/. is running a story on the upcoming OpenBSD Hackathon, and I thought it important to point out what the term “Hack” means — not only in this case, but in any case where the term is properly used.
Here’s a piece of the article text — to give you a hint:
“Past OpenBSD hackathons have seen the introduction of SMP support, support for the amd64 architecture, and many other significant advances. What big advance will come out of the 2005 hackathon is yet to be seen.”
This is significant. Note the words the introduction of; this means that something was created there — as in, building new things. It’s important that this not be confused with digital trespassing, vandalism, or any other sort of hooliganism.
Hacking is using creativity to build new things that solve problems. It’s not (in my view) negative in any way. In fact I think “hacking” is quite positive. It means exploring and being creative about how one looks at the world and solves problems. We need more hackers.
Crackers, on the other hand, range from unpopular, script-kiddie posers to elite and highly professional criminals. The key here isn’t the skill level of the individual — it’s the motives.
Eric Raymond said it best when he said, “Hackers build things; crackers break them.” This is the definition that I like best, and I’m happy to see it used this way for a change.