Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do You Hack?

At GenoLogics we have a "Hack Day" every quarter. The next event is coming up on April 18th. Everybody loves these days and the generated output is always amazing.

Yesterday I was talking with someone at work about the phrase "Hack". He said when he was in school (let's just say that they coded micro-controllers in HEX back then), that the phrase "Hacking" was considered great praise. Someone who was a Hacker was an awesome example of programming genius. He asked me if I thought this definition of the word still applied.

I'm not really sure.

I know around GenoLogics, if someone says "that's such a hack" they aren't usually delivering a compliment. I don't think GenoLogics is unique in this definition. However, we also hold Hack Days, and these are considered positive things.

Is it positive or negative to say "I'm just gonna' hack on this problem for a while"?

What about "I hacked a solution out in a few hours last night"?

Or "This code is a glorious hack"?

I'm honestly not sure there's a single working definition right now. Do new programmers aspire to be "great hackers"?

What do you think? Does being called a hacker, or having your coding skills referred to as hacking, make you feel like you are being complimented or derided?

1 comment:

Manfred Moser said...


I think it totally depends on the context and the people saying it. Hacking can be good and bad at the same time too. A very overloaded term. Imagine you come up with a very clever quick solution for a problem and implement it. Thats a hack in the positive sense.

Now imagine that would not scale in production. That makes it a bad hack if it goes in anyway. So it is a good and a bad hack at the same time ;-)