Zuckerberg's Facebook: Hackers build, not break things

Is the Tao of coding an answer to evil, destructive hackers?

Mark Zuckerberg outlined his company's US$5 billion initial public offering that at Facebook's heart is an approach he calls the "Hacker Way".

Of course, he didn't mean it in the more popular sense of the word where hacking has become synonymous with breaking into a system and doing damage like, say a blackhat hacker might, or even breaking things in order to improve security, such as a whitehat hacker might.

"In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done,” wrote Zuckerberg in a letter attached to its first Securities and Exchange Commission filing outlining the company's culture.

"Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I’ve met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world,"

In a sense Zuckerberg is reclaiming the term as it was established in the 1960s at places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the hacker's world, nothing is ever perfect and can always be improved, but improvements are governed meetings and debate is settled by superior code, according to Zuckerberg.

"[H]ackers would rather just prototype something and see what works. There’s a hacker mantra that you’ll hear a lot around Facebook offices: “Code wins arguments.”

That's why the company runs regular hackathons where those attending rig up prototypes of new ideas, explained Zuckerberg.

Products born out of this process include Timeline, chat video, Faceboo's mobile development framework and its HipHop compiler, which transforms PHP source code into C++ language.

Facebook supports the Hacker Way by insisting that every engineer it hires goes through its Bootcamp mentoring program, where new employees meet and learn from more experienced masters.

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