Laziness (and impatience) leads to hacking

Hacking has turned into an everyday skill

04 May 2014

by Guilherme Berger

As a student of Computer Engineering, I am taking part in a Brazilian government program called Ciência Sem Fronteiras (“Science Without Borders”). This means that I’m going to be given a scholarship to study in the U.S. for one year.

Details aside, this leads up to last week, when me and other 15,000 participating students were awaiting for their so-called “Term Of Appointment” (TOA) to arrive, a document that informs us which will be our host school in the U.S. This document is distrubuted on seemingly random batches and without any notice: you need to log into the system to check if yours is already there.

Obviously, this leads to lots of people freaking out about when they’ll finally receive their TOA.

As a software engineer, I am confident that I possess the skills to change the world around me for the benefit of myself and others. When I am having a problem that I know I can solve and that I know other people are having too, this is an opportunity for a developer solution.

So I set off to create a bot that would check whether my TOA had arrived and, if so, alert me by email. I allowed fellow CSFers to subscribe to email notifications about their own documents.

People could sign up on http://toansioso.herokuapp.com/ and the source code is published on Github.

The initiative was well-received by my peers, leading to hundreds of visits to the webpage and 80+ registrations for the service.

The takeaway from this is that being a hacker in today’s world is a highly valuable everyday skill. It can facilitate repetitive or boring tasks that come up so frequently on the routine of a computer user.

Update: Zach Holman has a great writeup on this:

We’re in the most ridiculous industry on earth. You can whip something up in a few hours and before you know it, people around the world will be using it. That is insane. An architect or a fireman or a lawyer or anyone else can’t say that for their profession or their hobby.


About the author

Guilherme Berger is a software engineer majoring in Computer Engineering.