It seems an odd conjunction of terms, doesn’t it? A hack used to be someone who would write anything on any topic, provided they were paid. The content and the writing were often sub-optimal. More recently, hackers broke into secure databases, placed viruses and other nasties in code, and generally made themselves unpopular – and were definitely sub-optimal. But as with other terms, the word hacker has had a bit of a facelift recently.
According to Kira Baker-Doyle:
a hacker is a person that
takes ideas, things, and practices and re-makes them or re-names them in order to produce something new or different. People who hack are the people who can re-shape oppressive structures in our society.
This definition can be seen at work in the great data.gov.uk, based at the National Archives, UK, and in their 2012 ‘Hack on the records’ project (one example is the UK War Cabinet site). It is also the concept behind #GovHack (http://www.govhack.org/), which takes place across Australia on the weekend of 11-13 July.
GovHack is inviting hackers to make socially useful applications and programs using government data. The National Library and National Archives are involved, and I’m hoping to be able to promote some of the great collections held by State and local government archives when I attend as a data mentor at GovHackPerth. If you are involved with open government data, or have an idea for a great application, then I urge you to contact the organisers to see how you can contribute.