Today, I made a mistake that offended someone somewhat. It isn't as bad as the mistake I made yesterday, where I heroically rushed in to stop a man from beating his wife, only to find out it was a teenage girl teasing her younger sister; but it was still pretty bad.
I msg'd another e2 user, telling them that something they had done was pretty 31337. I meant it as a genuine compliment. Unfortunatly, I soon got a number of messages back from them, telling me that they had never written a line of code and didn't pretend to, and that my accusation was baseless.
I seemed to have ran into a wall here, because I never meant it as an accusation. In my tech subculture, the Stream\softcore Linux Geek set, 31337 is not used as an insult. It is used as a compliment, albeit with a certain amount of irony. And don't misunderstand me, I have no friends who could be considered k1dd13z, but even the mainstream geek crowd has adopted the term with a fair amount of affection.
Of course, the undertone of the word can also be used to determine whether it is used as a compliment or an insult. Since the term originated amongst immature people who thought it was a straight compliment, the sophisticated only use it as a compliment with full knowledge of this, thus they use it ironically when they use it as a compliment. When they use it unironically, such as "he thinks he is pretty 31337", it is an insult. Only the crude think that random tampering, and even doing nifty deeds such as running a SNES emulator inside of a Macintosh emulator are actually worthy of renown, but almost any person who takes technical matters as something with intrinsic value has to admit it is pretty cool.
So, while it is hard to explain the various levels of text and subtext encoded in the term, the easiest way to explain the term is to say that for those who use it literally, it is a compliment, but you don't want to be complimented by them. For those who use it ironically, to describe themselves, it comes as a compliment when it is used half jokingly to describe something that is kind of neat, innovative, clever, but not really of earth shaking importance.
I hope I have cleared up this matter, although, of course, this term is open to any amount of post-modernist intersubjective analysis.