May 13, 2003

Hackers and Painters

Paul Graham's latest article is so intriguingly astute that all I can say is that you should alot an hour and read it -- Hackers and Painters.

Some interesting quotes:

If you want to make money at some point, remember this, because this is one of the reasons startups win. Big companies want to decrease the standard deviation of design outcomes because they want to avoid disasters. But when you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low. This is not a problem for big companies, because they don't win by making great products. Big companies win by sucking less than other big companies.

One theme of the paper is that hackers should identify themselves more with "makers" like painters, rather than with scientists or mathematicians.

... [I]dentifying with the makers will save us from another problem that afflicts the sciences: math envy. Everyone in the sciences secretly believes that mathematicians are smarter than they are. I think mathematicians also believe this. At any rate, the result is that scientists tend to make their work look as mathematical as possible. In a field like physics this probably doesn't do much harm, but the further you get from the natural sciences, the more of a problem it becomes.

He ends with:

When you meet someone now who is writing a compiler or hacking a Unix kernel, at least you know they're not just doing it to pick up chicks.

[Thank to the AccordianGuy for the pointer.]

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