Hacking, Cracking, and Modding: Terminology Defined

Terminology surrounding development often gets thrown around like it can mean anything. When talking about manipulating code, especially, it drives most competent programmers crazy. So here’s some clarification on the matter. An excerpt from Eric S. Raymond’s site explains it perfectly, and I couldn’t have said it better myself:

There is a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments. The members of this culture originated the term ‘hacker’. Hackers built the Internet. Hackers made the Unix operating system what it is today. Hackers make the World Wide Web work. If you are part of this culture, if you have contributed to it and other people in it know who you are and call you a hacker, you’re a hacker.

There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers, but aren’t. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system. Real hackers call these people ‘crackers’ and want nothing to do with them. Real hackers mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not very bright, and object that being able to break security doesn’t make you a hacker any more than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer. Unfortunately, many journalists and writers have been fooled into using the word ‘hacker’ to describe crackers; this irritates real hackers no end.

I’d like to add to this from a modern day standpoint. The younger generation don’t seem to understand this difference because the media has been saturated by people misusing the terminology. Now, we have a new breed of misinformation: modding. Modding is the action of modifying someone else’s work, often used in the discussion of video games. When someone is modifying a game, they’re changing its core mechanics – be it for cheating, or for having fun. Someone who modifies something, becomes a modder – not a hacker. Hackers by the definition of ESR loathe being mixed in with this category of people, much in the same way as crackers.

So yeah. Food for thought to those gaming communities who I’m quite a big part of these days 🙂