[FoRK] great hackers
owen at permafrost.net
Thu Aug 5 18:01:25 PDT 2004
Eugen Leitl wrote:
>(This essay is derived from a keynote talk at Oscon 2004.)
>A few months ago I finished a new book, and in reviews I keep noticing words
>like "provocative'' and "controversial.'' To say nothing of "idiotic.''
>I didn't mean to make the book controversial. I was trying to make it
>efficient. I didn't want to waste people's time telling them things they
>already knew. It's more efficient just to give them the diffs. But I suppose
>that's bound to yield an alarming book.
After hearing this stuff for years - and watching many, many companies
go bankrupt by hiring "great hackers" - I would like
some empirical proof. As an alternative conjecture I would like to
suggest that great hackers are like great CEOs - an entirely
self-defined club - they go to the same schools, they read the same
books, hang out in the same places, and spend lots of effort inflating
each other's egos.
This little essay supports that conjecture - the only way to recognize a
great hacker is to be one yourself.
There are bad programmers, but I think that at the top end there are
simply limits to productivity - how fast you type, how fast you
read, how much time you spend reading FoRK or slashdot. How
well-motivated (i.e. well-paid) you are.
Hard problems sometimes just mean that people don't have the appropriate
background. Take a person who can write an differential equation solver
and ask him to write an accounting program - oh lets say it has to be
in COBOL - and I guarantee you - he will
Prove to me that great hackers aren't just a club like CEOs - self
defined and self measured - largely so they can demand and get
exorbitant salaries. Or show me some empirical measure - people have
been writing code for 40 years now - that can be used to demonstrate
these order-of-magnitude differences in productivity.
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