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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 advise 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 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:

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 desks).

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 cites” 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 or Google 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.

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.

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 incorporated.

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 elsewhere, 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 Google etc. suggest it was never really live in the first place, or that it's actually mainstream. Deleted entries don't disappear, they go to a chaff file which is accessible on this site.

An important point to note in this context is that the Jargon File is not a museum. It has sometimes been suggested that no entry should ever be deleted, just marked obsolete. But the editors (the current editors, anyway) are more interested in describing the present than celebrating a vanished past, and do not wish the life to be gradually choked from this lexicon by an accumulation of dusty relics. The File does has some entries that are shrines to history, but we try to limit those to commemorations that retain strong educational or sentimental value. Mere ephemera of past technologies and cultures, unless they show the hacker spirit in some outstanding way, will be moved to the chaff file as we notice them.

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