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Michael Lopp: being geek

Michael Lopp is a veteran of Apple, Netscape, Borland and Symantec. He explores the class of people who span both Generation X and Y and that he calls “The Geeks” – a group that has spent the last two decades moving amongst the dark technological fringe and is now a mainstream demographic.

Michael contends that he’s indeed a nerd, possibly a geek but definitely not a dork. He’s proceeded to regale us with some nerd/geek ethnography. The word nerd comes from a book by Dr Suess (all cred to Wikipedia) but was popularised by The Happy Days (yes Fonzi et al). Geek however is a circus performer who bites heads off live animals (sounds a little like the business roundtable?), while a dork is common parlance for a w$@#ker.

Michael thoughtfully provided a definitive comparison chart between these three descriptors;

 GEEKNERDDORK
Chief Cell-Phone ConcernDoes it have BlueTooth?Does it play games?Who would I call?
MantraCan we fix it? Yes we can!The meek shall inherit the earthWhere’s the remote?
Dream Job(s)Nasa/ILM/GoogleWizards of the Coast/Marvel Comics‘American Idol’ Archivist
UniformJeans and Ironic TPenny loafers and AcneWhatever Mom wants
Starter Apartment FurnitureComputer DeskKitchen Table for D&DStarter Apartment?
Favorite SportRobot WarsCaptain Kirk Drinking GameHandheld video poker
PlaylistsKnight Rider/A-Team MashupsLord of the Rings/Star Wars Soundtracks139.5 ‘Best Hits of Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond!!!’
Favorite Childhood ToyLegosSuperhero doll action-figureOwn snot
Boner WorthyAPI DocumentationBabylon 5 MarathonBra section in the JCPenny Catalogue

The label however is not important – what matters is the personality. Nerds have the ability to deep dive into details – Michael gave the example of the regular email he gets about his personal site detailing the multiple detailed standard web XHTML errors it displays.

There are three clichés about nerds and geeks;

  • Nerds are good with computers, they’re system thinkers, they love rules
  • Nerds are obsessive/detail orientated – they’re context switchers not multitaskers
  • Nerds are socially inept

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