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March 4, 2009

Webstock 09 : Being Geek

Live blogging the Being Geek presentation at Webstock 09 by Michael Lopp of Rands in Repose.

Michael starts with a definition of Nerd vs Geek. Plenty of hands (including mine) shot up when he asked who is a geek? Only two hands went up when he asked who is a nerd? But we’re definitely not dorks.

Origins of the word nerd are sexy. It comes from the book If I Ran the Zoo by Dr Seuss in the 1950’s. BUT it was Happy Days that actually popularized the term nerd.

Origins of the word geek: A circus performer that bites the head off live animals. True story!

Michael kept finding references to dork as well so he did research and found the Geek/Nerd/Dork matrix.  It determined that Geeks rule.

Geek: An outwardly normal person who has taken the time to learn technical skills.

Nerd: A socially awkward person who has learned technical skills due to the spare time they enjoy while being socially ignored.

Geek: what you think you are.   Nerd: what your friends think you are   Dork: what everybody else at school thinks you are

The name is not important. The type is not important. Nerds and geeks have the ability to dig deep on subjects. Nerds are system thinkers, they know there are rules to things. They back up their files, they use virus software etc.  Michael showed a picture of a Rubik’s cube that was finished.  He explained that if the picture had showed an unfinished Rubik’s cube, he would obsess about the solution. This is what a nerd does, they love puzzles. Nerds are system thinkers. If the sky is falling, Michael does a puzzle to regain some control. Puzzles and games have a set of rules that we understand. We hate it when we can’t understand or can’t control something.

NADD = Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder. All Nerds have this. We are information consumers with an amazing appetite for information. With a terribly efficient relevancy engine in our heads. The Nerd Geek information base is 3 miles wide and 2 inches deep. We have a huge appetite for information. We don’t need to know it all but we need to know it’s there. We are context switchers not multi-taskers. We do one thing really well at a time. But we have the ability to switch context instantly.

Nerds are socially inept. This is because we are constantly trying to box people into a system. This makes engagement awkward and clumsy so we tend to hide from people instead. We build a cave (home office) which is a representation of our minds.  In the cave there is *the tool*. It has world-canceling features. It has process support knick knacks. The goal of *the tool* is to get you into *the zone*. How do you know when you’re doing important work?  When you’re in *the zone* and completely focused on the task at hand.

You’re in *the zone*, you’ve reached *the high*, but guess what? It’s all a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. Chaos theory in practice is the nerd’s domain.