Did you know one of the richest people in the world considers himself a hacker? For most being a hacker sounds sketchy, but the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, believes it is a person open to new ideas. At least that’s what he wrote in an essay, which he included as a document in a government filing to bring his company public. He continues: The word hacker has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done.
Zuckerberg may have an argument but can he say the media is really to blame? The reason the word hacker has a negative connotation is because it’s a negative word. Just look at the dictionary. You will even come across a definition to describe me.
hacker: someone who enjoys a sport but lacks skill in it
When I first started playing golf, it was entirely possible when I teed off, the golf ball was not heading down the fairway but would instead take a hard left, cut across the adjacent fairway and end up in a homeowner’s pool.
Then, if you take a hacker to its root.
hack: a writer who produces banal and mediocre work
And if you are in England.
hack: an old worn-out horse (see jade)
But if you really want to get to the true meaning of the word, it is best to consult the verb.
hack: to cut, notch, slice, chop and sever (yikes!) with a heavy, irregular blows
These are not action verbs you would want to use when working around a computer, and yet this is the root of a word Zuckerberg wishes to be defined by. I understand words evolve and take new meaning, but can you simply erase what came before?
Let’s look at this from another angle. It is well known that Zuckerberg got his start by prowling the poorly protected computer networks of Harvard campus. If he would have gained access to these same files by unlocking a door and opening a poorly secured file cabinet, would he have been “testing the boundaries of what can be done?” Absolutely! Some would even call it breaking and entering.