Leave Linux to the Hackers

Hackers created Linux and the Open Community, but non-hackers are now trying to budge in on our work. Why is this so bad?, you may ask, Isn't the Open Community non-exclusive?. A children's story may enlighten you.

The hen went out one day to pick wheat. The pigs walked by and laughed at her. The horses walked by. The hen asked the horses if they would help. The horses responded, No! and galloped away. Then the hen went to pick the corn. The pigs laughed at her again. The horses came by. The hen asked if they would help, but the responded, no! and galloped away again. Then the hen baked some bread using the materials she had just picked. The pigs and horses came by and asked if they could have some bread. The hen responded, Where were you when I was making the bread? Why should I give you the bread when I did all the work?! And with that, she went into her house and fed her own chicks.

The old children's story, retold best as possible considering I have not heard it for years, is what the hackers of Linux feel. They are thinking, We made this! We are not just going to give it to you. You have to earn it! That is why I have spent the last last year in computing study; I did not want to seem as an intruder to the community, I did not want to seem like I was going to just leech on to their hard work and labor. I wanted to be work with the community, not against it. But new-comers seem not to agree.

It seems to be the case now that people new to Linux and the Open Community expect us to thank them for joining and blessing us with their presence. They simply leech on to the finished product that we (the hackers; I was not computing at the time Linux was initiated) worked so hard on.

Given what I have said, only the people originally involved may use it; how, then, do I participate in this? Due to the fact that the people who originally created Linux were hackers, and that it was originally created as a learning and programming tool to constantly be worked on, it must be so that to use Linux openly (i.e.: participate in newsgroups, WWW, opinions) you must be a hacker who contributes to Linux or the Open Community.


I have mentioned the term "hacker" much in this article but have not given a definition for what a hacker is. This may lead many problems and may scare those interested in Linux away; that is good, because it is especially those who think of hackers as bad that are not participating in contributing to the Open Community. But maybe a definition is needed, to fix any common misbeliefs fed to us by illogical journalists.

"Hacker" has a few definitions; I will recite these in chronological order.

  1. One who makes furniture from wood using an axe.
  2. A programmer with intimate knowledge of the system being programmed.
  3. One who "phreaks" (cracks) systems to learn about them.
  4. Generic term, used to described one who puts learning about a specific object above everything else.

The hackers I am talking about are the programmers and the learners; the phreakers seem to have disappeared, and furniture is more or less irrelevant towards this rant. Notice that the definitions do not include breaking access to systems for personal gain, and the last three involve learning. Hackers have been described as Hippies replacing drugs with computers, but I find this too vague (What is a hippie?). I describe hackers as, basically, "constant learners and sharers". Unsimplified, hackers learn productively then share what they have learned with others. This learning need not involve electronics; there are many music hackers. All they have to do learn and share. This has created the Open Community.

Open Communities

I have used the term "Open Communities" frequently and maybe I should define it also, as I "made it up". The Open Community is what others call the Open Source or the Free Software Community. Why did I chose a different name if there are already two good ones? Because the Open Community is the community of hackers of all types (music, art, trivia, computing, et cetera) while the Open Source and Free Software Community is limited to computer hackers. Also, the term "Open Source" was created as a marketing device for the non-hackers and "Free Software" was too misleading ("Why does it cost money if it is free?").

Also, look at the words "open" and "community". Open is "free, exposed, accessible" and a community is "a group of people with shared interests". So I could have used "the accessible group of people with shared interests", but that would be too long. That is what the Open Community is; people who believe in accessibility and freedom of rights and they share at least that in common.

Leave Linux to the Hackers

The main point of this essay is that hackers have labored for years to create an operating system to their tastes, all their brain power and thought has been put into it, and if others did not like something someone else did they could change it. Now many new-comers to the Linux world do not wish to participate in the Open Community; they only wish to use what we have given them and complain when they do not like it. Unfortunately, greedy people are listening: RedHat and Caldera are simplifying our work. If we had wanted it simplified, we would have made it simplified; it is almost as if they are calling the Open Community incapable and showing us how it is done. True, most members of RedHat are also members of the Open Community, but once money is involved it detracts from the whole spirit of hacking.

Bring back the old Open Community. We need not everyone, just the willing.

See Also
Clueless users are bad for Debain
Open Source
Free Software Foundation
The Jargon File


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Mike Burns <mike@mike-burns.com>