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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: Tla spork

From: Tom Lord
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: Tla spork
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2004 13:14:01 -0700 (PDT)

    > From: address@hidden (James Blackwell)

    > That's one of the reasons I have such respect for Tom. He's the one
    > responsible for turning me from one of the great unwashed masses that
    > kinda-does everything into (by relative standards) a hacker. Tom's the
    > one that taught me to think ahead on a project, and how to manage
    > something as large as tla. 

*If* you think that that is the transition you are making (it isn't my
right to decide whether you are or not).....

*Then*:  no, i can't turn you or anybody else into a hacker.    

Using this "old school" notion of the word "hacker":

1. Anyone is a hacker who carefully takes a socially playful and
   socially responsible and humble attitude towards developing and
   applying their engineering skills, in any field of "engineering"
   (in the very broad sense).  (There's a sad confusion that arose
   about the meaning of the word hacker.  From what I read: back the
   late 60s and early 70s, the hackers there at the time overlapped
   heavily with that fine traditional group at MIT --- the pranksters.
   The pranksters pick locks and paint the MIT dome and put balloons
   under the field at the Harvard/Yale football game: a very high-brow
   and playful form not of hacking of but, alas, petty crime.  (I
   guess if you consider crime to be a form of engineering then, yes,
   they are still hackers after all, but.....)  Tolerated in those
   refined environments but, ultimately, not really the essense of
   "hacker", at least in the software sense.  These days, in the
   press, "computer hacker" just means that: a criminal, and usually
   not one who is tolerated with amusement!)

2. Nowadays, to become a good software hacker takes, the oft-repeated
   rule of thumb goes, about 10 years of steady practice.  Hopefully
   that won't get much worse......  Hackers don't get "blessed".
   Hackers just suddenly realize "Hey, I'm really good at this".
   Except that --- usually they (with some embarassment) *think*
   they've realized that they're really good several times, over
   several years, before they reach a state where other hackers would
   agree with them.  (And even then: we are *all* quite bad at this
   "programming" stuff.  I can't say that without it sounding like a
   trite truism but..... it's deep.  No, we're really all quite deeply
   and importantly bad at this.  "Muddling through" is a good day for
   the hackers of the world.   "Clear insight and perfect solution" 
   is practically a 100-year flood.)

    > Its in my best interests to turn everyone interested in free software
    > into a hacker. 

Sheer hubris.  Back off man.   Catch as catch can.

My alternative suggestion:  its in your best interests to not f'up an
opportunity to turn someone else interested in software onto an
incrementally better path than you meet them on.   Of course, they
have to welcome and agree with your tweakage of them.

Keywords:  incrementally                not "change"
           better                       not "one true thing"
           path                         not "i'll determine your
                                        future" (paths meander, fork, and join)
           welcome                      help resisted is not help
           tweakage                     tiny steps.   heal thyself
                                        first at every step.
                                        above all else, do no harm.


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