Language is a really hard thing to understand. When using the term "hacking" or "hacker" in general conversation, you'll see many variations on its definition. Much of this is skewed from buzz word media coverage over the past 15 years. This page is setup here to help define what "hack" means to the Noisebridge community and as a general place to link people to when they ask about the term. All content here is subject to organic wiki growth over time.
Wikipedia has several articles in reference to the subject matter Hack and Hackers.
What is a hack?
The term "hack" has been synonymous with make, craft, build, do, alter, improve. Typically creating something in a way that wasn't generally meant to be, without going by given instructions. Example, "I hacked together this table with an old door and some cinder blocks." Other times it could be used to define when one is working on constructing things that an everyday consumer doesn't build, with components a consumer wouldn't normally acquire. In many cases a hack could be using something for a purpose it wasn't intended for, like an old credit card to patch a hole in your shoe, or using a shoe to open a wine bottle.
With crafting this word can be used to label projects created from raw materials, such as clothing from fabric and fun fur, or furniture from recycled woods and plastics. Typically there's a bit of sloppiness that goes along, also knows as jank or janky. Example, "I couldn't find any screws to hold my robot together, so I'm using zipties, duct tape and hot glue." Additionally this may also be seen as being ingenious with supplies and tools available at the time, or pulling a MacGyver.
What is hacking?
Hacking is the act of creating a hack. Many times a hack is created to find a solution for a problem, other times it's a hobby or just for fun.
"Playfully doing something difficult, whether useful or not, that is hacking." --Richard Stallman
Who are hackers?
Hackers are people who hack, or build things, create, reuse, repurpose, make into new.
The media's portrayal of hacking and hackers
During the 1990s and early to mid 2000s, many media sources would hype up the term hacking and hackers in reference to computer security experts who've gained illegal access to a computer or network of computers, or have committed felonies which involved computers. This term was so broad that the media would easily use it in any story that involved some sort of computing device, such as pedophile looking at child pornography or someone running scams on an online auction site. Even though no electronic security was breached, hacker was a great buzz word to use.
Due to this many people falsely feel that when someone or something is referred to as hacker or hacking, then it must be in regards to malicious illegal activities that involve computers and the internet.
Over the late 2000s, the terms cybercrime, cyberfelony and cybervillain have come into use with most media outlets. Hackers and hacking still do get used but it's becoming a rarer occurrence.
Innumberable Dorkbot presenters - showing how they hacked systems to do cool things
Matthew Broderick from Wargames - He accidentally hacked into a military computer while trying to play new video games
Innumerable MIT Hacks - doing mischievous pranks on the MIT campus
Innumerable Instructables hackers - showing how to do cool things with common objects