Why I call myself a hacker
Hackathons are a movement I’m proud to identify with
First, some background:
Recently the term “hacker” has come under fire for perpetuating an environment which is hostile to women.
It’s true that “hacker” is an overloaded term. It’s true that it can have bad connotations. It’s true that it’s been used as a masculinizing term, and it’s true that many people picture a pudgy, pimply white guy sitting in his basement when they hear the word.
But I’m proud to call myself a hacker. This is why.
I like building things. I like staying up all night, making something as quickly as possible, and then watching my friends play with it.
Hacking is a way to learn a new skill. To test a new idea. To try something out, without taking it—or yourself—too seriously. Hacking is fast, which means it can be sloppy. But that’s the thing about hacking—sloppiness doesn’t matter.
Hacking means conjuring something from nothing. Hacking is a kind of magic.
I’m not just a hacker. I’m also an engineer. When I write code for Medium—where I work—it’s not fast or sloppy. It’s careful, thoughtful, and well-tested. That’s engineering.
I spend most of my time engineering. But, damn, I love hacking.
The other part of my hacker pride comes from the hackathon community. Hackathons are, unsurprisingly, perfect hacking environments. They’re safe places to try things out, to learn something new.
The people who go to hackathons are some of the brightest and most creative people I’ve met. They’re ambitious, and funny, and downright fun. I’ve met some of my best friends through hacking.
I’m grateful that this community welcomed me when I was a freshman. Hackathons were a highlight of my college experience.
And, it gets better: recently, the hackathon community has committed itself to being more inviting and inclusive to everyone. This has been a deliberate effort by the leaders of the community and by the organizers of some of the biggest college hackathons, and it gives me hope for the future of the whole tech industry.
I call myself a hacker because I’m proud to be part of this.
This isn’t to say that I’ll call myself a hacker forever. Maybe I’ll grow out of it. Maybe I’ll be convinced that the term does more harm than good.
But, for now, I’m not going to let that hypothetical pudgy, pimply white guy stop me from calling myself a hacker.