characters / descriptors / geeks / research

What is a ‘Hacker’


Photo credit: Pugg71

I mean from a writer’s perspective. If you had a character who was a hacker (or a cracker), how would you make him convincing. To be  believable, you have to enter their mindset. Here are some ideas I’ve gotten from my computer friends, my fellow WordDreams blogger, and The New Hacker’s Dictionary:

  • They want to write their native language well. Though it’s a common stereotype that programmers can’t write, a surprising number of hackers are very able writers.
  • They read science fiction and go to science fiction conventions (try it; it’s a good way to meet hackers and proto-hackers).
  • They know a martial-arts form (Did this surprise you? Me too). The kind of mental discipline required for martial arts seems to be similar in important ways to what hackers do. The most popular forms are Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Aikido, or Ju Jitsu. The most hackerly martial arts are those which emphasize mental discipline, relaxed awareness, and control, rather than raw strength, athleticism, or physical toughness.
  • They study a meditation discipline. The perennial favorite among hackers is Zen. Other styles may work as well, but choose one that doesn’t require you to believe crazy things.
  • They have an analytical ear for music, might appreciate peculiar kinds of music, might play some musical instrument well, or even sing.
  • They appreciate puns and wordplay. Very neologistic. They nounize verbs and verbize nouns.
  • For true hackers, the boundaries between “play”, “work”, “science” and “art” tend to disappear.

If you want to show a fake ‘hacker’, include these traits:

  • A silly or grandiose user ID or screen name.
  • Have them get in flame wars in their online communications
  • Have them self-describe as a ‘cyberpunk’
  • Have lots of spelling errors and bad grammar in their posts

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

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One thought on “What is a ‘Hacker’

  1. Pingback: How I Would Characterize a Democrat « Word Dreams…

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