Open source luminary Eric S. Raymond has given the world eight “Hacker Archetypes” that he thinks offer useful ways to categorise your colleagues and by doing so help them to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Raymond says he thinks that's a worthwhile exercise because a friend of his says categorising people helps her to work with young martial artists.
Just how martial arts and IT cross over is anyone's guess, but let's get into the categories anyway.
Algorithmicists: Are “Very good at algorithms and sustained, intricate coding” but are “Often solitary with poor social skills.” Raymond says they “have a tendency to fail by excessive cleverness” and should never be allowed to manage other people.
Tinkers: Like to cross over between hardware and software. “When you can get them to pull their heads out of the details (which they may resist pretty hard) they make terrific whole-systems engineers.”
Architects: “Kings of the productive refactor” and “fascinated by, and very good at, blocking out architecture in complex systems.” Raymond reckons this archetype “don’t necessarily have communications skills; if they do, they can make worthy team leads.”
Sharpshooters: “Tenacious detail-obsessives” who Raymond reckons “would have been happy writing assembler” back in the day. He rates them as the polar opposite of the Architect, very “very productive when paired with one (and vice-versa).”
JOATs: Jack-of-all-trades and therefore “more likely than other types to make an excellent team lead, as long as he remains aware enough to delegate deep technical decisions to others.”
Pranksters: Adversarial folks who love to “disrupt and subvert systems (or just put them to unexpected and hilarious uses).” Often found in security and wickedly good at social engineering.
Castellans: “Supreme control freaks who get their power from focusing on what they’re responsible for and knowing it inside out” and “memorize manuals” and “love language-lawyering”. Raymond reckons “Old-school sysadmins are often Castellans” and that they often fall foul of pranksters.
Translators: Folks who bridge tech and people and therefore excel at “UI/UX development, documentation, policy and supply-chain stuff, requirements analysis, user training, and so on.” May not consider themselves hackers, partly because they're sociable.
And there you have them. The full text of the descriptions is available on Raymond's site.
One more thing: he thinks most of you have a primary and a secondary archetype.
And now over to you: do you think Raymond's archetypes are anywhere near accurate? Or do you have different categories?
Hit the comments, people, or write to me. We'd love the chance to offer our own taxonomy of tech personality types. ®