Though people have always hacked their lives (e.g., Ben Franklin is claimed as an early example), the birth of “life hacking” is dated as Danny O’Brien’s session at an O’Reilly tech conference on 2004-Feb-24.
O’Brien recently shared an earlier manifestation of his interest with me from 2003-Oct-22. The QuickTopic is overrun with spam, but if you go to the last page and scan in reverse order, it reads like what I provide below—in case the website disappears.
This list doesn’t use the term “life hacking,” so the conference is still the earliest evidence of the neologism, but it’s an interesting list with many recognizable names.
O’Brien notes that his current impression of the list was that there weren’t enough women: “I remember worrying about this at the time, and being determined to put Sophie Wilson on the list, who was a personal hero. I don’t think she wrote back, or I was too much of a coward to write to her.”
Two contributors to the thread that pique my interest are the posts of “biella” and Aaron Swartz. I take the first to be hacker anthropologist Gabbriella Coleman. And I knew Aaron when he was a boy at the W3C, as a contributor to a number of projects I followed, and a young man who also frequented the main branch of the Cambridge Library.
In the thread, Aaron discussed his “Activity Log,” and I don’t think I knew of that though I had started something similar, which I called “Busy Sponge” in 2002-Aug-21—and a version of which I continue to use today, seventeen years later!
This is an interesting bit of lifehacking history—and prompt for personal reminiscing.