The very first hackathon I attended was back in high school.
This would be a much better article with dates. “Let me tell you how much better things were when I was young man…” How old is the author? 24? I don’t think I’m that old, but it feels like only yesterday hackathons weren’t even a things. The entire history of hackathons, start to finish, is a blip.
I’ll add that the author seems to be comparing experiences during a progression from high school hackathons to college to professional. How much of the change is due to changing circumstances? Are high school students today actually being excluded from fun hackathons? I used to be able to run laps around my high school track in gym class. But today, if I want to run the Boston marathon, there’s a rigorous qualifying process. I don’t think this is because the sport of running as changed or died or whatever.
| but it feels like only yesterday hackathons weren’t even a things.
I’m 38, and my first “hackathon” was holing up in my friends room when I was 16 and coding all night until the sun came up. We made an ANSI side scroller, at it was one of the coolest coding experiences of my life.
Since then, I’ve done 4 hackathons: 1 for a fortune 500 company where I was an employee, 2 for startups (employee) and one for http://tp.ticketleap.com/rhok-phily-5/
The last one was the only one that anything good came of. (http://adhawk.sunlightfoundation.com/)
But did you call it a hackathon? Obviously people have been getting together and coding for fun for many years. Nor have they stopped. But then, as now, it was called “hanging out” or “doing a project” or whatever. As aluded in my other comment, there’s often too much focus on the label and not enough on the activity.
Regarding usage of the word itself, since the article in question seems to be about hackathons that advertised themselves by literally saying “hackathon” on the flyer, the first one I attended was the OpenBSD hackathon in 2003. And we used the word hackathon. But OpenBSD’s use of the word predates the (now) more common meaning. I don’t think I heard the word used by anyone else until about 2007 or 2008. (Initial reaction: you’re doing it wrong!) “Code sprint” seems like a much better term if I want to be fussy.
We don’t actually have to guess when the word was invented. :) Google Trends says November 2008.
I’d argue that this is the death of Hackathon culture rather than Hacker culture. Two distinct things, although in the context (which is only made clear after one reads the title) it is pretty clear what hackers they’re referring to.
Hacker culture isn’t doing quite so well either, so this reads almost as well for that too.
Open source, which I’ve long associated with hacker culture, has become increasingly corporate. A culture of ‘make cool things’ has withered away a bit into “get on HN and get lots of Github stars.” Maybe I’m wrong, but previous incarnations of hacker culture wouldn’t suffer such meaningless tripe as Internet points.
I suspect this is a classic case of the original never going away, but something new coming along, appropriating the name, and then people complaining it’s not what it used to be. Like oh noes, punk is dead. No, you’re just calling the wrong things punk. Whatever “real” punk is/was, there’s still people doing it. Don’t obsess over the label.
In this case, the seven real hackers who used to post to Usenet are still around, hacking up whatever they’re hacking up. With all the same ideals and culture as before. The label just happens to be expanded to include a lot of “phonies” now.
Personally, I don’t care much about the labels and would prefer not to argue about what constitutes real hacking or not. But the point is that whatever you think you miss, it’s still out there. You’re looking for it in the wrong places. You didn’t go to a random Starbucks in Cleveland to meet hackers in 1985, either, so one shouldn’t expect to find hackers there today.
Or for instance, deacon or CCC camp/congress. There were X hackers at the first one (out of X people). Now there’s 100X people attending total, but “only” X hackers. The hackers didn’t go anywhere. It’s just other people showed up too. But nothing has died.
I like the comparison with punk, I think this analogy is very apt - also a DIY culture that was more than 3 chords, 2 guitars and 1 drum kit - bands like Suicide, or the entire Melbourne scene. In the later I think of Lisa Gerrards projects like, Dead Can Dance, and ex Birthday Party stuff like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Rowland S. Howard, Dirty Three in later parts of life. Punk was an ethic, not a particular aesthetic. The Melbourne scene of late 70’s and early 80’s also would gather togeather and form bands that lasted 2 weeks & play gigs simply to entertain each other etc.
“If you think it should be done, do it”
I wasn’t there but this particular scene’s wake has left its mark on culture & enriched my life :)
I have speculated of trying to create an event free of the corporate stuff - initial australian / berlin crew around cryptoparties were an effort in this direction. Random ideas now include “Computer Club” & borrowing the CCC’s line “Corporate Drones and Known To Disappear Without Trace” as a monthly event “Come and show computer.” Another idea: “Bit Flippers United” - a signal to hackers without using the word “Hackers”, or perhaps “All Togeather With Machines of Loving Grace”.
Possibly, but consider: the HN/stars culture pervasive or simply more visible? How much hacking gets done under the radar? Much of my work is OSS but not hyped; I do it out of curiosity. Does this satisfy the hacker ethic? I’ve talked to a fair few people who are the same (and a few that aren’t).
I wouldn’t look to HN for hacker culture. HN is run by YC. YC is VC, and VC is a sort of dual to hacker culture: surface-level similarity of results (new cool stuff, often exploring how things can be made to work together), but different mechanisms and motivations.
We have to be careful: we can’t proclaim the decline of hacker culture based on the visibility of the antithesis of it. Hacker culture has always seemed very quiet to me. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I’m not. I think it still lives and is doing quite well, but has simply been obscured by a different culture that has coopted the name.
Agreed, I find some really AWESOME c libraries on github. Guess how many stars they have? Sometimes I’m the first person to do so. And I tend to end up submitting pull requests/fixing things I wanted. I think they’re so happy anyone is using it they just take the request.
If people think hacker culture is gone they’re delusional. This is just more who moved my cheese. The real hackers are there, as they’ve always been, they just don’t try to be as visible. Just like Tedu said about punk, hacking is just on the same track of becoming “mainstream”. With all the annoyances that entails to the original members.
meaningless tripe as Internet points.
Yeah, I’m of two minds about upvotes. I commented a couple weeks ago (it’s probably not worth the click) that I do find upvotes motivate me to participate more, which is definitely because of the competitive aspect to them, but I don’t like the competition itself.
The history of voting as part of conversation would be pretty interesting to research. What site did it first? Are Facebook likes the same thing, or how do they differ?
Where do you draw the line between the “real” hackers on CCCamp/Congress and “the others”? Most people I spoke to basically only have the definition “not my peer group” (no hardware, not the right software, too young, too much walking around).
I found CCCamp a very hacky event and hacker culture is very much alive.
Agreed, the article was pretty much entirely focused on hackathons – from the title I was hoping for more discussion of “hackerdom” in a broader sense, which I feel has also been diluted into near-meaninglessness over the past ~10 years (to the point where a multi-billion-dollar corporate HQ at “1 Hacker Way” is par for the course).
If you train people for external reward, they die inside.
This is an artifact of our hubris as programmers. We thought, in the 1990s, that our inevitable growth into territory owned by the existing corporate elite would lead to a victory for the maker culture, the true hackers, the objective good guys. It didn’t happen. We thought that by “The Year 2000” we’d conquer them. They conquered us. Who evaluates the work of a programming team? Private-sector politicians with no respect for technology or our culture of wanting to do things right.
The idea that programmers should be business subordinates instead of creators is diseased, immoral, and dysfunctional, but it’s entrenched. Our survival as a culture mandates that we defeat it. We’ve got no other option. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that can be done just by writing code. It requires organizational and social skills that programmers are loathe to learn. Programmers naively think that if they overperform, throw down an all-nighter or two, blow a technical problem out of the water, that the Red Sea will part for them. It doesn’t work that way.
Hacker Culture died because we were stupid enough to think that our culture would over-power that of the The Corporates, that they’d be so surprised by our intelligence and creativity (our “hacking”) that they’d let us reinvent their whole system from the inside (for mutual benefit, but in a huge political victory for us). That didn’t happen. They beat us. We lost, and what used to be our culture is now just another damn brand.
Our survival as a culture mandates that we defeat it.
You use a lot of words, but this in particular I think is misguided. “Hacker” culture, in the sense of the Model Train Club et al is orthogonal to “write software for money”. People who like taking stuff apart are going to take stuff apart. It is a historical accident that a bunch of nerds made silly buckets of cash playing with technology, not some kind of qualitative shift in the manner of work.
It’s not writing software for money that I am opposed to. It’s the idea that programmers are supposed to be treated and regarded as business subordinates instead of as peers with expertise.