Life hacking

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Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.

The term is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.

The terms hack, hacking, and hacker have a long history of ambiguity in the computing and geek communities, particularly within the free and open source software crowds.


The original definition of the term "hack" is "to cut with rough or heavy blows." These included quick-and-dirty shell scripts and other command line utilities that filtered, munged and processed data streams like e-mail and RSS feeds.[1][2] In the modern vernacular it is more often used to describe an inelegant but effective solution to a specific computing problem. The term was later extended to life hack, in reference to a solution to a problem unrelated to computers that might occur in a programmer's everyday life. Examples of these types of life hacks might include utilities to synchronize files, track tasks, remind oneself of events, or filter e-mail.


The term life hack was coined in 2004 during the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego, California by technology journalist Danny O'Brien to describe the "embarrassing" scripts and shortcuts productive IT professionals use to get their work done.[1][3] After his presentation, use of the term life hack spread in the tech and blogging community.[citation needed]

O'Brien and blogger Merlin Mann later co-presented a session called "Life Hacks Live" at the 2005 O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference.[4] The two also co-author a column entitled "Life Hacks" for O'Reilly's Make magazine which debuted in February 2005.[5]

The American Dialect Society voted lifehack (one word) as the runner-up for "most useful word of 2005" behind podcast.[6] The word was also added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online in June 2011.[7] was founded by Leon Ho in 2005;[8] HackCollege, a lifehacking site for four-year college students by Kelly Sutton and Rosario Doriott, was founded in 2006;[9] Unethical Hacks, a website featuring ethically ambiguous 'lifehacks' caused controversy in 2011, when a user of the site fraudulently advertised goods, "inspired by [the website's] advice".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Interview: father of "life hacks" Danny O'Brien". 2005-03-17. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  2. ^ "Cory Doctorow's notes from Danny O'Brien's first Life Hacks presentation". Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  3. ^ "O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2004". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  4. ^ "O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2005". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  5. ^ "Life hacks". Retrieved 2012-07-01. 
  6. ^ "Words of the Year 2005.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  7. ^ "'NSFW,' 'ZOMG,' and 'Twittersphere' added to dictionary". Retrieved 2015-10-22. 
  8. ^ "Working". 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  9. ^ Reimold, Dan (2010-09-08). "How College Students Became Mini-Media Moguls in School". PBS Media Shift. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  10. ^ "Unethical Life Hacks can make you a better bad person". 27 May 2014. 
  11. ^ Angus MacGyver#Cultural impact

External links[edit]