First, a short rant. I don't like the way that OSS writers seem to be trying to own the term 'hacker'. This notion that all the good 'hackers' only work on projects they want to work on for the most noble of reasons is a bunch of crap. The 'scratching an itch' does happen, sure, but I bet there are a whole lot of really good programmers that punch out at 6:00 and don't spend all night working on an 'itch' either. Does MJ have to play streetball on the weekends to be MJ?
Two good rants here.
I agree that OSS writers / advocates definitely
try to own the term ... but I also find that, for the most part, this article fits my experience with 'good' hackers. Note also that the author specifically limited the scope of his observations to ... his observations. He mentions that he is discussing the great hackers that he has known ... and, like him, the best that I have known all run OSS at home for their pet projects.
: Of course, any well-trained academic will point out that both the author of the article and myself are OSS advocates, and are most likely to most in OSS circles ... in other words, it isn't surprising that a disproportionate number of our friends are OSS users, given that it is an overriding interest in our own lives. The author doesn't address this. If Logik! ever wanders in here, I'm sure he'll have some stories about great windows hackers ... after all, that is the environment that HE works in, so he is most likely to know people of that calibre.
The second rant ... whose focal point was "Does MJ have to play streetball on the weekends to be MJ?" is also a good point. Not all hackers live and breathe code. I play outside whenever I get the chance. Given the choice between climbing a fantastic new multi-pitch, or hacking a great piece of code to solve an interesting problem, I've got my gear in my bag and and running for the car before I answer the question.
On the other hand, I'm not a great hacker. A hacker, yes. Great, no. And that might just be because I have a tan (sunburn after yesterday, actually
) and have hobbies that don't involve punching a kb.
Have you ever met anyone that was really intelligent, but they confined their thoughts to some little box of ideas and never peered around the edges? Sure, some people might peer a little longer or gaze off into the distance a little farther, and still others totally forget about the box, but I don't believe that I have ever met anyone that just gets cozy inside the box. And if some anomaly does decide to just sit in the box and never has a single itch in their entire life, but somehow manages to solve problems faster than 97% of all other people out there - guess what - they're a hacker.
Yes. I even dated her. Brilliant mathematician ... no boxes there ... but in almost every other aspect of her life, she was completely closed in.
As for getting cozy inside the box ... the only people who do that (and they are the majority of humans, IMHO) are those who are unaware of the box. The author has another semi-interesting article about the fashion of morality that I would post in the LL if I gave a damn about the opinons provided in there.
Most people think of their morality and their culture as absolutes and are completely unable to think outside the scope of those limits. For example, how many people in North America could convincingly argue that democracy is a good way to run to a country? 99.99999% will say it is, and be pissed you even asked ... but I doubt many could explain why other than 'it is obvious' or 'it is my right.'
This world needs some social hackers.
The programmers you'll be able to hire to work on a Java project won't be as smart as the ones you could get to work on a project written in Python.  And the quality of your hackers probably matters more than the language you choose. Though, frankly, the fact that good hackers prefer Python to Java should tell you something about the relative merits of those languages.
How the hell does he get off saying this? I suppose programmers that perfer Python are also much better 'hackers' than C, C++ and C# programmers too? But not Perl or PHP - those are OSS languages. What a load of crap.
That one pissed me off as well, but I thought I'd leave it to you.
Seriously, though, that seemed like a paragraph tossed in completely at random and at odds with the rest of his essay .. because he made a very sweeping statement and just expected us to swallow it. Since when does the choice of a programming language indicated intelligence?!?
I don't understand what the anti-java craze within the OSS community is all about. It certainly doesn't seem to be immenating from the rank and file. ESR comes out with this rant a year ago about how Sun will soon die and we should all mourn the lose and we need to start talking about what is going to happen to Java (yeah, you won't find that little rant on his site anymore - oops, nice one Eric). RMS writes about the subtle Java evil that is creeping into OSS and how it is like satanism creeping into the vatican or something. I think it really pisses some of these people off that Sun won't give up control of Java and has managed to somehow survive the evil empire. Hell, they have a coffer with over 7 billion cash now.
I've often thought that these guys should be forced to take a degree in philosophy, so they can learn to think about social and economic ideas as well as they do technical ones. I read many of their writings (and the article I posted is a good example, from which you've pulled the best) and I'm often struck by their ability to throw a completely asinine argument into a perfectly good paper. This backassed slam at java is a good example. He does a good job of describing hackers in general, and has some interesting insights into their personality traits ... and then he goes off on a personal tangent and makes stupid comments like this.
I don't know why java has such a hard time being respected either ... and I have to admit that I don't really pay attention to the bleating of those who demonise it (literally in the case of RMS).
I've read that Java has just overtaken Cobol as the most popular language. As a standard, you couldn't wish for more. But as a medium of expression, you could do a lot better. Of all the great programmers I can think of, I know of only one who would voluntarily program in Java. And of all the great programmers I can think of who don't work for Sun, on Java, I know of zero.
You know what I really hate? When I read an article that contains a bunch of irrelevant and useless footnotes and then the author makes a comment like "I just read this important..." and doesn't footnote it. WTF is that?
ARGH! I hear ya.
You know how I know when someone isn't a great hacker? When they spend a bunch of time writing a bunch of crap about great hackers.
So the aspiring hackers in this thread need to get the hell out and get back to coding! I, on the other hand, will continue to rant, bitch, and chat.