Why the "Hacker Logo" is stupid

October 30, 2003 6:41 PM

The Hacker Emblem is a black-and-white rendition of the ‘glider’ from Conway's Life, with black circles in a 3x3 board Well, I first saw it on Slashdot, but it's been popping up elsewhere. Eric 'ESR' Raymonds wants hackers to have their own emblem.

  1. It's dull. It's just a bunch of black blobs on a tic-tac-toe board. Who would want to identify with that?
  2. It's a static representation of something that only has meaning when it is animated.
  3. It's ambiguous. "Why have you got that picture of the checquers board again?"
  4. It's from ESR. If Thinkgeek came out with an “Eric Raymonds Does Not Speak for Me!” t-shirt, I'd buy it immediately.
  5. It captures nothing about what it means to be a hacker. Worse, its drab nature captures every misconception we'd rather get away from. It's the logo equivalent of "You sit in front of a screen all day typing? And you enjoy it?"
  6. Notably, it even fails to capture the one thing that every widely-adopted hacker-created logo has in common: an amused disrespect for the concept of the logo. (Think of Tux the Penguin, the BSD Daemon, SSH blowfish...)
  7. It's an attempt to impose culture from above. If one claims to be an historian, one should observe and record history, not be so presumptious as to try to write one's own role in it.

11 Comments

You could have just repeated point 4 seven times and it would have pretty much summed up my feelings. ESR has always come off as a self aggrandising control freak, who quite frankly scares me.

This is just another example of it. To me it smacks of Eric jumping up and down in front of the camera because he hasn't gotten his quota of attention lately.

Relax, it's aimed at the slashdot kids. Point and laugh, repeat as required.

1. Many national flags are dull, but each colour has a meaning. The importance of an emblem is mostly in the meaning, not in the design.

2. It's a logo. The day that someone comes up with paper that you can print animated logos on, then lets come up with an animation. The meaning is still there for those who know what it represents.

3. It's not ambiguous to those who know what it means. Since when do hackers care about what other people think of what they do?

4. http://www.cafeshops.com/weloveesr.1469972

5. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=84063&cid=7344455

6. Why do you need a cuddly character as a logo? The Tux is great as a mascot, for those who want to buy it and hug it when going to bed, but for a hacker emblem the glider pattern is equally good.

7. There I almost agree with you. Eric's way was less than subtle, and he's getting a lot of stick for it. But that doesn't take anything away from the merit of the glider pattern as a emblem.


I think my opinion in point 5 sums it up well. The emblem is only for those who want to use it. Not using it doesn't mean you're not a hacker, just as using it doesn't mean you are. It's just a logo that some people will use to represent a movement that they believe in. So why all the fuss?

Hey, look, it's the Game of Life glider pattern! Not that it makes it a good logo - it's a rather specialized in-joke that most geeks won't get - but it's still interesting.

If the only real problem is that it's from ESR (and that's a problem for me, too, since I usually don't like to be put into one bag with gun nuts - regardless how good or bad their programming skills are), how about just taking it and mirroring it? It would even move to the left instead of the right ;-)

For the most part - I totally agree but have a point that all should consider.

The concept of anyone skirting around town with their chest proudly displaying the glider for everyone to see and inquire about is annoying - to say the least, (which leagues of pseudo freaks will do - to which I say 'Great'. It's *always* been that way).

On the other hand - tweaking the logo and coming up with geeky variations can be fun while at the same time demonstrating unity with the community in a very non-conformists way. I feel more comfortable with this and can identify better with it.

For example. If one were represent the glider as binary (010\n 001\n 111\n) - the values 2,1,7 ( cool!primes! ) are yielded. Furthermore, if I were to invert the bit pattern I would get the values 5,6,0 which do well to express my anti-ness of the whole scene.

Just a thought.
-Matt (217)

It's a decent idea, but it doesn't deserve any extra weight for being suggested by ESR. Personally, I like the idea of using other patterns from Life to mean things, with "glider = hacker" as a reference point (i.e., eater = Microsoft, glider gun = MIT?)
Also, the glider idea inspired me to make http://www.oz.net/~nmccoy/runawaycircles2.gif . A couple of frames from it might make a cool shirt (the completed tic-tac-toe board on the front, and the O-less board and escaped glider on the back).
ESR's a bit too egotistical for my tastes as well, but that doesn't mean that all his ideas are bad. I was actually trying to come up with a "hacker emblem" myself just a few months ago, and couldn't think of much. Indeed, a unified symbol for all of hackerdom seems paradoxical in some ways. Hackers (in my admittedly limited experience) tend to adopt and recognize each other by various in-jokes, and I suspect that the glider will become one of those jokes and end up being subtly worked into other logos and hidden in images (nine pixels are easy to hide) rather than being paraded around as a flag in and of itself. I won't wear ESR's design on a shirt (I think it's rather ugly, actually) but I like my tic-tac-toe/glider design because it's geekily-amusing even outside of the "hacker emblem" context.

The whole concept is idiotic. The hacker movement has never been united and probably never will be. There have been lots of groups coming and going, and some old school that are still around from the old days. The general idea under which they go forward is still unchanged, but complete unity will never exist, regardless of the fact that there is no religious and/or cultural/nation bias in the so-called cyber-world (supposedly).
You can't invent a logo for something that doesn't exist, and more so it's a feeble attempt to make your way into the history you're supposed to be recording.
It's lame. And pointless. And lame.
#EOF#

An emblem using the game of life figures was proposed many years ago in Argentina on an original t-shirt.
The model is at: http://swain.webframe.org/tshirts
(the sixth)

"1. It’s dull. It’s just a bunch of black blobs on a tic-tac-toe board. Who would want to identify with that?"

It's very plain, that's a plus, not a minus. It can represent itself in any size with only two colors. Doing a good-looking logo like that is much harder than drawing a nice picture and calling it a logo. It seems to me you don't know anything about logo design, with all due respect. It's supposed to be what you call dull. It's not a tic-tac-toe board, it's the well-known (among the ones who like the Game of Life) Glider of Life. It wouldn't hurt so much to even know what you're talking about before criticizing it, would it?

"2. It’s a static representation of something that only has meaning when it is animated."

As opposed to what? Something that just sits and does nothing? The Glider of Life is a historical representation. It has the meaning of being a starting point in the Game of Life that does cool things, and as such is has representation. Would you rather animate it? Or what on Earth do you think the demon of BSD represent? Satan himself? Or does Tux represent a penguin that bites the fingers of people, or what? I dismiss this point entirely.

"3. It’s ambiguous. “Why have you got that picture of the checquers board again?”"

That's common mysticism in logos. Look at every other well designed logo for a company or a group. What the HELL have camels got to do with Perl? Or penguins with computer operating systems?

"4. It’s from ESR. If Thinkgeek came out with an “Eric Raymonds Does Not Speak for Me!” t-shirt, I’d buy it immediately."

Entirely dismissable and has nothing to do with the emblem itself. The autobahn and Volkswagen Beatle were both ideas of Adolf Hitler. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea.

"5. It captures nothing about what it means to be a hacker. Worse, its drab nature captures every misconception we’d rather get away from. It’s the logo equivalent of “You sit in front of a screen all day typing? And you enjoy it?”"

Hackers are misconceived in general. If anything, this emblem represents what would represent intellect and enthusaism, not just sitting in front of the computer and "enjoying it". If you don't like being a hacker, then stop being one, and simply don't use the emblem. The emblem represents things that you obviously are not, so why are you opposed to it? It doesn't apply to people like you.

"6. Notably, it even fails to capture the one thing that every widely-adopted hacker-created logo has in common: an amused disrespect for the concept of the logo. (Think of Tux the Penguin, the BSD Daemon, SSH blowfish…)"

That's an interesting point, but note that the emblem represents the sum of all of those. What should it be, an old typewriter?

"7. It’s an attempt to impose culture from above. If one claims to be an historian, one should observe and record history, not be so presumptious as to try to write one’s own role in it."

It's not imposing culture, it's a response to the need of an obviously existant culture that might use an emblem. It's for fun, for crying out loud. You make it seem like ESR is trying to conquer the world. Also note that it's a suggestion for an emblem. He just got an idea, made a suggestion, and all of a sudden everyone feels like he's imposing himself onto every single computer-oriented organism on the planet. It's not like that. If you don't agree with what he calls a hacker, this emblem is not for you, it's really all you can say (and should say, apparently).

---

None of your supposed argument stand in the end. You critisize ESR a bunch, which is well understandable if you don't agree with him (I rarely agree with him myself), and you seem to automatically attribute anything he does to that very perspective. Instead of judging him by his works, you judge his works by himself in this case. Some would call that naive.

You also seem to assume yourself as an expert on what emblems should be like. The truth is, and the very nature of the hacker community, is exactly that there is no One Path, there is no One Way to do things and none other. That's the entire point!

A point which you seem to miss entirely, and in my opinion, on purpose.

.. if there were no complains...there would be no hackers at all..hehe
We are all rebels somehow, a contradiction to this fact would proove nothing but it's own meaning.....any person capable of understanding, playing and renewing the current info concepts deserves sufficient respect and support..

Some see nothing but a lame tic tac toe, others identify deeper into the real meaning of the concept...compared to the 14 year old rookies who don´t even know how all this knights tale started, and the real dudes the keep this world runnin' releasing (not giving away) knowledge... age, experience and real hackers build and support ideas... lamers dedicate to criticize them cuz they know they couldn't have come up with a better one...it's called envy...sometimes false ego.. i bet most of the critics would have supported the logo if it was some kind of googy monster firing phasers with the tic tac toe on it's ass... hacking it's not about looking or being cool...that's a lower class job for a designer...not a coder...

It's just a proposal, not a damn law comming from the heaven... there's no particular reason to atack it, as well as there is no reason to support it.... i belive each one of us has it's own emblem.. cuz we are the leaders of our own personal world... it's difficult to share the bubble...

!feof

SuN_sPoT

Previously: Kata 19 and Optimisation

Next: Knights of the Old Republic