On being a geek

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I went to a geeky event this weekend. It was fun, but it’s left me in a reflective mood. It’s one of those scales-from-the-eyes moments. I know that I’m geeky. But I also know now that that’s not such a good thing.

The problem, I think, is intelligence. For too long, I’ve bought the popular (and blue-collar) line that to be seen as being geeky is to be seen as being bright. I’m wrong.

As always, it took two events. One, me upsetting one of the other girls by getting over-passionate about an image processing technique, then not being able to explain why to her as I apologised the next morning. And listening to an old fart (there’s nothing wrong with being old; it’s the fart part that I had problems with) rattle on around midnight about some subject that I knew he was right about but desperately wanted to tell him to shut the f up. I heard him, I agreed with him, but something about his delivery just made me want to shove in some earplugs and pretend I wasn’t there. Which was a deeply uncharitable reaction, even for 1am at the Guardian. So I thought about why.

Being geeky is not a state of mind – it’s a signal. It says “I believe you should hear my thoughts and enthusiasm about this technology”. Like prayer, and religion, it assumes an interaction from the listener, an acknowledgement of involvement regardless of the listener’s state or status. And that’s not really fair. Unless the person you’re talking to is also a geek, and one interested in the same things that you are. But I’m also driven by a fear – that if I think about something and don’t say what I think, I’ll lose those thoughts and they’ll have no validity without a listener.

I need to work on this. It’s not going to be easy. I need to gauge who I am talking to, to test and read their responses. I need to manage my enthusiasm, to find other ways of recording and testing my thoughts (like carrying around an ipod or notebook everywhere with me).

I also need to think carefully about the value of my thoughts – especially following an honest conversation with Hwsgo about just how bright/ capable I am.

Don’t neglect the simple things

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A lot of innovation is about showmanship. It’s not enough to have a great idea and develop it, to understand how it fits into the world and how to make money from it: you have to sell it. And one of the easiest ways to sell something is with simple, pretty demonstrations. If they can see it and play with it, then people (and by this I mean the people with the real money) are more likely to buy into it. And that includes innovations groups too: doing great things will not be as crucial to survival sometimes as being seen to do small but visible things. So today I did some small things, like linking all our company webmasters together. And a lot of people are happier for it.