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Motivations of a Hacker (nushackers.org)
51 points by laurenceputra on April 17, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 10 comments



Hi all. I wrote the post above, so to provide some context:

1. This was written with the Singaporean startup scene in mind. There are a couple of differences re:the environment in Singapore vs the Valley. For starters, students here prefer interning at banks, or other 'proper companies', as opposed to startups. Second, the startups themselves are often very new to the game. (Founders asking for NDAs are still a fairly common occurrence.)

2. Google SoC is doubly attractive because of the exchange rate. USD5000 is a big thing when compared to the market rates in Singapore, and that still doesn't factor in the benefits of learning from a large, well-managed OSS project.

I wrote this primarily as a response to the number of companies that hit the NUS Hackers mailing list with off-the-mark ads. I'm not sure if this would help other companies looking to recruit hackers, but hopefully the context would give you enough information to decide for yourself.

Plug: NUS Hackers is a student organization dedicated to the spread of OSS and hacking in the National University of Singapore. We're affiliated with the Singaporean Hackerspace (http://hackerspace.sg/) and both organizations would be more than willing to show you around/lend you some help/introduce you to people, should any HNer choose to drop by Singapore. :)


And here's another handy link from the Singaporean hacker/startup scene: http://connections.sg/

All you need to know on one handy page =)

(I'm with HackerspaceSG too, so do ping me if anyone would like to pop by for a visit =)


While I agree that that solving an interesting problem is number one on the requirements for hiring a hacker, the last point is way off the mark. "Take the money off the table"? You can't match $5k for three months of work? I'm sorry, but even students need to pay for living. I'd love to be able to work for free on interesting problems, but it just isn't possible.


To give some perspectives, the article is written by someone in Singapore and intern rate there is about SGD 1000 per month ~ 750 USD, so 5k USD is kind of big deal for 3 months of work. I used to work for Apple Singapore for 800 SGD per month.

Additional figures, fresh graduate CS major worth about 30k USD per year.


I had kind of figured he wasn't American, but also misunderstood what he meant by "take it off the table". He's since updated it saying he meant to pay market rates, which is absolutely correct. I think you just need to pay enough to take the worry of being able to pay cost of living for the summer off the table.


The reality is that there are startups out there working on really interesting problems that can't afford the $5k, but would love to get great interns.

Yes, that reduces the pool drastically. You are essentially finding the intersection of students that believe in your challenge over immediate compensation, and do not have financial constraints. But to quote the quoted Chris Dixon: "People who say recruiting is hard are right. People who say it is impossible just aren’t showing up enough."

Reaching out to this group of students is about pitching yourself right. And as the post highlights, understanding the motivations is an important first step.


I'm not saying they don't exist, I'm sure there's probably a few of them, but you have to hope they're in your town. And don't have other interesting offers. Furthermore, Chris Dixon's quote wasn't (as far as I can tell) talking about recruiting interns, but recruiting employees and that's an entirely different ballgame in my opinion. These companies don't have money to offer employees or interns, but they will offer equity to employees. What's the chance a company will offer any form of equity to interns? So you're suggesting that rather than "immediate compensation", their compensation is that they have a couple months experience at a successful company? That's much less compelling than what employees are getting (a much greater experience and some equity).

Not every company needs interns, and if you can't afford to pay them, maybe you don't need them quite yet. If you want to recruit people as full-time employees or something, on the other hand, that's an entirely different argument.


This ignores the number one rule of just about everything that involves dealing with other people: know your audience. True, there are some generalizations one could make about hackers. But by and large, we're all different. Rather than trying to figure out what hackers want in general, try to figure out what the hacker in front of you wants.


But in practice, we're not at all that different. Every one of us personally is a different, unique character but groups of people always share something: the hacker subculture itself is defined by the common traits of hackers.

The generalizations offered by the article were very aptly at a point; I consider them ringing very much true.

I think the point of the article exactly was that you will never get that hacker in front of you talking with you and much less sitting down with you unless you realize who you're dealing with.


The last paragraph of this article is where the inanity of this tiring line of thinking really exposes itself.

Coding a a travel search engine in node.js might titillate a hacker, but what on earth does that have to do with a founding a successful startup when compared to things like product design, marketing, user experience, market targeting, etc? Not a whole lot. Which is to say that no one set of priorities or roles within a startup should be catered to or worshipped, at the cost of sound strategy and direction for a startup.

Painting hackers as primadonnas who must be woo'd and courted as the top caste of the startup community doesn't do hackers any favors, let alone all of the other players necessary in a successful startup.




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