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The Hacker Ethic: and the Spirit of the Information Age Hardcover – Jan 30 2001

3.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (Jan. 30 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505669
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 13.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #205,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Pekka Himanen's theory of the hacker culture as the spirit of informationalism is a fundamental breakthrough in the discovery of the world unfolding in the uncertain dawn of the third millennium."
-Manuel Castells, from the Epilogue

"The Hacker Ethic is one of the most significant political ideas and value systems in history. Hackers are the warriors, explorers, guerrillas, and joyous adventurers of the Digital Age, and the true architects of the new economy. Demonized and often misunderstood, they are changing the world and the way it works. Pekka Himanen explains how and why in a book that is essential reading for anybody who wants to live, work or do business in the twenty-first century."
-Jon Katz, columnist for and author of Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet Out of Idaho

"At last we have a book about the ethics of true hackers . . .not the criminals and vandals that the press calls hackers today, but the idealistic pioneers whose ethics of openness, enablement and cooperation laid the cornerstone for our new economy."
-Danny Hillis, Co-Founder, The Long Now Foundation and Co-Chairman & CTO, Applied Minds, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

You may be a hacker and not even know it. Being a hacker has nothing to do with cyberterrorism, and it doesn't even necessarily relate to the open-source movement. Being a hacker has more to do with your underlying assumptions about stress, time management, work, and play. It's about harmonizing the rhythms of your creative work with the rhythms of the rest of your life so that they amplify each other. It is a fundamentally new work ethic that is revolutionizing the way business is being done around the world.
Without hackers there would be no universal access to e-mail, no Internet, no World Wide Web, but the hacker ethic has spread far beyond the world of computers. It is a mind-set, a philosophy, based on the values of play, passion, sharing, and creativity, that has the potential to enhance every individual's and company's productivity and competitiveness. Now there is a greater need than ever for entrepreneurial versatility of the sort that has made hackers the most important innovators of our day. Pekka Himanen shows how we all can make use of this ongoing transformation in the way we approach our working lives. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Hacker Ethic is a late 1990s Information Age treatise. The author, a gifted and young sociologist, posits that the Protestant Ethic is gradually giving away to a new paradigm, and that the new paradigm will be much more effective and functional than the old paradigm. Seems simplistic, but much of Himanen's treatise is excellent and hard to ignore.
If I can fault the work, it would be along the lines that it can misinterpreted by slackers as a way of mindlessly rebelling against employers and western culture altogether. Too many Generation X advocates will take this like Charles Manson took the White Album. This is a solid, introductory work not to be read by nihilists.
Overall, I think Himanen is a very promising figure in the Information Age and will probably make a great long-term contribution to global society. I expect bigger and better things from him in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
This book compares the so-called "hacker work ethic" as compared to the old "Protestant work ethic," examining so-called hacker culture and their motivations for working and completing projects, as opposed to the world view of working "because you are supposed to." It makes a number of interesting observations, and points out that in our world, the pressure to "work, work, work" never seems to escape us, in spite of all the technological advances of our world designed to "make life easier."
It also points out that "true hackers" are willing to work at something in order to improve it and are not always motivated to do so by the almighty dollar. I long have worked with engineers who come in to work at 10 or 11 am but stay until almost midnight every day and never quite understood why until now. It's the desire to continue to tinker with and ultimately complete a project.
I will never be a "true hacker," since I lack the aptitude and ultimately patience to sit at a computer screen all hours of the day and night trying to solve programming problems, but books like these give me a much better understanding of the ones who are.
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Format: Hardcover
I've recently had the chance to read this book, and though I feel it is a fine read as far as the style and lanaguage go, it's somewhat of a rehash of other writings on the subject.
I am a hacker in the sense that I have the knowledge of mathematics and programming, the understanding of computer organization, and I subscribe to the "hacker ethic".
Now on to the book. This book appears largely to be based on a gathering of the old writings of The Mentor but rewritten for a specific audience (for those of you not familiar with the handle, The Mentor was one of the first hackers, and one of the most prolific. He laid down the fundamentals by which hackers live, and wrote the famous Hacker's Manifesto). Yes, many new ideas were added to this book, but there is quite a bit that sounds like a tweaked, and less offensive, rehash of The Mentor's writing as well as the essays of various other hackers. That's not to say the writing isn't original in some sense, but mostly it's been done before. I wouldn't suggest it unless you are new and unfamiliar with the hacking field, and are looking for some insight into it, without being flamed or being confused by "buzz words". Also, this book should not be expected to be a tech manual, it's more of a look into the hacker's psyche, and it essentially praises hackers and supports them, so it might make a good picker-upper if you're a hacker down on your luck ;).
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Format: Hardcover
The book talks about how hackers, a particular breed of IT worker, are task oriented rather than time oriented. Leisure, hobby and professional accomplishment merge. Hackers are not like medieval monks copying manuscripts. At their best they are more like guitarists for rock bands but hopefully without the drugs.
What the book says to me is that okay, perhaps I can continue to arrive at work 10 am instead of 9. Perhaps I can continue to sometimes read the internet when I am paid to work. After all, that is what the hackers of this book would do, based upon their redefinitions or work and play.
BUT if I want to act like a hacker with respect to my relationship to my time at work, then I had better make sure that I really am a hacker, and not just some shmoe goofing off. That means I had better refine my programming craft as a hobby on my own time, using my "hobby" tools for office projects. And I had better read up on how to solve office-related programming problems and think about them regularly, not just at work
Being a hacker as described in this book is a double-edged sword. You will not necessarily have more free time. But it seems to me that if you really are a hacker as described in this book, and people sense your passion, then they will understand that you are working in a different way but producing more.
Just make sure you are in the right environment to be a hacker. Pekka Himanan suggests that working for Microsoft is not a good place to exhibit the hacker work ethic.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll agree with the reviews by "a reader" and by Mikko on various points. The book does not do a particular good job of explaining who individual hackers are and why they do what they do. In retrospect, I don't think that is what the author intended to accomplish. But that wasn't what I expected. This is a scholarly work and is not light reading. If you don't want to be reading a thesis on changing social movements, then this isn't a book for you. This isn't called "The Hacker Ethic" because it's about hackers any more than "The Protestant Ethic" is really about Protestants. The Hacker Ethic is merely the author's label for an attitude toward life and work which happens to be exhibited by hackers. This book is about that social attitude (a changing emphasis on flexibility in work and play and time) and not about hackers -- except as that social attitude may relate to individuals. I also found the description of modern/digital society to be very interesting in the first part of the work, but it did get thicker as the work went on. Some of his later comparisons seems unclear and not nearly as well developed as earlier portions of the work. The conclusions felt lacking, but that doesn't seem uncommon in this type of work. I certainly don't regret reading this, as it did open my eyes to some aspects of the modern society which I hadn't noticed or which I tickled the back of my brain but hadn't seen clearly enough to put into words. It was not at all what I expected, but worthwhile, nonetheless.
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