November 12, 2012

Hackers everywhere

Most people don’t know what an hacker is. It’s not easy for me to come up with a definition with which most people would agree… But here it comes: Hackers thrive on sharing, collaborating, and improving their field. (inspired by this).

I work in the field of technology (software, systems, Cloud Computing, etc.), and of course I’m very familiar with the “hacker” approach in these fields. I don’t think that hackers should necessary be “against” a particular form of protection, law, or approach to technology: I simply think that being a hacker means that you want to make the world a better place, usually with your intelligence and generosity. I like it when “hackers” want to change the status quo, not with violence, but with a perfectly legal, smart initiative.¬†An example is what Larry Lessig is doing with Change Congress, which now became RootStrikers. (I don’t know what has changed, therefore I’m not endorsing them or criticizing them). But that’s not the topic today.

The topic today is: would it be nice to have hackers everywhere, in every field, trying to bring collaboration, sharing, and a sense of community, and to solve problems with the same elegance with which problems are solved in the software world? Just by looking at my day-to-day life, there are plenty of examples where a hacker community could bring benefits.

My wife and I are soon moving to a new apartment in San Francisco, as soon as the paperwork is ready (yes, we bought it). It’s not furnished, and we plan to stay here for a few years at least, therefore we’d like to “decorate” it in a nice way. My wife started by searching resources of interior designers, furniture shops, and the like. We’re not rich, and we don’t like to waste money either, therefore we’re simply trying to make the apartment beautiful and welcoming, without spending a fortune. Then I thought: why there’s no Github for this? No Hacker News for this? No Reddit for this? Why, when I need to get updates on the tech industry I easily can, or when I need to find some open source code I simply can, but when it comes to get help on other problems, it’s so difficult to find resources, tools, etc? My second thought was: would it make sense? Can a Github exist for non-software contributions? And more importantly: can nice and generous and ingenious people (hackers, that’s how I call them) find ways to contribute ON EVERYTHING ELSE?

I don’t know the answer… But there are a lot of smart people out there, and my hope is that this question will reach them, and stimulate a smart answer. What do you think?