Hacking is a Mindset, Not a Skillset (CLA Ottawa version of Script and Slides)

Back in January, I gave a talk at Girl Geek Dinner on Hacking is a Mindset, Not a Skillset. Since then, I've had the opportunity to evolve the presentation and share it at 2 subsequent events: Agile Ottawa and, most recently, for the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian Library Association.

That presentation, which took place during last Friday's freak snow storm, was a lot of fun since it gave me the opportunity to rework the script with a bunch of examples related to work and libraries. The turnout was great despite the weather, with about 50 people in attendance. And we had a fun time sharing hacking stories and ideas instead of doing a traditional Q&A.

Feedback Survey

If you were at the event, please take this quick survey (only 4 questions!) to let us know what you thought. As this is very much a moving target, I'm thankful for feedback to help the topic evolve. I'm already working on a new version that will focus on hacking as a mindset to foster innovation, so feedback is more than welcomed!

Full Script and Slides

In the spirit of the topic and hacker's commitment to sharing, below you will find the entire script to my presentation. This is different from the original version I posted from Girl Geek Dinner, and with a ton of new examples.

Creative Commons License

Now, this is licensed with a creative commons attribution, so please feel free to read them, share them, repost them, use them and build on them, but please provide proper attribution back to me as the originator. Here's more info about this license. The slides don't bear this license because the images are not mine.


In order to keep this from taking over the entire blog, I've included the ability to expand and collapse the text. Otherwise, you can download the slides and the script, posted as PDF files on Google Docs.

Full script (text)

Creative Commons License
Hacking is a mindset, not a skillset by Tanya Snook (@spydergrrl) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

When I say "hacker" what images come to mind?

Some pimply-faced kid in a dark basement, breaking into a high security website to post a picture of a LOL cat? Or a hoodied twenty something male typing furiously with his Guy Fawkes mask beside him, liberating corporate, government or military documents in the name of Anonymous? Using AutoCad software of course, as the movies would have us believe.

But how many of you have referred to yourselves as a hacker?

You probably should.

My goal over the next 30 minutes or so is to either convince you that you've been hacking all along or that you really should be hacking.

But why hacking? Much like gamification is the application of game design principles to non-game uses, the principles of hacking can be applied to non-hacking uses. And I don't mean by sitting at a computer every day; I mean by hacking in the true sense of the word.

You see, originally, hacking had nothing to do with computer programming: In fact, "hack" was originally a term used to describe pranks performed by MIT students: their pranks are projects or products that are completed to some end, but that also afford the participants some enjoyment by the mere fact of participating. The MIT hackers describe what we call "hacking" as "cracking". When the MIT hackers hack, their goal is to devise "a clever, benign, and 'ethical' prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community."

+/- Expand to view entire script