Thursday, April 22, 2010

S03 - Hackers

When I pulled a new issue of Wired from my mailbox today, I was unsurprised to notice that the cover article, "Geek Power: How Hacker Culture Conquered the World," was quite relevant to this week's readings. In the article, author Steven Levy follows up on the hackers he chronicled twenty-five years ago for his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. These included Bill Gates, Richard Greenblatt, Richard Stallman, and Steve Wozniak. In a look towards the future, Levy also turns his focus on "the next generation" of hackers, namely Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. While Stallman remains faithful to the ideals of the Free Software Foundation and his GNU project, he admits, "I have certainly wished I had killed myself when I was born." Perhaps this is due to the next generation's view of hacking as a "humming economic engine." The Internet guru Paul Graham and Mark Zuckerberg believe that they have managed to retain some of the hacker ideals even as they combine hacking with "entrepreneurial effectiveness." What we should challenge however, is this new generation's assertion that big business as a means to find the broadest audience possible fulfills the ideals of broad, unrestricted distribution or that Facebook's "hackathons" are the same as releasing early, often, and having the kind of beta-tester and co-developer base achieved through what Ryamond calls the bazaar model.

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