Saturday, August 07, 2004

Question: Am I a "Great Hacker"? I know that is a question that one cannot answer for oneself.

If am not a great hacker, though, why is it that I can quickly solve other people's code problems, but when I have my own code issues, nobody can solve them before I do it myself? Paul Graham mentions in his keynote talk at Oscon 2004 that "people who are great at something are not so much convinced of their own greatness as mystified at why everyone else seems so incompetent."

Another sign is software selection. If I am not a great hacker, why do I hate working in Java so much? My favorite quote from the article: "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." Yet, in the beginning, I was a cringing slave to the GUI interface and markup languages. So now I'm "stuck" with CFML 5.

Another sign is office selection. If I am not a great hacker, why do I hate working in noisy cubicle farms so much? As the article says: "The mere prospect of being interrupted is enough to prevent hackers from working on hard problems." So I choose to work from home.

Another sign is problem selection. I program for fun on my own projects. In addition, "some [problems] become interesting only when the people working on them discover a new kind of solution." This is what I do when I have to solve a lot of nasty little problems: take a problem some other coder has failed to solve and fix his code by rewriting it to solve a bigger problem. It creates a larger infrastructure in which to solve the problem, and makes it unnecessary to keep his tangled code. "Working on nasty little problems makes you stupid."

But if I am a great hacker, where is the variation in wealth between myself and the not-so-great hackers? Variation in wealth, as you know, is a sign of variation in productivity.

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