When we at Floate build things for people, I always ask “how could someone screw this up for shits and giggles?” People tend to think I’m joking but I’m deadly serious because if your site, network, or product becomes a playground for a bunch of jerks, it turns off the people whose time and attention you’re really trying to obtain. Almost nobody ever got a promotion doing that.[
–Ross Flotate on white-hat jerking.
For a long time it was my job to go around to development teams and ask them, “Okay. You’ve built the product. Now how would you break it?”
The amount of blank and straight-up incredulous responses I got (“But… no-one would do that!”) was… not encouraging, let me tell you. Particularly given I’d cut my teeth on exactly this sort of stuff back when I was a teenage girl cutting shitting PHP code to make blogs1 and webrings/fanlistings (remember those?). Back in those days, hacking someone else’s code was part of the relationally aggressive game of cliquish one-upmanship all teen girls go through.2 Meaning that not ending up as the digital equivalent of the loser with a birthday party guest-list of zero entailed being able to find weaknesses in your own code before someone else “found” them for you.
It’s worth noting, incidentally, that all of this occurred largely outside of the influence of any traditional open source or computer hacking culture. And did I mention basically everyone involved was a teenage girl? (Or, at the oldest, a young woman in her early 20s?)
Yeah. Talk about the Forgotten History of Female Hackerspace. Someone should really write a book or something about that one of these days…
- This was, like, way back in the late ’90s/early ’00s, when Blogger and LiveJournal were only just beginning and stuff like Facebook and Twitter was still years away.↩
- Boys do all of this too, of course, but in this instance I’m talking about communities that were like 90%+ girls under the age of 20. Hence the gendered language.↩