Announcing: International Hack Day, August 11th.

There is no single and definitive definition of what hacking is. We all have different versions of similar ideas in our head, but depending on your background and area of enthusiasm, hacking means something different. While has many definitions of the word itself, none seem to cover what we see on a daily basis.

We set out to define “hacking” ourselves. We tossed around words like “modify”, “kludge”, “explore”, and “create”. Each time we committed an increasingly vague definition onto the page, we decided it was too narrow and tossed it in the proverbial trash. The variations were just too many.

What we do know is that “hacking” seems to breed advancement and innovation. Much like mutations in an evolutionary chain, each hack pushes the topic in a slightly new direction, inspiring others and thereby perpretuating the evolutary event. In a very short time we’ve witnessed hacking bring forth the evolution of wagons to cars, kites to airplanes, and the creation of the computer.

We at Hackaday would like to declaire August 11th to be “International Hack Day”. A day to celebrate hacking in all of its diverse forms. From soldering to sewing, coding to carbonating, knitting to knurling, we want you to keep on hacking. Take August 11th as a day to show pride in your hacking. Waive your hacker flag high and educate those around you.

We have asked many of our friends to contribute their personal definition of hacking. Here they are, in the order they were received.

Hacking is being completely obsessed with a puzzle that shares it’s solution with everyone once it’s solved.
— Limor “Ladyada” Fried, Adafruit

I don’t hacking is something you do, it’s a mindset, you look at the same world as everyone else, filled with the same things, things that are assumed to do just one thing or what we’re told they should do… but you constantly ask yourself “what else can I make this thing do?”.
— Phil Torrone: Adafruit, MAKE Magazine & Founder of Hack-a-day

hacking is the noble art of tricking hardware or software into doing something unexpected. — Leo LaPorte

Hacking’ is the process of exploring and understanding a system. A ‘hack’ is the application of that gained knowledge in a clever and novel way. — Andrew “Bunnie” Huang

I would say a “hack” is anytime you extend a know system beyond its intended functionality. Quite often this results in features a product might have had if its designers didn’t have to meet a ship date. —Benjamin Heckendorn

Taking what exists, learning what you can about it, improving upon it, and sharing it. — Mitch Altman

Repurpose, reuse, invent, and recycle.” Not just duct taping stuff together, it applies to code, ideas, whatever. — Ian Lesnet, Dangerous Prototypes

Hacking means building with less regard for the polished nature of the final project. Think MacGyver meets electronics. He was never building something to sell, he just had to get the job done. Whether we are deconstructing a device or building something new and completely wacky, hacking it means we don’t care what other people think of our methods, we’re more concerned about what people think of the outcome. — Nathan Seidle, Sparkfun

Hacking is technical dissection that leads to discovery of function and exploration of repurposed or enhanced usability. — Lindsey Levkoff, Education at Sparkfun

To me, “hacking” means that I can bend my environment to my liking. I have the understanding, will and ability to rearrange the world into something that is most palatable to me. Hacking is power. — Pete Doktor, Engineering at Sparkfun

Hacking is making a mess of a solution then refining it until someone else acknowledges that you have done something of interest. — Mikey Sklar

Hacking is many things to many people. To me, it’s about stirring things up, not accepting blindly whatever it is you’re told, seeking out the answers firsthand, and sharing what you discover with others so they can embark on their own journey. Note the absence of computers or even technology in this definition. They are not essential in being a hacker. If you look at every instance of exploration, creative expression, journalistic investigation, or even rebellion, you will find the basic components of hacking. The modern age simply gives us more tools with which to use them.
Emmanuel Goldstein

We would love to see all of your definitions of hacking. Sure, many may be similar, but you’ll probably find that many are very different. Here are the current writer’s definitions:

To me, hacking is more of a mindset. When you’re just tearing into something headed toward some goal without the proper research and planning. There’s an excitement there, like you’re exploring. — Caleb Kraft

Use things in a way in which they were not originally intended. — Mike Szczys

Modifying something from it’s original use to do something that it was never intended to do.  Although much (but not all) legal hacking is done for fun and not necessaryil profit, sometimes a device or technique is hit upon that changes society and hopefully brings the author the monetary reward he or she deserves. — Jeremy Cook

Hacking is all about learning. Gaining just enough knowledge to know how something works, and then using that knowledge to improve upon or just mess with it. To me, things start getting very interesting when simple tricks lead to things you aren’t supposed to know. — Jesse Congdon

36 thoughts on “Announcing: International Hack Day, August 11th.

  1. My definition of hacking has always been pretty straightforward:

    Hacking is the process of utilizing, modifying, or exploiting a technology or process in a way not intended by the users or creators of that technology or process.

  2. I would have thought that was not possible to define hacking in so few words.

    “Hacking is technical dissection that leads to discovery of function and exploration of repurposed or enhanced usability. — Lindsey Levkoff, Education at Sparkfun”

    I would change only “and” with “and/or”

    I would expected better definitions from Ladyada, Nathan or you guys.

  3. To me hacking is to extend things with functions what wasn’t thought of on time of production. Mindset is a important part but also not to be afraid to execute some mad ideas. But also the social part of sharing the ideas and doing things together as in our hackerspace and events such as ccc camp or coming ohm2013

    Happy hack-a-day day ;-)

  4. I support the Hack Day. It would be cool to spread one simple appeal prior to and on Hack Day next year and on: Hack something – anything! – today and show the world the result.

  5. I had to think hard about this one. The previous answers are quite good, though I agree that none seem all-encompassing. My attempt at a definition:

    Hacking is solving a problem using a notable minimum of something, by substituting notable cleverness or resourcefulness instead. “Something” can be money, materials, tools, knowledge, access to the device being hacked, etc.

    Happy Hack Day!

  6. Good idea. I like the idea of an international hack day, maybe a week would be better.

    (P.S. Wave not Waive. Waive means to refrain from applying/using. Wave means to swing around in the air. Drastically changes the meaning of the sentence.)

  7. So many good definitions already…

    For me, hacking is the constant endeavor to improve, re-purpose, or re-imagine. It is solving the problems we have everyday, or finding a solution to a problem we didn’t even know we had. ;)

    I celebrated today by building an electric trike, and showing it to the neighborhood.

      1. I could also post a bit more on the EV Album page I’m putting up for it. It’s a pretty standard Hub motor conversion, but I did some reworking & recycling for the battery arrangements.

  8. Hacking is to take an existing thing, idea, or implementation and to then ‘improve’ it by directly acting on it to create a finished purposeful thing.

    The end result may not end up being used for the same pupose as the original.
    The skills used may have no relationship to those required to make the original.

  9. Hacking:Modify X to Do Y.

    Now on the the Top Ten Hacker Tools in no particular order.

    0. Anything within arms reach.

    Starting Now :)

    1. Knife
    2. Phillips Screw Driver
    3. Hammer
    4. Tape
    5. Flat Nose Pliers
    6. Hot Glue Gun
    7. Lighter
    8. Soldering Iron
    9. Needle Nose Pliers
    10. Wire Snips

  10. To me Hacking has always seemed like a fundamental part in human evolution. To me, it is the trait that is required for a species to becoming tool users. That is the step of fabricating tools/solutions for problems. Humans are very smart and can use many existing tools/solutions and pass them amongst society, but the true Hacking/Hackers are the ones who create new tools or new uses for existing tools. That definition holds universal between ALL different definitions of Hacker. Hacking is the act of tool making. Nothing more or less. It’s beautiful as a result. It is the direct manifestation of curiosity interfacing with a physical system.

  11. Hacking is what a corporation would call R&D…except it is done by individuals and small groups. If you do something for a paycheck it is engineering, if you do it for yourself, your family, or the community, it is hacking. The only exceptions I know of are information hacking (a person who does this for a paycheck is called a security auditor or some other professional-sounding thing) and the few small companies like Sparkfun, where they are so closely tied to the hacking community that even if the job title is engineer, the person might still consider him/her self a hacker. Hacking is not a mindset; going from hacker to engineer is nothing but a change in employment status.

  12. I think that’s awesomely coincidental that our hackerspace had a learnify event on August 11th. We got together a bunch of old broken and beat up electronics and learned basics of reverse engineering and modification. The guy from Makers Workbench even brought his 3D foam milling machine and gave a few demos on that.

  13. Is the choice of August 11 a significant date or anniversary? Or will it be the 2nd Saturday in August, or is there a moon phase consideration, some connection with The Perseids, or…how’s the date being selected next year and ongoing?

  14. Hacking is the outward result of someone with the ability and desire to think outside the box. This person enjoys learning, investigating, experimenting and building. Not for a paycheck, not to do harm, but for the pure enjoyment and challenge of it.

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