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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important idea, an important book
I should say up front that I'm not totally disinterested in the Hacker Ethic. I'm a media critic and author and I blurbed this book, something I don't do a lot. I did -- and am writing this review -- because I feel strongly that this is a very important book advancing a central idea -- the hacker ethic, profoundly misunderstood and demonized by the popular media, is...
Published on March 9, 2001 by Jon D. Katz

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is Hacker's Ethic?
Pekka Himanen has written an extended essay on theme he thinks is the changing force and imperative within the creators of the information society. He calls it the Hacker Ethic to contrast the Protestant Ethic made famous in Max Weber's classic text.
I think the theme the book is about is extremely important and most people in our society do not understand its...
Published on April 20, 2001 by Mikko Valimaki


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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important idea, an important book, March 9, 2001
This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
I should say up front that I'm not totally disinterested in the Hacker Ethic. I'm a media critic and author and I blurbed this book, something I don't do a lot. I did -- and am writing this review -- because I feel strongly that this is a very important book advancing a central idea -- the hacker ethic, profoundly misunderstood and demonized by the popular media, is important, both to politics and work. This isn't another in the avalanche of impenetrable cyber-culture books. It looks backwards as well as forwards, to the Protestant Ethic that has shaped many of our lives, and beyond, to the hacker joy and passion. The hacker ethic has trigger a true social and cultural revolution. Himanen (who I don't know) traces its roots, and perhaps more importantly, where it can take us. This is very important. If journalists, CEO's and others would read this book carefully, they might get ahead of the Net Revolution for once, instead of scrambling continuously to figure out where the world is going. If you want to know, this is a good place to start. It is also a very noble endeavor to finally give the hackers their due in the evolution of the modern world. It's not a big dense read either, which it easily could have been. It is a small book and moves quickly. It's ideas are accessible, and very, very convincing.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Viewpoints, March 27, 2002
By 
Todd Hawley (San Francisco CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
This book compares the so-called "hacker work ethic" as compared to the old "Protestant work ethic," examining so-called hacker culture and their motivations for working and completing projects, as opposed to the world view of working "because you are supposed to." It makes a number of interesting observations, and points out that in our world, the pressure to "work, work, work" never seems to escape us, in spite of all the technological advances of our world designed to "make life easier."
It also points out that "true hackers" are willing to work at something in order to improve it and are not always motivated to do so by the almighty dollar. I long have worked with engineers who come in to work at 10 or 11 am but stay until almost midnight every day and never quite understood why until now. It's the desire to continue to tinker with and ultimately complete a project.
I will never be a "true hacker," since I lack the aptitude and ultimately patience to sit at a computer screen all hours of the day and night trying to solve programming problems, but books like these give me a much better understanding of the ones who are.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hacker Work Ethic...Or A New Play Ethic?, February 20, 2001
By 
PAT KANE (Glasgow, Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
I've never read a clearer, more erudite, more persuasive demolition of the old Protestant Work Ethic than Pekka Himanen's essay in this book. And that clarity comes from being part of a new constituency - the hacker community - who are redefining what it is to be a passionate, active, creative, tool-wielding human being (ie, it's much more than just being a "worker").
And rather than the Hacker Ethic being the usual pizza-stained celebration of digital anarchism you find in hacker commentary, Himanen begins to construct a real and tangible politics out of the self-organising energies of hackerdom. What might the hacker ethic mean for how we build educational institutions, as communities of inquiry rather than job factories? For how we generate technological innovation, in ways that don't always depend on the furies of the market? For how we might provide social services amongst ourselves, rather than waiting for politicians and bureaucrats to deliver?
I suppose the only problem I have - and it's one I'm trying to answer with my own project, The Play Ethic (on the web) is this: why do we need to keep describing unalienated human productivity and creativity (which is what hackerdom, and other forms of modern behaviour, are) as "work"? Isn't this the last legacy of Calvin and Knox, still shaping our minds through controlling our vocabulary? Why not call it "play", and be done with it - that's play as defined by Sartre, "that action we do when we apprehend that we are truly free": or Schiller's, meaning that activity we do when we are (as adults) "fully human"?
Play also extends beyond the hacker community (still, as Pekka admits, predominantly male), and touches upon all the other "arts of living" that evade the patriarchal work ethic - in emotions, parent-child relationships, New Age spirituality, gender androgyny, ecological sensibilities. There is also a whole world of non-Christian theologies and traditions out there which place human creativity at their core, which could have been mentioned. (And what about Harold Bloom's cry for an American gnosticism in Omens of Millenium? That's just waiting for Richard Stallman and his cultic robes!)
But hell, that's the book *I'm* writing... In the meantime, The Hacker Ethic is the worst news that the New Economy's work ethic could ever have - which means, the best for all us. Put a copy on your pal's desk: the one with the nervous twitch and the grey pallor. And watch the passion come back into his/her face.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is Hacker's Ethic?, April 20, 2001
By 
Mikko Valimaki (Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
Pekka Himanen has written an extended essay on theme he thinks is the changing force and imperative within the creators of the information society. He calls it the Hacker Ethic to contrast the Protestant Ethic made famous in Max Weber's classic text.
I think the theme the book is about is extremely important and most people in our society do not understand its effects and functions at all. To some degree Himanen is on the ball and makes the picture clearer to a layman. The first part of the book is about the work ethic where Himanen defines what Hacker's Ethic is about. This is the best part of the book.
Himanen starts defining Hacker's Ethic as a general attitude towards work in the information society. For example a car mechanic can be a "hacker" in his field of expertise. Described by Himanen, in the center of hacker ethic is information sharing. It is held as a duty to share interesting information with like-minded people. In some sense the hacker ethic is a counterforce to the market culture. Hackers enter into information creation and exchange motivated by enthusiasm, joy and passion, not just money. Working times of a hacker are individual and optimized. In overall, hierarchies and rules from above are not driving creative individuals in the information centric fields of our society.
Great stuff. But in some directions Himanen's essay is unfortunately not very profound and lacks touch of reality. This comes in part two which is about "money ethic". To me there is no insight or originality in his thoughts. I believe the worst writings about money I've ever encountered originate from philosophers, idealists, elitists and other guys who are somehow closer to higher superstition than the raw reality of street-level business world. - Brainstorming in the third and last part named "the nethic" is somewhere between the first and the second part. Personally, I don't find it very convincing.
How great hacker Himanen may be, his book is sold as one interesting product of commercial culture, which hopefully entertains and attracts the short attention-window of its target consumers. If you were an average american consumer interested in current societal issues would you buy a book from Pekka Himanen. - From who? No problem, on the cover of the book are printed the names Linus Torvalds and Manuel Castells. Torvalds has actually written a short intro to the book - that has no connection to Himanen's essay. Castells for his part has made a short summary of the main points from his three volume The Information Age (1996-1998) in the end.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent through ch 4, then loses focus, December 19, 2004
This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
I bought and read this book because I enjoy reading about hacker history and culture. When I started, I simply read and flipped pages, thinking I wouldn't find much of deep importance. After about 20 pages I was extremely interested in the book and started underlining the author's main points. By chapter 5, and especially in chapter 6, the author lost my attention and I ended up giving this book a three star review.

The valuable core of 'The Hacker Ethic' lies in its comparison with the Protestant work ethic. The author explains that philosophy's roots in monastic life, and contrasts it with the 'hacker ethic' and its roots in academic/scientific practices. As a history major I thought this comparison was fascinating and it made me examine my own work habits more closely. The author's illumination of time-centric vs. task-centric work was especially interesting.

Linux kernel inventor Linus Torvalds wrote the prologue, so the entire book approaches the free/open software world from an overtly Linux perspective. One mention of BSD appears in a citation of Eric S. Raymond's 'Cathedral and the Bazaar.' ESR criticizes the BSD development model ('carefully coordinated... by a relatively small, tightly knit group of people') in comparison with Linux, where 'quality was maintained not by rigid standards or autocracy but by the naively simple strategy of releasing every week and getting feedback.' I think 'naive' is the operative word here. Linux has certainly prospered, but companies like IBM, Novell, and others are playing increasingly bigger roles.

If you can read Linus' prologue and the first four chapters in a book store, I recommend doing so. I believe the author does a nice job making comparisons with the Protestant work ethic, but doesn't quite know where to go next. Reading four chapters should take a couple of hours, and you'll walk away appreciating the keen insights author Pekka Himanen has to offer on 'The Hacker Ethic.'
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful for those unfamiliar to the world., March 12, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
I've recently had the chance to read this book, and though I feel it is a fine read as far as the style and lanaguage go, it's somewhat of a rehash of other writings on the subject.
I am a hacker in the sense that I have the knowledge of mathematics and programming, the understanding of computer organization, and I subscribe to the "hacker ethic".
Now on to the book. This book appears largely to be based on a gathering of the old writings of The Mentor but rewritten for a specific audience (for those of you not familiar with the handle, The Mentor was one of the first hackers, and one of the most prolific. He laid down the fundamentals by which hackers live, and wrote the famous Hacker's Manifesto). Yes, many new ideas were added to this book, but there is quite a bit that sounds like a tweaked, and less offensive, rehash of The Mentor's writing as well as the essays of various other hackers. That's not to say the writing isn't original in some sense, but mostly it's been done before. I wouldn't suggest it unless you are new and unfamiliar with the hacking field, and are looking for some insight into it, without being flamed or being confused by "buzz words". Also, this book should not be expected to be a tech manual, it's more of a look into the hacker's psyche, and it essentially praises hackers and supports them, so it might make a good picker-upper if you're a hacker down on your luck ;).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Long on sociology. Short on philosophy., January 11, 2006
By 
J. K. Paasch (Cincinnati, OH USA) - See all my reviews
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Briefly, as to general flow of the book some reviewers here have already mentioned that the marrow of this book is found in the early portions with chapters 5,6, and especially 7 very nearly if not completely skipable. Castells' futurist epilogue while a bit far reaching at times is a welcome respite after the preceeding chapters. Torvalds' introduction piece while intended to provide some hacker credentials and tone-setting for the book, I imagine, though fun, came across as a bit glib and was essentially unnecessary.

I believe Himanen's main points can be summarized as follows:

1. People are working longer and harder based on an out of date paradigm and find the work they are doing is less rewarding especially in regards to true personal satisfaction.

2. On the other hand hackers can be described as those people who, regardless of the field in which they work, do what they do for personal satisfaction and the inherent rewards of furthering their area of interest and peer recognition.

In other words hackers are much like those who traditionally work in academia, the sciences, and the arts. In fact Himanen acknowledges as much during the course of the book.

None of this is in itself problematic, however given the familiar ground covered here I kept hoping Himanen would do more than simply conjure (almost arbitrarily) a generic value system and just slap it on a group of people he generally terms hackers.

My real displeasure with this book was its failure to offer any suggestions, in light of the obvious and underlying ethical considerations inherent within his argument, as to how one might create a society of hackers. If his intent was to keep to interesting historical and sociological observations then he could have, possibly, gotten through this without touching on deeper ethical currents. All along though Himanen challenges the presumptions of our current views on work, money, fun, creativity, etc... Nothing wrong with any of that, however such musings, and indeed the title of the book, suggests that at some point he might be inclined to address some deeper questions. Questions such as how does someone with few resources and limited access attain the position that allows him/her to engage in more self-fulfilling activities? Whose responsibility is it to ensure the essentials of survival are provided for so that people can pursue their passions? None of this is really given much attention and I suspect it isn't even seriously considered by Himanen. While some might argue that it was not his intent to raise and answer such questions, I believe his book suffers for his failure to delve more deeply into the basics of how to get beyond where we currently are to achieve his lofty but admirable goals.

Another minor source of irritation was his heavy reliance on Weber. Obviously the title acts as a clear indicator of his intent to explore Weber's ideas. Again, nothing wrong with going to the well as it were, however at times it felt too much like a retreading of Weber's own work.

I find it interesting, and philosophically useful, when an author provides an honest attempt at a dissenting viewpoint to her/his own proposal. Or at least makes the effort to provide a fair assessment of a viewpoint they wish to discredit. Such attempts work to lend an air of credibility to the authors stance and help the reader understand the framework of the argument better. Unfortunately Himanen does not do this here.

On the positive side this is a very easy read and can be a nice introduction to more challenging works on the themes mentioned or alluded to throughout the text. The author is engaging and playful and doesn't run the risk of scaring off readers who don't typically enjoy trudging through heavy academic works. This ease of read is probably why a major publisher such as Random House picked this up and chose to release it. On the other hand, and for the very same reasons, this is most likely why a more scholarly publisher like the Oxford University Press or the like did not.

In short, a lot more exploration of his own proposals and presumptions (e.g. the 7 values of the Hacker Ethic, etc...), as well as trimming some of the unnecessary portions (e.g. 10 pages on an imagined Protestant Genesis, etc...), as well as providing some illumination on the other side of the issue, would have made for a much better read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars no time like the present, February 8, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
Who IS this guy? I bought this for Torvalds and Castells, but Pekka Himanen's essay is stunning. If he makes a bit much of the Significance of the new ethic that's emerged, fair enough -- what's really mind-blowing here is his argument about why we're all hardwired to think about time and work the way we do -- especially time. The internal rhythms of our life are a cultural inheritance it's hard to get perspective on, and this guy puts our values in a big-picture historical context that's -- phew! -- pretty staggering.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for outsiders, February 4, 2002
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This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
I would highly recommend this book to people in the MCSE or management crowd who want to understand what motivates people to work on complex software projects without receiving any monetary reward.
Although I would not classify myself as a hacker in the strictest sense of the definition, most people would consider me to be one. I find most of this information to be commonly known or discussed amongst the geek community, but it's great to have such keen insight packed in to this small book. Even if you're familiar with hacker culture, it's always insightful to look at subjects through the eyes of others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an eye opener, October 15, 2001
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This review is from: The Hacker Ethic (Hardcover)
There are many who may disagree with this book, but the viewpoints and in-depth analysis by the authors is inspiring. They will make you reexamine life, the workplace, and even your free time. Looking at the world through hacker glasses is really interesting. Not something you'll see on any Nova or Discovery show. You'll need to read.
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