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Why Good Hackers Make Good Citizens

Patrick McDonnell

Hacking is about more than mischief-making or political subversion. As Catherine Bracy describes in this spirited talk, it can be just as much a force for good as it is for evil. She spins through some inspiring civically-minded projects in Honolulu, Oakland and Mexico City — and makes a compelling case that we all have what it takes to get involved.

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  • Kevin Van Lierop

    I've yet to watch the video, but I wonder if anyone agrees with me when I say that I've 'over' the word 'hack'.

    • Patrick McDonnell

      You should watch the video then. Hack is definitely becoming mainstream, which I think is a super valuable thing because it means that you don't have to have a special certificate to go out and do stuff. It just means that you have "hack" or "chip away" at a problem in order to solve it.

      • Alessandra Rizzotti

        I see what Kevin is saying though. Someone else on brought up that life hacking seems like a less conscious terminology- like we're doing things quickly without thinking it through. We've been using "civic hacking" as a tag on but I wonder- should we change it and if so, to what? Would love your thoughts on what it means to life hack..I'd bet you'd have a valuable POV:

        • Patrick McDonnell

          Please keep using hacking!

          Don't scare easily just because some random dude throws "authenticity" into the conversation. I had the authenticity conversation many times in grad school - it was a neat mental exercise.

          For me, hacking is the new terminology like design thinking, critical thinking, or any other kind of problem-solving branded names.

          This same conversation was happening about placemaking three years ago and now the Knight Foundation and Art Place are throwing tons of money at "creative placemaking" as a discipline to legitimize it. That's right, AS A DISCIPLINE, that you study in college.

          There's another article on about jobs of the future: which names Corporate Disorganizer and Hackschooling Counselor. I think this is indicative of the way the world is shifting from a hierarchal system to a horizontal one. Coders and Scientists have been practicing this for years, and now it's becoming the norm.

          Also, if you want to do more research on Life-hacking look up Tim Ferriss on YouTube or read any of his book 4hr work week, 4hr body, 4hr chef. He actually teaches you what hacking means and how to do it to improve efficiency and to problem solve faster. Ironically, the author of the article you provided names Tim Ferriss and admits to liking him.

          I'm going to keep using Civic Hacker to define myself. A big part of it is because I want to show folks that you don't have to work at City Hall to go out and solve city problems you just have to be an engaged citizen and use a little bit of ingenuity.

          If people don't like it and think it's overused then that's their problem.

      • Kevin Van Lierop

        I just finished the video and while I appreciate the use of the word, I feel it's overused and has lost some of it's meaning.

        Perhaps it's the local communities that I'm apart of, where the term is used often in common conversations and verbiage, that it's applied to in a 'willy nilly' fashion without people actually understanding what it means.

        It's one of the faults with anything going mainstream; you need to look harder to find where the actual value lies while weeding out any B-S that exists.

        • Kevin Van Lierop

          This coming from a guy who uses the term (civic hacker, place hacker) often to define himself.