Creating the Chinese free software hacker

by Andy Oram

Hong Feng is a software developer and passionate free software advocate of many talents. He's based in mainland China (although he gets around a lot) and he has a mission to help Chinese programmers make great contributions to free and open source software. I got to know him after he founded O'Reilly's Beijing office in 1997, although he is now independent.

He's developed several courses and is working on a 500-page book, aimed at both beginners and graduate students, that is meant to help them develop the discipline to be competent hackers. I can't read the poem, but he tells me explores not only the major topics in computer science but such intellect-building activities as GO playing and the I-Ching, which presents original thoughts on "how to think about ancient Chinese intelligence in conjunction with modern math and technologies."

Hong Feng's approach fascinates me for combining a wide swath of influences with a joy in Chinese culture and pedagogical practices. He's even written his personal story of development up as a poem, and set it to a melody from the time of the Great Cultural Revolution to his computer teaching. I can't understand the song because I don't know Chinese, but it's available as an MP3 file.