Hashing and hash algorithms are a pet interest of mine. Understanding hashing at a low level takes a fair amount of meditation. Most programmers are too busy for that. Thus hashing is not well understood outside of, say, cryptography circles.
As it turns out, the guy who did the amusing boredom-graph cartoon (see yesterday's blog) also has written one of the best overviews of hashing I've seen in a long time. Be sure to see his excellent Hash Functions and Block Ciphers page as well.
Study the material on Bob's site. Save yourself years of meditation.