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gorlist@int0x80:~$ cat news.txt

Hacker programmer
Livingston: What do you think makes a good hacker?

Spolsky: I think what makes a good hack is the observation that you can do without something that everybody else thinks you need. To me, the most elegant hack is when somebody says, "These 2,000 lines of code end up doing the same thing as those 2 lines of code would do. I know it seems complicated, but arithmetically it's really the same." When someone cuts through a lot of crap and says, "You know, it doesn't really matter."
...

I don't know if that's what makes a good hacker. I guess that would be answering a slightly different question to what's a brilliant hack. I guess a brilliant hacker is someone who comes up with a brilliant hack.

But it's also a programmer who gets into flow—sort of what Paul Graham describes as an animal. I see it specifically as a programmer who sits down to do something and they get into a mental state where they're just cramming away. They're just generating stuff and the time is passing and they're not aware of it. They're just typing, typing, typing, typing, and great things are happening because they're in that particular mental state.

I think probably there are a lot of workaday programmers working on upgrades to Enterprise Java (now I've insulted all the Java programmers) who never achieve flow. To them, it's just kind of engineering step by step; it's never the magic of creation.

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Posted on 29 Jan 2009 by gorlist


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