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The main objection against the ending refrain of "go home, yuppies" is that, since hackers (however you define the term) have valuable skills, they should be able to earn money using them. If the alternative is working in a menial capacity for some large alienating infrastructure (see what I did there?) with hacking as a hobby, then I'd rather be working on something interesting, even if it makes me complicit in gentrification[0].

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[1]. 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.

"Real" hackers become hard to identify among the masses who can sling a little javascript, and so they end up on the fringes of their own movement.

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[2]. 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.

My impression from the article wasn't an objection to hackers making money per se (indeed, most of the original "hackers", back in the days of Lisp machines and ITS and early Unix, were - if not academics - professional, paid programmers), but rather an objection to the characterization of hackerdom as a collective conformance to multi-million-dollar companies and investors in Silicon Valley rather than its proper (to the author) characterization as individual resistance to such collective conformance.

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.

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