July 28, 2004
Great Hackers

Paul Graham has posted “Great Hackers”, an essay based on his keynote at OSCON.

For example, if your company wants to write some software, it might seem a prudent choice to write it in Java. But when you choose a language, you're also choosing a community. The programmers you'll be able to hire to work on a Java project won't be as smart as the ones you could get to work on a project written in Python. [2] And the quality of your hackers probably matters more than the language you choose. Though, frankly, the fact that good hackers prefer Python to Java should tell you something about the relative merits of those languages.


So a company that found a way to get great hackers to work on tedious problems would be very successful. How would you do it?

One place this happens is in startups. At our startup we had Robert Morris working as a system administrator. That's like having the Rolling Stones play at a bar mitzvah. You can't hire that kind of talent. But people will do any amount of drudgery for companies of which they're the founders. [4]


So here is my best shot at a recipe. If it is possible to make yourself into a great hacker, the way to do it may be to make the following deal with yourself: you never have to work on boring projects (unless your family will starve otherwise), and in return, you'll never allow yourself to do a half-assed job. All the great hackers I know seem to have made that deal, though perhaps none of them had any choice in the matter.

Posted by jjwiseman at July 28, 2004 02:10 PM

Nice to see you, thanks for saying hello! You scared the piss out of me. But it was nice!

Posted by: Kitty on July 28, 2004 10:11 PM

I'm still convinced that in a city with 4,000,000 people it should be impossible to ever see the same human being twice, let alone suddenly discover that your pal kitty bukkake is coincidentally sitting at the table next to you at dinner.

Posted by: John Wiseman on July 29, 2004 03:50 PM

Serendipity! (and aguas frescas)

Posted by: KB on July 29, 2004 06:43 PM
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