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I get the distinct impression that the author of this article doesn't really know what he is talking about. He doesn't bother mentioning (if he is even aware of the fact) that "hacker" != "cracker", but kind of muddles both groups into one. The very fact that he talks about "The construct of the ‘good hacker’" tells me that he never did his homework properly.

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.




> He doesn't bother mentioning (if he is even aware of the fact) that "hacker" != "cracker", but kind of muddles both groups into one.

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.




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