Do You Have a Hacker Personality?

First of all, let’s be clear: a hacker is a computer enthusiast, and not a criminal. If you’re not already a computer lover, then you’re a web surfer (since you’re reading this via Internet transmission of some kind), so maybe you have some hacker traits.

Here’s a take on what a typical “hacker” might be like, quoted from part of a well fleshed out hacker psychological profile.

From: Personality Traits
Hackers are ‘control freaks’ in a way that has nothing to do with the usual coercive or authoritarian connotations of the term. In the same way that children delight in making model trains go forward and back by moving a switch, hackers love making complicated things like computers do nifty stuff for them. But it has to be their nifty stuff. They don’t like tedium, nondeterminism, or most of the fussy, boring, ill-defined little tasks that go with maintaining a normal existence. Accordingly, they tend to be careful and orderly in their intellectual lives and chaotic elsewhere. Their code will be beautiful, even if their desks are buried in 3 feet of crap.

Hackers are generally only very weakly motivated by conventional rewards such as social approval or money. They tend to be attracted by challenges and excited by interesting toys, and to judge the interest of work or other activities in terms of the challenges offered and the toys they get to play with.

I read through pretty much the whole site referenced above, and there are a number of things which found quite strong resonance with the way I am. There are negative points that are brought out in other pages like

As cynical as hackers sometimes wax about the amount of idiocy in the world, they tend by reflex to assume that everyone is as rational, ‘cool’, and imaginative as they consider themselves. This bias often contributes to weakness in communication skills. Hackers tend to be especially poor at confrontation and negotiation.

I hope I score a little better than suggested there on communication skills. It’s important to understand yourself and how others perceive you, since studies have shown various things like “higher-level employees are more likely to have an inflated view of their emotional intelligence competencies and less congruence with the perceptions of others who work with them often and know them well than lower-level employees” and another study showed perhaps more generally that the incompetent overrate themselves and above average performers underrated themselves to a certain extent.

So while you twist your head around whether you’re under- or overrating yourself, or perhaps if you’re wondering if you’re right about your judgement of how others perceive you, you could do worse than read through the profile of J. Random Hacker and see if it fits your personality in some ways. Do let me know.


  1. “Hackers tend to be especially poor at confrontation and negotiation.” Hmm. That kind of sounds like a particular blogger I know. At least, that person has certainly demonstrated these traits as of late.

    I hope all is well with you and your family, Fruey.

  2. fruey

    10/1/2007 at 11:47 pm

    Hi Dave,

    All is well thanks, I read your site recently and I hope you’re getting a handle on your sugar levels and that your health is improving.

    I saw a recent comment exchange that was a little surprising, but I think I’ll not react to it. Sometimes being provocative and devil’s advocate is an interesting way to enliven debate, but it can also touch a nerve.