Facebook IPO S1 paper filing has given a lot of material for all the journalists, blogger(yours truly included) and everyone’s mom to take stabs at what Facebook is, can be or cannot be. In addition, every word of what Mark Zuckerberg says in the document is up for grabs. I saw this tweet “Reuters totally clueless about the meaning of hacking” in the @newsycombinator twitter feed. The article was actually written by a syndicated partner column of Reuters called theWrap.com. I have had this experience myself when I refer to the word Hackathon, everyone gets really nervous as if we are going to break into a computer system and do something illegal. Come on folks, get up to speed, don’t be like the elected representatives of Congress! See the Daily Shows excerpt here of what Congressmen think of “Experts” in the Internet technologies, you can skip to 3:43 in the video… it is hilarious. When did we all turn into Ogre?

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I really think Mark is trying to re-define the word and bring it mainstream. I totally agree with his statement in the S1 filing “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. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I’ve met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world.” Of course the Reuters article does the PR spin to make it sensational with the title “Facebook IPO: Mark Zuckerberg’s Bizarre Ode to Hackers”. 

Lets look up the dictionary.com reference of the word Hack:

  • Computers . to devise or modify (a computer program),usually skillfully.
  • World Dictionary: to manipulate a computer program skilfully, esp, to gain unauthorized access to another computer system

Computer Dictionary:

hack definition


  1. Originally, a quick job that produces what is needed, but notwell. 
  2. An incredibly good, and perhaps very time-consuming, piece ofwork that produces exactly what is needed. 
  3. To bear emotionally or physically. “I can’t hack this heat!” 
  4. To work on something (typically a program). In an immediatesense: “What are you doing?” “I’m hacking TECO.” In a general(time-extended) sense: “What do you do around here?” “I hackTECO.” More generally, “I hack “foo”” is roughly equivalent to“”foo” is my major interest (or project)”. “I hack solid-statephysics.” See Hacking X for Y
  5. To pull a prank on. See hacker
  6. To interact with a computer in a playful and exploratory ratherthan goal-directed way. “Whatcha up to?” “Oh, just hacking.” 
  7. Short for hacker
  8. See nethack
  9. (MIT) To explore the basements, roof ledges, and steamtunnels of a large, institutional building, to the dismay of PhysicalPlant workers and (since this is usually performed at educationalinstitutions) the Campus Police. This activity has been found tobe eerily similar to playing adventure games such as Dungeons and Dragons and ZorkSee also vaddingSee also neat hackreal hackJargon File(1996-08-26)

Merrium Webster defines it as:
  • To write computer program for enjoyment
  • to gain access to a computer illegally

I think we need to revisit the dictionaries and change the definition.

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