In college, I had a computer science professor who urged his students to live by 3 simple rules:
1) Don’t have unprotected sex.
2) Don’t experiment with drugs.
3) Don’t be afraid to hack.
Yes, hack. Not in the Swordfish / Office Space / War Games kind of way, but in the ethical / progress-oriented / knowledge building kind of way. Hacking is defined in wikipedia as:
A community of enthusiast computer programmers and systems designers, originated in the 1960s around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) and MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
There are two points I want to drive with that definition:
1) Sometimes good things do come out of MIT.
2) Hacking, in it’s true definition, is not bad.
Programmers have grown lazy. Re-use is great, but when a programmer spends 90% of his/her time copying code from one place to another – then where is the original thought? Where is the progress? Where is my flying car?
Stated simply, hacking is needed for innovation. To survive and grow, businesses should encourage their employees to hack. At S3 – 15% of developer time is spent on employee-led independent projects. These projects do not have to be tied to a revenue stream and there are no set limits to what the employee could do.
So far, the developers have challenged themselves with the projects they have chosen. Hacking was necessary. Some of these projects may never see the light of day – but the knowledge gained in working on them will likely be applied to future applications.