The Jargon File is a living document
The Jargon File is a living document, an evolving resource chronicling
the language and culture of computer hackers. If you are a hacker,
a linguist, a cultural anthropologist, or just an intelligent person
with something relevant to contribute, it's your right and privilege
to help it grow.
The Jargon File has always been maintained by volunteers. There's
no secret password or arcane protocol to getting an entry added or
changed. Send your suggested new entries, or changes to old ones, to
Who the editors are
The editorial "we" used below refers to the current volunteer editor
of the Jargon File and maintainer of the Jargon File Resource Pages, Eric S. Raymond, and the members
of two mailing lists who assist and advice him.
One mailing list, jargon-friends, is closed, it consists of the
coauthors of the original 1983 Hacker's Dictionary, Eric
Raymond, and a publisher representative. The other, jargon-helpers,
is open to all interested parties; mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
The editorship of the File has changed hands before and will again. If
you are steeped in hacker lore, expert by and fascinated with the language
game, and think you might be up to the job, please join jargon-helpers
and show us.
How we evaluate suggestions
Here are the questions we ask ourselves when we read what people send us:
We use Web search engines and DejaNews to check for live usage of
terms. If we can't find your term in live use, you'll have to
work pretty hard to persuade us that there's a real population that
has it in production vocabulary.
- Is it really hacker slang?
An entry may be outside the File's scope if it's established technical
jargon that you'd find in a computer science or engineering textbook.
Or if it's mainstream slang used by hackers but not unique to hackers.
We are interested in expanding the File's range of technical
specialties covered. There are doubtless rich veins of jargon yet
untapped in the scientific computing, graphics, and networking hacker
communities; also in numerical analysis, computer architectures and
VLSI design, language design, and many other related fields.
We are not interested in straight technical terms explained by
textbooks or technical dictionaries unless an entry illuminates
`underground' meanings or aspects not covered by official histories.
We are also not interested in `joke' entries --- there is a lot of
humor in the file but it must flow naturally out of the explanations
of what hackers do and how they think.
- Is it really in live use?
We don't want `slang' that's just the private coinage of one or two people.
We like to have two independent cites for each entry (by `independent' we
mean that they don't come from two close friends or people with adjacent
It is OK to submit items of jargon you have originated if they have spread
to the point of being used by people who are not personally acquainted with
you -- but remember the ``two cities'' rule above.
- How much provenance and usage information is attached?
All other things being equal, your entry will much more likely to make
it if you include not only the raw definition, but an at least
plausible story about where and by whom the term is used, and how it
originated. Some indication of the years in which it was or is
current is also valuable. References to actual usage via URLs and/or
DejaNews pointers are particularly welcomed.
- Will it help a newbie understand hackers and the net better?
One of the Jargon File's functions is to be a guide for the perplexed
newbie (and acculturate newbies who are proto-hackers into our grand
tradition). Entries get points for illuminating aspects of hacker
culture that newbies need to know, even if they seem obvious to
long-time net habitues or have become so ingrained in veteran hackers
that they're reflexive.
- Does it show the hacker spirit?
The hacker spirit is like that famous judge's definition of
pornography; we don't know how to define it, but we know it when we
see it. It's partly intelligence, partly technical competence, partly
wry humor, partly an unabashed dedication to creativity and honesty and
intellectual exploration, all wrapped up in a tinkerer's itch to build
something that actually works. Every good thing the Jargon File
can accomplish depends on showing the hacker spirit.
How we edit entries
All contributions and suggestions will be considered donations to be
placed in the public domain as part of the Jargon File, and may be
used in subsequent paper editions. Submissions may be edited for
accuracy, clarity and concision.
We fix spelling, syntax, and usage errors. We edit (usually lightly)
to get entries into a uniform style we think of as "highest-quality
hacker" -- informal and only loosely bound by conventional usage, but
pithy, precise, and punchy.
We do not generally leave proper names in entries; this is to try to
keep getting into the Jargon File from becoming an ego contest. The way we
like to put it is that you can't get your name mentioned in the File unless
you're already so famous that most readers will recognize it.
However, this doesn't mean you should leave proper names out of
etymologies and the like. We keep mail archives which scholars may
someday excavate for more information (someday we'll probably HTMLize
them and link them to the Jargon File itself).
Should I expect a reply?
The editor(s) may be too busy to reply -- this does not mean you have
been ignored. On the contrary, it usually means your material has been
You may get a reply that says your jargon has been placed ``on
watch''. This means the editors have been unable to confirm
independent use of the term elswhere, but are keeping an eye out
for a second independent submission.
When do old entries get deleted?
Old entries usually get deleted when (a) they're no longer in live use, and
(b) they're not of sufficient interest as history. Occasionally an
entry will get deleted when usage searches via DejaNew/AltaVista etc.
suggest it was never really live in the first place, or that it's
Eric S. Raymond <email@example.com>