The Hacknot Web Site

Hacknot began life in 2001 as an internal mailing list at the multinational telecommunications company I was then working for. As part of the activities of the local Software Engineering Process Group, I was looking for a way to promote discussion amongst staff about software engineering related issues, and hopefully encourage people to learn about the methods and techniques that could be used to improve the quality of their work. A creative colleague came up with the name “Hacknot” for the mailing list … a pun on the geek web site “slashdot.”

A few years later, when I left the company, I restarted Hacknot as an externally hosted mailing list, with many of the same members as in its last incarnation. In 2003, I was looking for a coding exercise in J2EE, the main technologies of which had passed me by while I was busy working in other areas. Growing tired of building play-applications like bug trackers and online store simulations, I decided to create a web version of the Hacknot mailing list. I figured it would give me a “real world” context in which to learn about J2EE, and also a project that I could pursue without the interference of the usually inept management that so plagued the development efforts of my working life.

So in 2003 the Hacknot web site was born. In Australia, domain name registration rules restrict ownership of “.com” domains to commercial enterprises, so I chose the next best top-level domain, which was “.info”.

Initially, I imagined that the web site would host works by a variety of authors, myself included. But when it came time to put pen to paper, almost all of those who had previously expressed interest in participating suddenly backed off, leaving me to write all the content myself.

Many of the essays on Hacknot take a stab at some sacred cow of the software development field, such as Extreme Programming, Open Source and Function Point Analysis. These subjects tend to attract fanatical adherents who don’t take kindly to someone criticizing what for them has become an object of veneration. The vitriol of some of the e-mail I receive is testament to the fact that some people need to get out more and get a sense of perspective. It is partially because of the controversial nature of these topics that I have always written behind a pseudonym; either “Ed” or “Mr. Ed”. I also favor anonymity because it makes a nice change from the relentless self-promotion engaged in by so many members of the IT community.

The Hacknot Book

This book contains 46 essays originally published on the Hacknot web site between 2003 and 2006. The version of each essay appearing in the book is substantially the same as the online version, with some minor revisions and editing.

Ed Johnson