Handed my dissertation in today. We got there over an hour before the office opened which gave the staff there a bit of a smile. It was all a bit of an anti-climax really considering all of the work I’ve put into it. Still that’s another deadline gone – just the project left.

Who Begat Who: The link between hacking and Open Source


I met with Geoff earlier today to get feedback on my first draft and overall it was quite positive. He made some suggestions on things I ought to look at and consider doing to it like re-emphasising the whole point of my argument which I haven’t done much. And I need to check my spelling. Word keeps defaulting to the US dictionary and I keep forgetting to reset it back so there are a few “z”‘s where “s”‘s should be…or is it the other way round.

First Draft

I submitted the first full draft of my dissertation last night. I did it quite late coz I wanted just one more last read thru’, which became just one more last read thru’ which became another. In total I think I had about 5 last read thru’s but on the last one I didn’t make any changes so that’s when I knew I was ready to submit it.

Good meeting 2

Met with Geoff after lunch today to go thru’ my dissertation. I’m reading Hacker Culture by Douglas Thomas (no relation to the ex-Palace Geoff…at least I hope not) which is about modern day hackers. It’s a really interesting read. It documents the time when an ISP had customers’ credit cards lifted but the hackers only used them to gain access to people’s internet accounts. It also compares modern day hackers to the old school. Now I’ll admit I’ve always thought of the new breed to be crackers rather than hackers but the book makes the point that not only are they continuing the ethic of information should be free but in fact the systems they hack were created by the old school who, it opinions, have sold out. Something which I was aware of before reading the book is that some of the work done in the 50s and 60s was funded by the US military and you can’t get more secretive than that. And that’s when Geoff said that there’s my argument. There’s conflict between old and new hackers but who’s actually right and did the old school sell out? Are the new breed of hackers actually truer to the ideals than the old school? Now, there’s a thought!!

1st meeting

Met with Geoff yesterday to talk thru my dissertation. He made an interesting point about some of the internal issues/conflicts such as modern hackers accusing old-school hackers of having sold out, OSS and FOSS as well as the differences in ideology between Wark and Lessig. I have recently come across the first when skimming thru’ one of my books but I never considered the last before. I know OSS doesn’t necessarily mean free even though I have been guilty in the past of not making a token payment.

So, more interesting stuff to follow up on.

Crossover 1

So I’ve just started looking thru’ Hacker Culture by Douglas Thomas and I came across the name Foucault. Surely not the same one we’re looking at in Space? His work Discipline and Punishment is being used in the explanation of hacking, the law and punishment. For example, he writes that we should “regard punishment as a complex social function”. Douglas askes the question that if we are being protected from the hackers, what is being protected.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that what appears to be totally different subjects have some kind of overlap. What could be interesting is to see just how many and by how much come the end of my research.


Since the early days of the MIT Railway Club when the foundations for what we know as hacking were being laid, there has been an understanding that information should be free to be exchanged with anyone who needs or wants it. Back in those early days, the “hackers” shared code amongst themselves; they even had a drawer near their console containing utilities available to everyone to use and improve upon. They saw as an efficient use of everybody’ time by reducing the time-wasting effort of different people developing their own version of the same program. So, even though the term Open Source Software (OSS) was not first used until the late 1990s, a good 20 years later, as hacking came into being did it not also give birth to OSS?

In this dissertation I intend to explore the relationship between hacking and OSS. I will look at their beginnings with the MIT Model Railway Club and the belief in those early days that all information should be free, the underlying principle in my opinion of the hacker/open source movement. I will explore how the development of the Internet was dependant upon them. I also intend to investigate how they have become politicised through Creative Commons, the media’s (mis)interpretation of hacking and what McKenzie Wark describes as a “class conflict”; the difference of philosophy between hackers and the large corporations who want to protect their intellectual property. Through this, I hope to show that the development of one has had a direct impact on the other and that they have become co-dependant.


I’ve just found out that I’ve got Geoff as my supervisor. Hopefully I won’t drive him to despair! Anyways, next deadline is this Friday when we have to hand in a draft abstract and our bibliography which hopefully won’t be too difficult as my proposal ought to make up most of my abstract

Some books

Here’s my initial list of references for my dissertation.

Hackers by Stephen Levy
Hacker Culture by Douglas Thomas
Free Software, Free Society by Richard Stallman
Free as in Freedom by Richard Stallman
The Cathedral and The Bazaar by Eric Raymond
Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig
A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark
The Hacker Ethic by Linus Torvalds
Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution by various
Understanding Open Source Software Development by Joseph Feller

No clues for guessing that it’s gonna be about hacking and open source – now if I can just find an argument….

Initial thoughts

Would open source be so popular without hacking?
Would hacking be so popular without open source?
Why is the populist view of hacking negative?
When did the view of hacking outside of IT and the arts change?
Is hacking the latest buzzword for something that we have always done as a species?
Does anyone develop from scratch anymore or do we all just hack other people’s work?