An Editorial Note

It’s unusual that I will modify a post after it is written, but careful readers will note that Name That Ware June 2010 had some words changed. This is in response to a mismatch between Maker/hacker/DIY culture and mainstream perceptions. Apparently, referring to the Infocast frame as “hackable” has caused fear among some people who are interested in buying the product. They won’t buy products that are “hackable”, because they don’t want to get hacked; understandably, the intent that they are being enabled to be the hacker is lost. This is probably due to the evolution of the meaning of “hack” — mainstream media has associated the term “hack” with nefarious intent, whereas traditionally (and perhaps even archaically), “hack” simply refers to the clever or non-obvious use of a complex system.

Since the Infocast frame is marketed toward a mainstream audience, I hacked up the post below to swap out the word “hack” for “DIY-friendly” or “mod” as appropriate. Since it’s difficult to correct misconceptions about a product, if you do discuss the product, it would be nice if you referred to it as “DIY-friendly” instead of “hackable” to prevent further misunderstandings. But, then again, who am I to dictate what you write — it’s your words and your opinions, so take my request as a grain of salt.

10 Responses to “An Editorial Note”

  1. foo says:

    Oh language, how I adore thee! We’ve been hacked by the mainstream!

  2. pj says:

    Oh Boy! Best Buy’s legal department must have come down on you like a ton of bricks! I wish I could see that letter :p

  3. adam says:

    its sad they don’t realize that being “DIY-friendly” is an advantage and a sales driver.

  4. Erik says:

    Have sales been worse than expected? I snagged the last one at my local Best Buy, and the online inventory shows no more in stock within 40 miles of me.

    And I did buy it in part because it’s so DIY friendly. The other part is that I think it looks really nice (no offense, but the other Chumby devices look like kid’s toys)

  5. Jim says:

    I really wish some computer/electronic hobbyists stopped refer to their activities as “hacking”. The great bulk of people associate the word “hacking” with criminal activity. It is just plain foolish and asking for trouble to use a word to describe our lawful and sensible hobby that misleads the wider world into thinking we’re doing something nasty and illegal.

    • fatespeaks says:

      Jim, I can’t disagree more. Our world needs hackers. We need kids to modify the shrink-wrapped crap around them and invent the next big thing. It is unfortunate that the ignorant general-public has allowed the media to demonize “hackers”. Or maybe that hacker stigma is needed to steer the next generation of rebellious youth to the noble act of a hack.

      For a more enlightened view of hackers please read some of ESR’s writings. This blurb is one of my favorites:


      • Jim says:

        Don’t misunderstand me, I think that, exploring, finding out how things work and modifying them, building projects and designing hardware are cool. I’ve enjoyed doing this stuff for years. The problem is referring to this activity as “hacking”, a word which the great bulk of people associate with destructiveness and criminality.

  6. Jamie says:


    In your comments on the Infocast you note “lacks a battery and that awesome daylight readable transreflective display”

    When do you think we’ll get to see daylight displays in hackable devices?
    I know you can get things like Hanvon e-books and open inkpot, or even Nooks. But these have limited connections.

    Is e-ink too limiting anyway?

  7. Tux says:

    Maker culture needs better PR if the term hacker still means “electronic vandal” – I mean how many years have we been pushing to change the popular meaning of the term? We are explorers, tinkerers, and inventors, not criminals!

  8. fatespeaks says:

    It is interesting that I learned about this device by googleing “hack sony dash”. I was thinking about buying a dash. After reading “Name That Ware June 2010”, I ran out to BestBuy. They were already closed for the evening, guess I will have to wait until tomorrow.