The hacker’s way

Back in November (gulp), I pledged to write about Josh Klein’s opening keynote at the Adobe Learning Summit at DevLearn 2013.

Klein is known for his popular TED Talk on crow intelligence, in which he shares his fascination with crows and how they learn.

A self-described hacker, Klein is the co-author of Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results. In his keynote, Klein shared his thoughts on lifelong learning, passionate interests, and the hacker ethos. From my notes:

Hacking is:

A point of view, not a particular skill set

Looking at an existing system and realizing you can do something different with it

A hacker is:

Willing to take a system apart to create new opportunities

Passionate about something

Loves to learn about something

Has knowledge and capabilities they’re eager to share

Hacker ethics:

Have fun

What do we learn best? What we enjoy. What do we learn fastest? Easiest? The same.

Klein shared the story of being given a brand-new Mac by a friend. Klein asked what was wrong with it, and his friend replied, “Nothing; that’s the problem.” To Klein’s hacker friend, there was nothing interesting about and nothing to learn from a computer that didn’t need fixing.

Experiential is best

Klein shared an early computer gaming experience in which a more experienced friend deleted a game after walking his less experienced friend through the steps required to access and play it, saying, “I want to see if you can do it.”

I also scribbled “Bayesian dating” in this section of my notes. I regret that I can’t remember the context for this, because I bet it was pretty interesting.


Again, I’m kicking myself for my shoddy notetaking- seeing as how “11 y.o. computers NASA Stack Overflow” is not particularly helpful, I’m taking my Livescribe smartpen to my next conference- but Klein told a great story that illustrated how hackers love to learn and are willing, even eager, to share their knowledge with others.

And finally:

If you adhere to hacker ethics, you will not only be better at what you do, you will change the world for good

Klein’s keynote really resonated with me. I’ve written previously about hacker values and both the library and accessibility communities and how I identify with them professionally, and it was exciting to talk about how those values are present in the eLearning community, too.

Klein’s talk was a great start to a good DevLearn. This week, I’ll be attending Skillsoft Perspectives, a conference for users and prospective users of Skillsoft’s learning solutions.