
There's nothing in there about "fighting the man".
Now, yes, a lot of the more traditional aspects of hacker culture would recoil at the idea of "on-the-fly problem solving for profit" (in fact, the entry on "wannabee" appears to hold "professional programmers" in disdain). But that's because the old-school hackers did what they did for fun. No, they weren't interested in profit, but they weren't interested fighting "the man" either.
And while we're talking about "large alienating infrastructures", that probably applies now more than ever, what with the rise of walled gardens, proprietary APIs, and the resurgence of closed-source software thanks to mobile and web apps replacing desktop apps. If the hacker ethic was a response to "large alienating infrastructures", it would be stronger than ever right now.
Actually, I'd argue that hacker culture flourishes more in the absence of "large alienating infrastructures" than anything else. Hacker culture started at universities where students all had access to powerful timesharing machines (or, hell, even access to the batch-job machines that preceded timesharing). Then, it underwent a resurgence in the '90s with the open-source revolution... because suddenly the entire world was connected through the Internet, so anybody could download, run, and hack on an entire open-source operating system, and they could submit their patches or host a server in their living room and post new software up for the whole world to see.
Not that I have much of an affinity for ESR, but he is a spokesman.
First, it's #4 on the list. On the other hand, #1 is "The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved".
Second, it sounds less like "the hacker ethic was created as a response to authoritarianism" (which is what OP asserts) and more like "authoritarianism is incompatible with the hacker ethic, so don't support it", which is a very different proposition.
That's not the real jargon file. This is:
While I personally do lean more toward the Lisper realm than the Unix-weenie realm in most of my beliefs, I also happen to have an appreciation for the Jargon File as maintained by ESR and others for actually trying to document evolution in the broader hacker culture. The whole "well ESR's jargon.txt ain't the real jargon.txt" seems closed-minded and ignorant to me.
My summary: the article is a cultural-marxist parable. The victim is the hacker. The oppressor is the yuppie. In olden days the hacker lived in a sort of eden, but now the oppressor has trapped the hacker in webs of capitalist bondage.
You may not need freeing, but I certainly do.
You're wanting "freedom to pursue "hobbies" and free "perks" without having to work for it" for yourself, at the expense of the general society. And by expense of general society, what that really means is that someone with the means to production/capital/etc has to part ways with some of his (labor, gasp he's no longer free), in order to fund your "free" lifestyle.
Regardless, we'll agree to say fuck basic income. I like this even more radical idea: There must be <= 10x total income spread within any company. (I have no idea how to handle the obvious loopholes)
No, it's purely a governmental accountability problem. The money, the will and the goods are all there. The only problem is we're all dilly-dallying when it comes to holding the government accountable to provide basic life necessities to the needy. We all talk noble, but don't throw eggs at politicians for lying to us, or stick them in jail for causing (or allowing) the homeless die of starvation on their watch. I exaggerate a little, but really, as you say it's 2015. These should be solved problems using existing structures in place, without even discussing such things as universal basic income, or anything remotely that radical.
>"Regardless, we'll agree to say fuck basic income. I like this even more radical idea: There must be <= 10x total income spread within any company. (I have no idea how to handle the obvious loopholes)"
I understand that you mean this in a noble and well-meaning way. As a libertarian I don't deny that government programs, and the societal-backing behind them are not motivated by noble intentions. But you also have to understand that implementing such a suggestion fundamentally means that you don't believe an individual deserves (or is allowed to keep) all the products of his/her own labor and knowledge. Do you not see anything at fault with that?
Perhaps, rather address the existing issues that plague our society (if you agree that it's a problem). Almost all government regulatory laws have the unintended consequence of promoting larger institutions in the market, rewarding individuals with large accumulated pots of capital, and increase the barrier to entry for small-competitors.
This assumes that automation is not possible.
There is no in-between. Either we live in a dystopian society where all labor (or means to production) is collectively owned and the fruits of it are portioned-out. Or we live in a society where only a portion/percentage of said labor is redistributed, thus invalidating the OP's suggestion that such a society would mean freedom for all "...to pursue hobbies and live without careerism (I paraphrase there)".
I can only assume that "careerism" in that sense is in reference to a job, and/or participating in a labor market of sorts.
No. Why would I? That's silly.
> Or we live in a society where only a portion/percentage of said labor
Not only is this a false dichotomy, but it's also missing my point: that the purpose of automation is to eliminate the need for labor, and that by pursuing automation of tasks that few (if any) people actually want to do as hobbies or "labors of love", OP's suggestion is actually feasible.
It sounds like you're trying to pin me to some communal Marxist philosphy (never mind that I personally subscribe to philosophies that can power most of Europe by wiring the corpse of Karl Marx to a dynamo in his grave). The idea of a post-labor society is actually quite compatible with capitalism; if you have a machine that makes chairs and I have a machine that makes tables, there's nothing stopping us from trading, say, a table for four chairs, or a chair-making machine for a table-making machine, or selling our tables and chairs for money and using that money to buy, say, couches.
Whether this characterization of the article is fair or those beliefs about the world are true are both reasonable questions worthy of consideration.
Anyone looking for a little information on the origins of the term "Cultural Marxism" should take a look at the wiki entry for the Frankfurt School, under the subheading "Conspiracy Theory".
A funny thing about the more general critique of oppressor/victim narratives is that Nietzsche had a very similar critique, alleging that the pervasiveness of such narratives (which he called "slave morality") had weakened society. But he didn't blame Marxism for it— he blamed Christianity.
Class is not a minor outcome of a social moment. It is not a mere symbol that can be quickly turned on or off by a culture, the way a culture might shift from enjoying boxing to preferring mixed martial arts.
Class has arisen as an essential structure in the reproduction of society since the dissolution of European fuedalism. The same business logic that produces all our material wants, from coats to bushels, comes hand in hand with the logic that every business must give the profit (surplus labor) back to capital. Culture is a material basis, but class is the overdetermining superstructure.
Shifting from a class based society to a classless one would require a fundamental shift in the economic relations where workers would own the means of production. This shift would tear apart the material basis of our culture. MTV/Viacom, MSNBC/Fox/CNN, RCA/TicketMaster/C3, WaPo/NYT/WSJ, TWTR/Facebook/Google: all of these cultural production centers would shatter into cultural microcosms if the workers at these firms weren't bound to profit maximization.
On the other hand, it is trivial to manufacture new cultures without a whiff of change to class.
Without knowing anything else about the author, this byline does give a bit of a left-wing impression.
First world nations become that way by government-led expansion. The private sector comes along later to make a profit after the fact in almost every case.
I never understood why the citizens of a city are against Genetrification. It improves not only the quality of an area, but can make you money if you own property there. Creating laws against it essentially keeps the poor, poor. On top of this, anyone with a little bit of succes and/or money leave.
It's just another example of politicians decreasing social mobility under the guise of helping the poor.
You are incorrect to assume that poor people own property in gentrifying neighborhoods. The dynamic is usually that low income renters get priced out of a neighborhood by high income renters.