Penguicon (venue of the upcoming Friends of Armed & Dangerous party) is a combination science-fiction convention and Linux/open-source conference, two geek tastes that taste great together.
One of Penguicon’s customs is that people wander around handing out affinity-group badge ribbons to those they deem worthy (or simply to be funny). In many past years I handed out a silver-on-blue ribbon that simply says “hacker”. But the last couple years I’ve been busy and distracted and my stash of ribbons had run out.
I’ve felt a little bad about that, because there are people out there for whom getting a “hacker” ribbon from ESR is a kind of gold star that they want and deserve. Little social rewards and identity validations like that are important to every culture, including ours, and one of the reasons humans elect tribal elders (and ESRs) is so there will be people with the authority to dispense them.
For a particularly dramatic example of this, read about Terry Pratchett’s geek ribbon. That wasn’t one of mine, but it could have been (I think I started handing mine out the following year, partly in reaction to that incident).
And now a round of applause for those of you who have been dropping money in my brand-new Paypal tip jar. You made it easy for me to buy “hacker” ribbons this year and I will be once again giving them out at Penguicon.
But not casually – wouldn’t do to devalue the currency, you know. I deliberately had made only a limited number. If you want one, show up at Penguicon and impress me. But you probably won’t impress me by trying to impress me. The hacker nature is like being one with the Tao – a posture of mind, not a thing that can be forced. Too much ego investment ruins the flavor.
(The hacker ribbons didn’t cost a lot. The rest of what’s in the tip jar will probably get spent on test hardware for the GPSD project, eventually.)