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Publisher's Summary

Nearly a century ago, Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism articulated the animating spirit of the industrial age. Now, Pekka Himanen - together with Linus Torvalds and Manuel Castells - articulates how hackers* represent a new, opposing ethos for the information age. Underlying hackers' technical creations - such as the Internet and the personal computer, which have become symbols of our time - are the hacker values that produced them and that challenge us all. These values promote passionate and freely rhythmic work; the belief that individuals can create great things by joining forces in imaginative ways; and the need to maintain our existing ethical ideals, such as privacy and equality, in our new, increasingly technological society. The Hacker Ethic takes us on a journey through fundamental questions about life in the information age - a trip of constant surprises, after which our time and our lives can be seen from unexpected perspectives.

*In the original meaning of the word, hackers are enthusiastic computer programmers who share their work with others; they are not computer criminals.

Executive Producer: Laura Wilson
Producer: Paul Ruben
Original Jacket Design: Kapo Ng
©2000 Pekka Himanen
Prologue Copyright ©2000 Linus Torvalds
Epilogue Copyright ©2000 Manuel Castells
(P)2001 Random House, Inc.

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  • Overall
  • Craig
  • Des Plaines, IL, USA
  • 11-03-03

Enjoyable Discussion

This book is essentially a sociological study of human resources and managment and how the current business culture does is out of sync with the workers' needs, desires, and personal values. It contrasts the motivations of a programmer coding open source software against the (presumably American) heirarchial business managmement's working environment.

What I found interesting about this title was its recounting of the basis and continual reshaping of cultural attitudes toward working. I liked this because it explored the historical development of the modern perceptions in the importance of work, e.g., issues of how in introducing ourselves to others we self-define ourselves through our work, those with poor work ethics are condemned, etc. I enjoyed the questioning of societal values that are treated as dogma.

While the title does continually pass in and out of feeling didactic and many of the principles are not as novel as the authors may believe, this title presents great context for lively discussions with friends on a subject that affects us all.

NOTE: This title does place a biased dicotomy that, upon continual listening, becomes along the lines that Hackers have the working environment all worked out and those of us that work for a boss are fools. I had to adjust myself to translate upon hearing "Hacker's ethic" into simply meaning "a better way".

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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I loved the structure of this book: how real life hacking and sociology came together in a very friendly way. Manuel Castells chapter was a lovely surprise!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Okay, I'm a little concerned about the other reviews this book's been given. They seemed to be from people that either didn't finish reading the book, don't understand the subject material, or just plain don't know what they're talking about.

First, despite rampant media mislabelling, hacking is *not* breaking into computers, and this book won't talk about the ethics of computing exploits. There are a number of books and websites for that, and if you can't find them, you probably don't deserve to know about them.

Second, this is a socio-economic look at a new working ethic, which I doubt any true tinkerer-geek "in the inside" would have had the perspective, time, or the interest to write about. Ethics equals values, not in the sense of whether something is a "good" or "bad" in the moral sense, but the values on which you build your life. Just as historians didn't have to have installed telephone wire in order to comment on the industrial revolution, I don't think the author had to have programmed in Alair BASIC to be able to make a social commentary.

Third, this book isn't going to tell you how to have more free time if you're working 9-to-5, have 3 kids, and eat your meals in front of a TV. It's a shift in perspective and values. I'm not working to play, I'm playing while I work. I'm not trying to find free time in between my day job and leisure time: *All* of my time is free. I work at a game development company and I see the "hacker" culture all around me. Yes, we wear shorts & sandals, show up at 10am to work, and take breaks at work to have Quake III tourneys, but I dare anyone to walk in at 8pm during crunch time and call us a bunch of "slackers". But I guess such misunderstanding are to be expected when we're talking about a complete shift in social values.

If you have a mind open enough for it, this is a fascinating read and worth the effort of digging in.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

More religion than hacking.

This books premise is that we as a people have been sucked into the protestant work ethic and that hackers with their own style have broken that mold. O.K that point is made early in the book and repeated and repeated and repeated; the ethics of hacking are not discussed. This is just a well thought out reasoning of why we all work so much and never seam to have free time.

3 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jonathan
  • Jersey City, NJ, USA
  • 06-05-03

Everyone's a Hacker?

This was a terribly boring book. The author has taken the term "hacker" and gentrified it into a cookie cutter term for everyone who questions authority. It is impossible to get away from the religious references made throughout this book. Why does the author continually compare the hacker ethic with the protestant ethic? It's as if the author tried writing a 15 page book about Hacker's and his publishers forced him to turn it into a 300 page book about nothing. Not much here and if your listening to it while driving you might run yourself off the road.

11 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Warren
  • Ramsey, NJ, USA
  • 09-06-05

Like watching paint dry

Filled with an incredible amount of fluff. OK, hackers like what they do. OK, free and open is good. The discussions in this book are definitely page filler. Quotes from Greek philosophers are apparently supposed to make this sophisticated. A lame attempt to justify (sl)ackers showing up at the office at 10am in shorts and sandals working in an "unorganized" environment. A total waste of time.

3 of 9 people found this review helpful

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the Protestant ethic

unrelated to computers, hackers, hacking, etc.
goes on and on about pre modern monk societies and the prodestant work ethic. sais the words (hack, hacker, computer, programming ) maybe four times.
complete jip.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

It takes one to know one, after all

I grabbed this book after enjoying works such as "Salt," the "Orchid Thief," and other novels that brilliantly took me into the world of passion groups of which I did not belong. It is, in my humble opinion, the greatest gift of any piece of literature: the ability to be your tour guide and inspiration while teaching something to you. This book fell short.

Perhaps my problem is that I am a hacker, or at least was in my youth. Before the name had a meaning, my commodore 64 and I bounced from place to place on a 300 and later 900 baud modem, and those were good times. I do not in any way think the author has ever been on "the inside." Things are glorified that have no real meaning, and hackers are said to be some holy and glorious act of counterculture who a near omniscient knowledge of how important their role is in this new digital world. I appreciate the desire to come up with a bucket definition of hacking and the hacking community, but this was a stretch. I wanted to know more about what they have historically done, what they may do in the future, and how they do what they do. None of this was included in the book. Without a history & a current state of affairs, I just didn't see the point.

If you want a book about one person's opinions about the ideological backbone of hackers, you may enjoy this. If you want to actually learn something about hackers or hacking, you best move on.

1 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ray
  • North Aurora, IL, USA
  • 12-06-05

Misleading title

Let me save you some time and break down the title in terms of emphasis placed upon the words in relation to the book's material (words receiving the most emphasis first):
- Spirit
- Ethic
- Economy
- Hacker
- New

0 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Allan
  • Morristown, NJ, United States
  • 12-10-07


Boring. What's the point?

0 of 5 people found this review helpful