Who is that masked man?

Whilst they are considered outlaws by some, Hackers problem-solving contributes to the technical well-being of commercial ventures like ZDNet, eBay and Yahoo!

Hackers are frontier figures, to be sure. They do their work in an environment that is still largely unsettled and unmapped. We find it easy to picture them wearing the black hat.

Yet it's the problem-solving drive of hackers that contributes to the technical well-being of commercial ventures like ZDNet, eBay, Yahoo!, and that of the Internet as a whole. In this respect, hackers align themselves with other professional groups who revere expertise, creativity, inventiveness and positive development.

According to Raymond, hackers "worship competence" and "competence at demanding skills that few can master is especially good."

Raymond points out a number of cultural guidelines that hackers live by. Two of these are their belief in information sharing and a native distrust of and disrespect for authority. Both of these tenets certainly contribute to the dominant view of the hacker as a "scofflaw," but more importantly, they allow a freedom for exploration and problem solving that the creative urge of the hacker requires.

Ultimately, this can only benefit the electronic community at large, since hackers give themselves the freedom to solve the pressing problems of a medium in which they are the experts. As Raymond writes, "it's almost a moral duty...to share information, solve problems and then give the solutions away." Such free distribution of technical solutions can only work to the improvement of the Web.

And the most fascinating problems are those that are the most challenging, the most difficult, and therefore those whose solution will inevitably improve the character of the Internet for users, commercial ventures and hackers themselves.

Free to apply their aptitudes where they are needed most, hackers are not only able to stage disruptions in electronic services, but also to pinpoint weaknesses in security systems, advance technical knowledge for the improvement of the Internet and generally make life easier for those who depend on it.

Old technical approaches fall by the wayside as hackers come up with new solutions, a process that can be viewed as survival of the fittest, in this case, the best technologies -- brought to you courtesy of the hacking community.

with additional research by Tammy Lawrence

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