To the hackers that grew older

A rant about the needs to create software more community centric, instead on focusing too much on the individual.

The hacker ethic and the spirit of the information age, by Pekka Himanen, was one of these essays that had a big influence on my early yo. It resonated with how I felt about a lot of things: discovery & learning as a fundamental part of myself or work attached to meaning are two that I remember now. It was the first time I thought about how we divide life into chunks of time, more or less isolated.

One thing I didn’t realize at the time was who this essay was written for: a generation of individuals, with friends & family, but that see themselves as the unit of life in Earth. Given that the book defined the spirit that has driven one of the major social and cultural changes of the human race, this is no minor issue. As Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean, this generation had a mindset of fighting for their liberty against companies and governments. As individuals.

That attitude towards life, I believe, is one of the reasons why the products we create and consume are tailored for the individual and not for the communities: we have a personal music account, a personal pictures account, a personal mail account, etc. Solutions that take the group into account are rare and mostly exist for production-driven organizations (companies or volunteer based bodies), but less for leisure or consumption communities.

As we grew older and our communities became online, they asked us for help. So we create the “pay the service for user” feature as to pay for our relatives accounts, the family plans in our music and video stores, or the network setup for our publishing platform. These changes reflect a fundamental and more humane way to interact with others through technology. We are still in the early stages, but I expect this pattern to become stronger because one of the drivers for this to happen is that we have grown older in the same way that any other generation did in the past: realizing that we are weak as individuals, our natural state is to tribe within groups. Jack Sparrow struggled with this as well; he found out that the Black Pearl can be easily lost if you are on your own, and that you need a team if you want to navigate the ocean in freedom.

I, for one, look forward to a future more community-oriented. What specific shapes it will take is something that only we can invent; so let’s do it.

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