business meeting (Denis Cristo/

Uncovering the hacker archetypes

We tend to characterize hackers by the color of their hat or their motivation – hacktivists who use their skills to advance a political agenda, phreakers who hack telecom systems to make free calls, script kiddies learning by doing, state-sponsored hackers and cyber terrorists.

A new blog post from open source software developer and author Eric S. Raymond, however, takes a stab at categorizing hackers by their most essential and universally shared traits, calling his list the hacker archetypes.

Algorithmicists, for example, have mathematical intuition that makes them good at algorithms and sustained, intricate coding. They have a high tolerance for complexity and gravitate to compiler writing and crypto. “Often solitary with poor social skills; have a tendency to fail by excessive cleverness,” wrote Raymond and Susan Son on the Armed and Dangerous blog. “Never let them manage anyone!”

“It’s not done until it’s elegant” is the mantra of the architect archetype is very good at blocking out architecture in complex systems and possesses a strong drive to simplify and partition. Architects with communications skills can make good team leaders, Raymond said.

Pranksters gravitate to infosec and test engineering, but they are great at disrupting systems or just putting them to unexpected and hilarious uses, according to the post.  “The really good ones can social-engineer people more ruthlessly and effectively than any of the other types.”

Other archetypes include the detail-obsessed sharpshooters, the castellans who know their systems inside and out, translators who straddle the human-machine divide, tinkers and jacks of all trades.

Raymond described his list as a work in progress, and is looking for comments on the hacker archetypes, suggestions for changes and new additions.

Read the full post here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at or @sjaymiller.

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