Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hackers and Painters

I have been using O'Reilly's Safari service, which gives you access to O'Reilly books online. One of the books they added recently is a collection of essays by Paul Graham called"Hackers and Painters". I have read some of these essays from Paul Graham's web site, but several of the essays in the book were not published elsewhere.

Yesterday I read the title essay. In it the author compares hackers to painters. They are both "makers" - hackers create software and painters paintings. He makes an interesting point that hackers don't fit in academia, because they are not scientists, nor do they fit well into companies, because they are not engineers.

One other neat observation that he makes, is that the way he write code is equivalent to an artist's sketch. That is, you do not do a big formal design, but jump into coding and then work with the code as the primary medium.

You need to know that Paul Graham made a lot of money writing software in Lisp. In fact, he has written several essays and a book about Lisp. The book is available for free on his website.

Today I read another essay, titled "The Road Ahead" - it was a story of his startup company and his philosophy of startups. One thing he said is that when you are a startup and you have a choice between doing something easy and something hard, always pick the hard thing. This will make it harder for any competition to cach up to you.

I'll post more as I read additional essays - but if you are impatient, just visit Paul Graham's web site and do your own reading.


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