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Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,486 ratings  ·  196 reviews
Here is the definitive book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the name Anonymous, by the woman the Chronicle of Higher Education calls “the leading interpreter of digital insurgency” and the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.” Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Verso (first published October 7th 2014)
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Kylie Purdie Lot of swearing, fair amount of law breaking. To be honest I don't think they would get past the first chapter unless they are reading at least 5…moreLot of swearing, fair amount of law breaking. To be honest I don't think they would get past the first chapter unless they are reading at least 5 years above their age. (less)
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3.83  · 
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 ·  1,486 ratings  ·  196 reviews

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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
The blurb for this book says it's beautifully written. Yep..I'm calling bullshit.

I have been fascinated by the culture that is Anonymous for some time now. I was so excited to get this book. Then I started reading it. I have gone to sleep twice while reading it.
That's enough. I give up.

Anonymous. You rule. This book does not.

I received an ARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
As someone with a deep fondness for hackers and activists, and being a person follows several versions of Anonymous in Twitter because I feel it is more informative than the regular news, I jumped on the chance to read this book.

Here is a blurb from the publisher summary:
"Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global phenomenon just as some of its members were turning to political protest and dangerous disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame
Erhardt Graeff
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
May all academics aspire to write such a book as Biella has here. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy is a remarkably accessible work of ethnography on a technically and ethically seeming inaccessible community and subject matter: Anonymous and its politics. Biella's account is absolutely gripping—I struggled to put this book down. Moreover, I was enchanted (as intentioned) by the story she weaves using the backdrop of humanity's mythological reflexions—the parallel and polarizing Apollonian and ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book tells how hacker collective Anonymous turned from arseholes to activists. It could have done with a good edit. There are plenty of mundane chat logs that could have been halved and there is a typo on almost every page, which is often confusing. When the author spells people's names three different ways readers may be left wondering whether any of the book is accurate. At one point she refers to another book she had to finish as if it was a chore, which may also make readers wonder if s ...more
Yzabel Ginsberg
(I got a copy courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for a honest review.)

An interesting read, but one that I found rather hard to read all at once—probably because it felt pretty dense and dry, with a lot of information that seemed to meander at times. I guess this was kind of unavoidable, because there is just so much to learn, to research, to take into account when studying such a broad subject, involving so many people, whose approaches and means of actions are as different as each individual in
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
One of my favorite anthropological books of all time. Coleman's analysis of Anonymous and its growth over the past seven years is both informative and entertaining. I couldn't put Hacker Hoaxer down!
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was so frustrating because at its center is a really interesting story about Anonymous. The sections that laid out the history of the movement, and just spoke to the development and how it worked, were quite good, but they was surrounded by a lot of junk.

Coleman's anthropological frame does not fit neatly over this material, her long digressions on Loki, Nietzsche, gods of Chaos, the crossroads, Dionysus and Apollo, added nothing to the story. Here is a sample of some of the framing sh
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give this a 5. It has the rigour of an academic text, but is reasonably accessible. Unfortunately a crude attempt to provide for that accessibility was the hackneyed post-Neuromancer injection of pre-Christian gods and folklore as analogies. Loki. Ugh.

It's disappointing that, where it's evidenced, Coleman's seeming technical savvy is provided, according to the acknowledgements, by her husband, who runs an ISP. Perhaps he didn't spot when she mixed up 'afk' and 'irl', nor her confu
Linda Quick
This is a meticulously researched and documented book about the group Anonymous, including several notorious hackers. The author in an anthropologist and wrote the book in a style (I can only assume) that would be what fellow anthropologists would expect to read. It is very dry and detailed.

When I got this book, I was excited to read about it and learn about Anonymous from a legitimate source. Unfortunately, because it was so dry and detailed, I found myself having difficulty finishing it - I fo
Evan Snyder
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pycon
I heard Gabriella Coleman's keynote about Anonymous at PyCon 2015, which was one of my favorite sessions of the conference. I picked up her book to learn more.

In general, she presents a really interesting, well-researched profile of Anonymous, starting as the lulz-infused spawn of 4chan and eventually fashioning themselves a self-appointed squad of cyber vigilante justice. The social justice penchant emerges over several years and a few charismatic individuals actually hold much sway in this su
Chad Kohalyk
Nov 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
This is undoubtedly the most important book about Anonymous to date. It contains much more information on ops I had never heard of, which is expected considering much of the reporting is from the inside. If you want to know more about the Anonymous phenomenon, then read this book.

So why only 3-stars? Execution really. Parmy Olson's book is much more niche, and has some questionable bits. But it is very well written — gripping, even. HHWS book is so uneven, schizophrenic even, bouncing back betwe
Like, 3.6 stars. Great at explaining the moving parts of the technology and the evolution of a specific group of people, but I'm not sure the blow by blow infighting is so interesting other than to prove the point that this is a feature of political activism, not a bug. As an anthropologist, Coleman needs to gain their trust and speak the lingo and "get" the worldview. So there is a bit of a "one woman's journey through the darkness" tone but it is rendered a bit annoying when she describes how ...more
Scott von Berg
Adequate. Meanders a lot, and isn't what I'd call succinct. I don't think I'd recommend it to others, where a Wikipedia article would likely suffice for facts, and the between the lines elements could be happily left behind.

Save yourself some time -

I'd love to see a better-written book about the group.
David Dinaburg
Federal testing requirements are being challenged throughout New York State in what has been blandly named the opt-out movement. “Opt-out” has the slick polish of an ungraspable term, one with all the language-bending signifiers unsubtly employed by the “pro-life” movement; it vilifies the other side simply for existing. I am not a middle schooler—nor do I have one—but the test idyll revolves around results as metric, not label. Tests are practice for the real world, a consequence-free way of di ...more
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

This was incredibly informative. And was honestly waaay more academic than I anticipated. I don't remember how I heard about this book, but I don't think I knew how academic it was. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for an academic read once in a while (nerd alert), but I'd rather know that going in.

Besides that, this book was fascinating! I obviously know what Anonymous is and found this in-depth look at the community interesting. Coleman describes the power relations within the group, the sense
Dmytro Shteflyuk
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, security
First of all, my rating of 4 stars means 3.5. I've got what I came here for – the history, culture, motivations behind Anonymous. If you, like me, crossed paths with (been DDoSed or hacked, read an article or a public statement), but never grasped what lies behind it, this book is a great source of understanding.

The bad part is the style of the book. It is not a book about Anonymous and their culture, instead, it is a book about the journey of the author into the world of notorious hackers and p
Kelsey Hanson
This book was first published in 2014. A mere four years ago. In her book Coleman describes The hacker organization Anonymous as one of "the most politically active, morally fascinating, and salient activist groups today". I'm reading this book in 2018. Whether they've dissolved altogether or simply faded from the public to do more hacker-related work without the spotlight, Anonymous as it described in this book is no more. The organizations and people that they vowed to take down, including the ...more
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I picked this up at the library, I told my wife that it was going to be one of the many books that I check out but never read--I do that sometimes. But when I read the opening pages of Gabriella Coleman's fascinating anthropological survey of the hacker group known as Anonymous, I was hooked. Here are the most interesting things that I now know because of this book:

1. Anonymous is almost universally misunderstood: While it might be a little different now, back when Anonymous was pulling off
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book not to miss. This book written from six years of research into the online group by
Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman gives a fascinating and engaging read into such a diverse and controversial organization. From her personal accounts to past news stories of online hacks of government organizations and interviews with old trollers and hackers the reader is left with mass tales of not only the achievements of this organization. But also offering through a great skill of writing being written
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gabriella Coleman knocked it out of the park with this one! Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy is a fabulous study of Anonymous and the free flowing mind of this group of people. I have some knowledge of internet culture but am certainly not in deep, and am not a coder. If I had no knowledge of how the intent works, I would have been lost, especially in the first half of the book. Colman does a great job of providing background into the personalities and culture of Anonymous at the time she was ...more
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing like this: an inside tour of the strange, funny, fearsome world of Anonymous, guided by anthropologist Gabriella Coleman's unique voice as both consummate insider and independent expert. Her writing and her story are as engrossing as they are thorough. While Parmy Olson's equally engrossing We Are Anonymous mistakes a part of the phenomenon for the whole, Coleman restores the balance; she considers, at once, the particulars and the almost impossible-to-measure breadth of Anonymo ...more
Mark Lokensgard
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very timely and accessible read by a professor of Anthropology. Coleman does a great job of helping readers wrap their arms around an amorphous phenomenon, showing how it can act in ways that can seem somewhat contradictory, moving from pranks to social activism and everything in between. This book may be the first historical example of the analysis of the social norms and values of a group based almost entirely on written texts, as most "members" ("participants" is probably a better word) of An ...more
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My knowledge of 'Anonymous' has mostly been gleaned from the mainstream media and posts on social media over the past few years. Like many people, I had heard good and bad reports of their actions. So when I came across this book in an airport bookstore I was intrigued. Overall, I found it to be pretty well written, interesting and at times very enlightening. I will admit, especially in the early chapters, I got a bit confused with the dates/time line and some of the technical language was a bit ...more
Nov 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
This is certainly an intriguing book with some interesting insights, but much of what kept me reading was the phenomenon of Anonymous itself, rather than the author's analysis. While I appreciate the author's accessible style of writing (i.e. non-academic writing), it seems like she sacrificed a lot of real cultural analysis in order to be accessible to the public. The final result is that the book reads more like a journalistic retelling of Anonymous/memoir of the author's experiences. There is ...more
Like all of us, I have fascinated by Anonymous -- the work they do and how the collective works. I read this book wanting to find out more, and I was very satisfied. I learned a lot about the technical aspects, the intellectual ones, and more. I wanted to give this book one less star because the author was a bit dramatic about her involvement and enmeshment in the community. It sounded a little self-centered, but that is okay, and being mixed with Anonymous can be dangerous. I loved reading abou ...more
John Adkins
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, net-galley, 2014
Coleman's delve into the secretive world of Anonymous is one of the most important works on cyber culture yet written. Using anthropological techniques she gains unprecedented access to the inner workings of Anonymous. She presents a sophisticated portrait of the group (or group of groups or even constellation of groups) that is unavailable via the mainstream media. From 4Chan to the Arab Spring to WiliLeaks Coleman follows the workings of the group. Her portrait is sympathetic but she does not ...more
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A take on Anonymous that is so academic it's a struggle to enjoy. A movement full of such revolutionary, restless personalities begs to be told – just not like this.
Brad Tyler
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book. It's thorough and insightful. Not the fastest read, but well worth the time.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Her fangirlish fawning over the collective is distracting and unprofessional.
Peter Blok
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good, scientific, insight into a mysterious world that might be more important than we realize.
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Gabriella (Biella) Coleman holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she researches, writes, and teaches on computer hackers and digital activism. Her first book on Free Software, “Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking” has been published with Princeton University Press. It is available for purchase and ...more
“But if youthful idealism makes someone proceed in attempts to tackle the enormity of our problems, then we need more, not less, youthful "naïveté".” 2 likes
“Of course, to hear weev tell the story, it was clear that he also did it for the lulz. He would giggle whenever Goatse Security was mentioned in news reports about the incident. He imagined millions of people Googling the strange name of the security group, and then recoiling in horror at the sight of a vile “anal supernova” beaming off their screen.4 Goatse is a notoriously grotesque Internet image of a man hunched over and pulling apart his butt cheeks wider than you might think is humanly possible. Those who view it are forever unable to unsee what they have just seen—unable to forget even the smallest detail, their minds seared by the image as if the gaping maw, adorned with a ring, were a red-hot cattle brand. The” 0 likes
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