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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age Hardcover – May 28 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (May 28 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596006624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596006624
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 481 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #442,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Paul Graham , designer of the new Arc language, was the creator of Yahoo Store, the first web-based application. His technique for spam filtering inspired most current filters. He has a PhD in Computer Science from Harvard and studied painting at RISD and the Accademia in Florence.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The book is a interesting read but the title doesn't represent what the book is about. There is only a small chapter on painting and hacking, the rest is just essays on spam, startups & lisp. The book felt like a random collection of essays & opinions.
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Format: Hardcover
Every so often a book comes along that blows the cobwebs out of some dark corner of my mind. "The Naked Ape", "Sperm Wars", "Guns, Germs, and Steel", and "The Mating Mind" for example;
each in its own way exhibiting our favorite species as a very different critter from the one we gawk at in the mirror.
I got a similar feeling reading the first third of "Hackers and Painters", reading about the prisons we call schools.and the nursuries we call suburbia.
The discussion of economics contains fewer original ideas, but explains clearly some things that every educated person needs to understand, but maybe nobody ever told you. The first half of the book will make fun reading for your active mind.
You have to be a hacker yourself to want to read the second half. At this point the purpose of the book is revealed - subtle ad copy for a new computer language called "arc". The first half are the apologia ( well, prologia ) justifying the audacity of saying out loud that for some purposes, lisp might be a better language than cobol, and forefending the dreaded charge of hate speech.
This is not, however, the endless Holy War between the acolytes of vi and emacs, which was once quashed with "editors, what editors, when I program I just type into the standard input of the compiler".
There's some tantalizing evidence that he's right.
I once got into a discussion with a very bright logician about the nature of mathematics. He was arguing that mathematics is the same thing as set theory, I was arguing that mathematics is the study of interesting axiomatic systems. In some sense it's a stupid argument - one of definitions. In another it's a tribal war over intellectual territory.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an astonishingly good collection of essays. In lesser hands, any of the 15 essays here could have been a book by itself --- each packs more content than you can find in a typical one idea business book, or a typical one technology book for geeks. Yet his book is not dense or difficult: Graham's graceful style is a pleasure to read.
But what is it? Is it a business book, or a technical book? A bit of both actually, with a pinch of social criticism thrown in. There are essays on business --- particularly startups --- and essays on programming languages and how to combat spam, and one delightful one on the difficulty being a nerd in American public schools.
My favorite essay of the 15 --- and picking a favorite is itself a challenge --- is called "What you can't say". It is about heresy, not historical Middle Ages burned-at-the-stake heresy, but heresy today in 2004. And if you believe nothing is heretical today, that no idea today is so beyond the pale that it would provoke a purely emotional reaction to its very utterance, then read some of the other reviews. Graham's idea is not that all heresies are worth challenging publicly, or even that all heresies are wrong, but merely that there is value is being aware of what is heretical, so one can notice where the blind spots are.
Astonishingly good.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been reading Paul Graham's articles ever since he popped up on Slashdot a couple of years back. I was so excited to hear about the book, that I pre-ordered without waiting for the local edition that is 3-4x cheaper. I don't believe in objective reviews and ,strongly recommend this book to any above average nerd-types who have been suffering in silence in corporate software development environments. If you are deeply puzzled/frustrated with middle management, kool-aid languages/technology,etc., this book will provide you with deep insights into why things are the way they are.
The book is chockful of ideas and hints for getting out the nightmare, that a lot of dev groups are/have turned into. Start your own company , he says ! Why ? Because only in startups do measurability and leverage both ensure that you get what you are worth. In the typical corporate dev environment judging a person's worth or something more tangible like, contributions to specific projects is next to impossible for the typical IT manager. It doesn't matter how hard you work, since the average middle manager cannot measure your contribution. Forget leverage in large groups - you can do very little to alter the course of events in your dept. A few quotes from "How to make wealth" :
*'To get rich you need to get yourself in a situation with two things, measurement and leverage.You need to be in a position where your performance can be measured, or there is no way to get paid more by doing more. And you have to have leverage, in the sense that decisions you make have a big effect'
*'Smallness = Measurement'
* 'Technology = Leverage'
* 'Economically you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years.
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