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Definitions

The name of this site comes from three words. If you're here, you probably already have your own opinion of the definitions of those three words. My opinion generally agrees with the Jargon definitions, especially their definition of the word hacker, which I consider to be a very positive term.

Here is what Jargon version 4.4.4 had to say about these words.

geek: n.

A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance. Geeks usually have a strong case of neophilia. Most geeks are adept with computers and treat hacker as a term of respect, but not all are hackers themselves and some who are in fact hackers normally call themselves geeks anyway, because they (quite properly) regard 'hacker' as a label that should be bestowed by others rather than self-assumed.

One description accurately if a little breathlessly enumerates "gamers, ravers, science fiction fans, punks, perverts, programmers, nerds, subgenii, and trekkies. These are people who did not go to their high school proms, and many would be offended by the suggestion that they should have even wanted to."

Originally, a geek was a carnival performer who bit the heads off chickens. (In early 20th-century Scotland a 'geek' was an immature coley, a type of fish.) Before about 1990 usage of this term was rather negative. Earlier versions of this lexicon defined a computer geek as one who eats (computer) bugs for a living an asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced monomaniac with all the personality of a cheese grater. This is often still the way geeks are regarded by non-geeks, but as the mainstream culture becomes more dependent on technology and technical skill mainstream attitudes have tended to shift towards grudging respect. Correspondingly, there are now 'geek pride' festivals (the implied reference to 'gay pride' is not accidental).
Although I agree with this definition of Geek, I'd also like to add that I use the term as a verb. My friend Maya always said, "verbing weirds language", but I think that Geek can very well be used as a verb. It can mean enthusiastically pursuing any geek-related activity, or to share geek-related experiences with other geeks. For instance, going to a LAN party involves "geeking out" with my friends. Another definition, to me, means having a conversation with another geek about a very specific technical subject that a layman wouldn't understand. It doesn't even have to be specifically a geek-related topic. For instance, if I'm talking with another musician about technical details of instruments or music, it can be said I am "geeking about music".

I did go to my prom, though. :-)

hacker: n.

[originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe]

1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. RFC1392, the Internet Users' Glossary, usefully amplifies this as: A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular.

2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming.

3. A person capable of appreciating hack value.

4. A person who is good at programming quickly.

5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in 'a Unix hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.)

6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.

7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.

8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence password hacker, network hacker. The correct term for this sense is cracker.
I wanted to emphasize that definition number 8 is deprecated.

And, of course, hack, without the suffix, is also a verb, meaning doing some of the above things. And hack is a noun, referring to the results of doing some of the above things. For instance, if I need to get something specific accomplished on the computer or on a network, and there's no tool to get that job done, I will often create a simple program to do it for me. It is common to refer to such a program as a "quick hack". Hack can also refer to something physical, not just a computer program or an activity on a network. For instance, modifying a circuit board to do what you want instead of what the manufacturer intended can be called "a hack". Last night, I did a hack on a UPS power supply. I dismantled it and removed the buzzer which (pointlessly and with great annoyance) informed me when the building power was out.
filk: /filk/, n.,v.

[from SF fandom, where a typo for 'folk' was adopted as a new word]

Originally, a popular or folk song with lyrics revised or completely new lyrics and/or music, intended for humorous effect when read, and/or to be sung late at night at SF conventions. More recently (especially since the late 1980s), filk has come to include a great deal of originally-composed music on SF or fantasy themes and a range of moods wider than simple parody or humor. Worthy of mention here because there is a flourishing subgenre of filks called computer filks, written by hackers and often containing rather sophisticated technical humor.
This is, for the most part, technically correct (and has been updated recently to be more accurate than it was in the past), but I wanted to add that I like Debbie Ohi's description of filk quite a bit more. It's broader and helps to capture the feel of what filk is about much better.



©2017 Tony Fabris.
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