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Editorial

The Rise and Fall of the Geek 358

Posted by michael
from the not-a-jon-katz-article-despite-the-title dept.
chilled writes "Tom Steinberg has posted this guest editorial on The Register bemoaning the decline of the Geek. He suggests that geeks in their alignment against for example RIP and Microsoft are losing their voice. I think he's right but the emergence of a common set of goals should be recognised as a very good thing. The geeks amongst us should use this commonality to rise up and use our voice for progress and not petty squabbling."
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The Rise and Fall of the Geek

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  • A Counter Opinion (Score:5, Informative)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:01PM (#4388317) Homepage Journal
    There is already a counter opinion [theregister.co.uk] posted at The Reg.
    • by Golias (176380) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:31PM (#4388591)
      Both articles are arguing from the faulty premise that there is such a thing as a geek political agenda.

      There are plenty of geeks out there who want nothing to do with Linux, prefering the tools of Sun, Apple and even (gasp!) Microsoft. The first article seems to make the case that all geeks demand open source exclusively, because if you don't make such demands, you're not a geek. (A classic falacy of logic).

      I would even go so far as to say that the majority of geeks that I have known are aware of open source & Linux, and use both at least some of the time (particularilly some of the better GNU tools), but are not married to the Stalmanist ideology that all software should be free, and spend most of their time working with various closed applications. There are those who fit the description of these articles, but I don't believe they don't even represent the majority of geekdom, let alone a consensus.

      The whole debate is downright Katzian, in that it assumes a cultural development that isn't actually happening.

      • by JWW (79176) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:35PM (#4388629)
        Katzian ..... great term, I like it.
      • by glh (14273) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:50PM (#4388750) Homepage Journal

        I would even go so far as to say that the majority of geeks that I have known are aware of open source & Linux, and use both at least some of the time (particularilly some of the better GNU tools), but are not married to the Stalmanist ideology that all software should be free, and spend most of their time working with various closed applications. There are those who fit the description of these articles, but I don't believe they don't even represent the majority of geekdom, let alone a consensus.


        I think the register is so closely tied to slashdot (at least in some way, probably not officially) that it assumes that the slashdot collective = how to define the way a geek should be. In fact, a lot of sites are looking at slashdot as the source of what geeks/nerds think is important (look at google news!)

        Sadly, the term geek is becoming a pop-culture phenomenon. Dare I say it, but slashdot itself IS becoming pop culture (if it's not already).

        That's the media for you. What really gets me is, once they get something they run with it. So what about all us poor geeks who don't fit the slashdot collective? A year from now if I go around calling myself a geek, people will automatically think they know what I stand for. Stereotypes, blech.

        So I propose a new term to avoid this confusion. I henceforth will no longer call myself a "geek". Those of you who feel the same way can join with me and start using the term "gump". Similar to geek, it once had a negative connotation to it. However, it's time to break away from the soon-to-be-stereotypical geek term and embrace this new one.

        Then, when "gump" gets to be a stereotype in a few years, we can change it again to something like "gork" or "gonk" which is a made up word that sounds very silly. :)

        Let's get "gumpy". Kind of has a nice ring to it, huh?
      • The first article seems to make the case that all geeks demand open source exclusively, because if you don't make such demands, you're not a geek. (A classic falacy of logic).
        Yes. It's called begging the question. It's where you make a make an argument where you assume what you are trying to prove. Some people call it circular logic. So if I say:
        "All geeks like open-source. If you are against open-source, then you aren't a geek."
        ...I'm begging the question. Read more here [skepdic.com].
        • "All geeks like open-source. If you are against open-source, then you aren't a geek."

          Actually that's perfectly valid (assuming that to be "against" something is not to like it). It's just not necessarily sound because the first premise is in doubt.

          Valid means all the logic connects together. Sound means making a formally valid argument with true premises.

          Circular reasoning is the act of restating of one of the premises as the conclusion. It's invalid because it simply makes the point of the argument one of your items of proof.

          (the preceding was circular reasoning)
      • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Friday October 04, 2002 @04:01PM (#4389399)
        Both articles are arguing from the faulty premise that there is such a thing as a geek political agenda.

        This is the most absurd thing I've read in a mod 5 post yet.

        The first article seems to make the case that all geeks demand open source exclusively, because if you don't make such demands, you're not a geek

        The author is a good journalist, and he's very impartial...but he doesn't understand the basis of the problem.
        This article is a warning about a dangerous monoculture of beliefs I see starting to form in the world of geeks, and a plea for more variety.

        He started the article by saying that in the "good ol days" like the 1980's geeks disagreed on many things, but they all had one common characteristic...a love, a fascination with technology. The author seems to think that we've fallen from our true cause...and now are just a bunch of whining 2nd rate hippies.

        My response to the author is this: There is no way to have a geek world with DRM. It is fundamentally impossible. There is no happy median, there is no compromise, it is impossible. Why? Because being a geek is about taking a general purpose set of tools(wires, capacitors, an instruction set, a programming language, etc) and casting those tools into something new. Show me one good classical geek "hack" that wasn't about doing something new and creative with ordinary hardware? That's the whole point; that was always the whole point.

        DRM will only be effective by removing this capabilty from all technologies...not just computers, but all of them. There is no such thing as 99% DRM, or 50% DRM. If I find a way to hack my toaster's MPU to resonate the heating coils at sonic frequencies, and then play MP3's with it, then the DMCA has failed. What that means is that every microchip must be crippled into a "special purpose" device. There is no longer any need for a programming language...just hardwires "allowing" the appropriate functionality for the consumer. And ultimately excluding any other function.

        If this happens, everything any of us have ever loved about technology will be finished...done. Sure you can still microwave your popcorn, check your e-mail, and order your pay-per-view...but that is all you will ever be able to do(and it's all your grandchildren will ever be able to do). It's the end of technological progress, period.

        There is no middle ground on this issue.
        • Wow! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by KlomDark (6370)
          Damn, where's my mod points when I need them - this is the best argument against DRM I've ever seen. When DRM takes hold - no more experimenting, no more progress. We are done.

          Imagine if DRM existing in the 1960s, or even the 1980s - the Internet would not exist. People would never have been able to build the little pieces needed to form the net (Almost every protocol was originally just a "hack". DNS was a shortcut so you didn't have to remember IPs, telnet was a shortcut so you could control a machine remotely, the web browser was a shortcut to locating information anywhere.)

          That's why there's no differing in arguing against this. We don't exist without it. It'd be like having different opinions about whether we should allow oxygen in our atmosphere. "Well gee, maybe if they give us a bunch of money, we can give in on that oxygen requirement."

          DRM turns us all into slaves.
        • Re:A Counter Opinion (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Dalcius (587481) <chrism3413+slash ... Tom minus distro> on Friday October 04, 2002 @05:18PM (#4390072)
          I really don't want to start a flame war here, but I'll risk it.

          I think this is the same with other issues. When it comes to disliking Microsoft, in my opinion, there is no middle ground here either. I'll explain why.

          Geeks, by my definition and that of the parent poster, are about doing what they want to with their own equipment. We like to play with technical gear in a fashion that suits us. This is why I agree that DRM is bad.

          Microsoft, to a lesser extent than DRM (for now?), has generally proven themselves to want to control your system, as opposed to an OS like Linux or *BSD. From EULA swapping, silently re-enabling auto-update, forcing IE to visit microsoft.com and report an id number (from what I'm told of early versions of 98), and restrictions on what you can and cannot do with their products, I think it's obvious. This is not as clean-cut of an argument as that of geeks vs. DRM, but I think it makes sense.

          In my experience, there are no technically-literate arguments for Microsoft (in its entirety) simply because to anyone who knows their history, what they've attempted to do and what they have done, it seems obvious that it's impossible to find Microsoft innocent.

          I would love any response to this so long as it isn't a troll. Respect my view, and prove me wrong by logic, or agree with me and state why.
    • The rebuttal rebuts some stuff, but dismisses the following paragraph, rather than challenging it.

      Stranger still is the lack of consistency amongst these beliefs. Many values, such as the love of privacy and free speech come from a broadly libertarian tradition evolving from the philosophy of Mill and Locke. Others, such as the hatred of Microsoft and the loathing of Spam come from a quite reverse philosophy - a principled distain of the side-effects of capitalism, betraying socialist ancestry. Still others come from a strong defence of certain rights (notably fair use of copyrighted materials) which seem to be primarily based on rational self-interest, rather than any particular ideology. From Tom's op-ed.

      By way of reply:
      Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. It advocates the extension of participatory democracy and the expansion of the open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values--be they religious, ethical, social, or political--have their source in human experience and culture. Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny. From the Humanist Magazine.

      Which is, it seems to me, totally consistent with the three things he names. The first two are obvious, but humanistic opposition to DRM needs some explanation. The RIAA/MPAA are trying to prevent the emergence of a new, popularly empowered culture from which they won't be able to make as much money.
  • The geeks amongst us should use this commonality to rise up and use our voice for progress and not petty squabbling.

    Ever see Revenge of the Nerds? Or one of its trillion sequels? This would not be a pretty sight.

  • Is it bad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by endrek (547737)
    Is this really bad. Some of the examples he uses, like the geek inability to defend the DMCA. Maybe no one who knows what they are talking about can defend it because it really shouldn't be. I mean, couldn't you bemoan that most all people think murder is bad, and thusm they are all sheep of the same flock. OR, maybe murder really is bad.

    There are still plenty of issues to fight and flame and be different over, but there are now some points that we all share together. It makes us a closer knit community and will hold us together
  • by Kenja (541830) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:04PM (#4388345)
    Geeks have a long and rich heritage they should be proud of. The Geek is and always will be an important part of the circus sideshow. Without them biting the heads off live chickens, the red neck circus patron will have no one to compare themselves favorably to before the beer kicks in.
  • by PhysicsGenius (565228) <physics_seeker@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:04PM (#4388348)
    and part-time mathematician, I have to agree with this: The geeks amongst us should use this commonality to rise up and use our voice for progress and not petty squabbling.

    Ever since the days of the caveman and the invention of the fire and wheel by the First Geek, Man has been arguing and warring. All arguments are based on misunderstandings, which indicates that two suitably intelligent people would always get along. For too long we have been trying to educate the stupider among us to reach this ideal state and I say that now is the time to give up.

    Geeks! Abandon your non-geek wives/husbands and friends! Come with me into the wilderness where we will forge a new society based on intelligence and anime! We will eat naught but pizza and drink naught but Mountain Dew! We may be smelly, but dammit, we won't need tech support numbers either! You have nothing to lose but your dignity!

    • You've never spoken to a woman without giving her your credit-card number, have you?
    • You have nothing to lose but your dignity!

      And your heterosexuality I'm afraid...
    • I'm glad the moderator saw fit to mod this up as funny. It's also becoming quite a troll for the humor impaired.

      I can't imagine that anyone can get the idea that 'geeks' agree on almost everything from reading slashdot or anything else for that matter. The range of opinion may be considerably different than the mainstream, but there certainly isn't any unity.

      It is interesting that a pretty strong consesus is developing about a number of issues. Just because most scientists agree that Darwin or Hubble were right (not withstading refinements to follow) doesn't mean they agree an everything. Once the data is in, some conclusions are obvious to everyone.

    • Ever since the days of the caveman and the invention of the fire and wheel by the First Geek, Man has been arguing and warring. All arguments are based on misunderstandings, which indicates that two suitably intelligent people would always get along. For too long we have been trying to educate the stupider among us to reach this ideal state and I say that now is the time to give up.

      No you're wrong. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No more petty squabbling? But that's one of the quintessential features of a geek. If there weren't constant meaningless arguments about the same topics over and over, the internet as we know it would not exist.
  • evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raiford (599622) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:08PM (#4388377) Journal
    What a geek is today is very different from what a geek was 20 years ago. Geeks of old (I guess we were called nerds back then) focused strictly on technology and science and stayed as far away from politics of any kind as you could possible get. Geeks of today seem to love the political scene and enjoy engaging in the fray. This is a big distinction from the aboriginal geek (or geek derived from the nerd). I say stick with the science and engineering. Life is too short to get caught up in politics.

    • Re:evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alcmena (312085) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:44PM (#4388701)
      Back then geeks stayed away from politics because politicians stayed away from technology. That's no longer the case.
      • Exactly...when I no longer have to worry about being liable for some eigth grader figuring out how to use code I write to pirate the latest Britbot album, I will be happy to maintain a blissful ignorance towards the world of politics.

        But when techno-ignorant politicians threaten my chosen form of creative expression, I have to take an interest.

        I basically want two things out of my elected officials:

        One, don't mandate any hardware standard that prevents me from being creative. Basically, don't turn my multi-purpose computer into a DVD-player. Stop passing TCPA-like measures and limit the scope of a EULA and I'll be happy.

        Two, don't make me a criminal for being creative. If others choose to do something immoral/illegal with my creations, that's their business and it should be taken up with them. Stop passing DMCA-like measures, and I'll be happy.
    • Re:evolution (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Daniel (1678)
      "Those who do not do politics will be done in by politics." -- alleged French proverb.

      Daniel
    • Re:evolution (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ftobin (48814)

      I've thought about this recently, and I strongly disagree. I work on information technology that tends to make us more free, such as encryption. Geek politics isn't about politics; geek politics is about freedom, which is much more important than science and engineering. At least in my book.

      I'd absolutely love to be able to just work on technology, but the laws are limiting my ability to do that, and I'm less free because of it (look at the DMCA and similar laws).

      Freedom comes first. Information technology tends to provide freedom by empowering persons. I've noted that geek politics tend to resist those who resist empowering technologies, such as encryption and information-sharing; such persons wish to maintain the status quo, which always benefits the incumbents.

      It's not about life being too short that you shouldn't 'waste' it on politics; politics is what decides our freedom.


    • Yep, even the world's finest newspaper just ran an article about democracy geeks [theonion.com].

      As for the big distinctions between the current geek and the aboriginal geek, I agree. The people hanging out in computer labs would hardly be recognized by the early primitve neolithic hunter-geek. We forge email using holes in sendmail and tools such as prebuilt rootkits; they forged email using a hot fire and tools of chipped stone, and later, bronze and iron.

      As others have pointed out, it was the development of agriculture that allowed the hunter-geeks to change from a nomadic lifestyle to a more stationary one, resulting in both an interest in the world around them (politics, opposite sex, etc) and often a tendency to be slightly overweight.

    • Isn't the increasing involvement of geeks in political issues due to the success of the technology geeks have been creating for the last 20 years? The world changed in the early 1990's.(Specifically, I think, due to two events: the spread of dial-up ISP's suppporting Windows and the marketing of a browser that ran on Win 3.1)

      If only geeks used computers and the Internet, the political ramifications would be insignificant. But, it's not 1986 anymore, and the technology created by geeks has become commoditized. Computers and the Internet have become mainstream components of Western culture, and, inevitably, also become political fodder.
    • Re:evolution (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Genady (27988)
      Geeks of old (I guess we were called nerds back then) focused strictly on technology and science and stayed as far away from politics of any kind as you could possible get.

      Huh, and here I thought most geeks from 20 years ago were people that worked either directly or indirectly for the defence industry, and had probably seen time in the service. If you're trying to tell me that such a lifestyle equates to political indifference I've got some shares of LinuxCare to sell you...
      • Re:evolution (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Raiford (599622) on Friday October 04, 2002 @03:48PM (#4389279) Journal
        In those days it was more like being a prostitute than a politician. Most of us did work in the defense industry. Accepting the paycheck was not activism but I guess if you want to get bleeding edge technical about it, then it was prostitution by consent. Hey, you gotta eat. Also most of us were just there for the technology. I guess it was living in a state of denial about end use. My job was strictly in basic research and seemed so far from the end use that it wasn't too hard to sleep at night. I guess the business of holding a clearance should have been a dead giveaway huh

    • This is a big distinction from the aboriginal geek

      Whoops, I meant to punch in slashdot.org, but I must have mistyped it and here I am at anthropologydot.org. So tell me of your travels, dear friend.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:08PM (#4388378)
    No date => no girlfriend => no wife => no geek kids.
    • This is why it's important to donate to sperm banks. A geek can't get any in person, but they have hope that if they donate to sperm banks, with a full description of the donor's brilliance and intellectual prowess, that someone will choose his sperm. It's easy, painless and free! Don't deny the next generation the geek genes. Go masturbate into a cup today!

      Steven
  • by garcia (6573) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:08PM (#4388380) Homepage
    Who is this guy to define what *I* am like. Yes, I do disagree w/the DMCA, the RIAA, and Microsoft. I don't like the fact that the US is becoming more and more government controlled. I don't like the fact that the PEOPLE of the US are allowing this to happen w/o a fight.

    I don't like the fact this this person believes we had strict boundaries. I don't like the fact that he calls us "pasty, long haired, UN*X t-shirt wearing" individuals.

    I am against things that are wrong. Microsoft, the DMCA, and recent US policies are WRONG.

    I don't have a pasty complexion, I don't have long hair, I don't live on pizza and Mountain Dew, and I certainly don't wear Unix related t-shirts.

    He is the one setting boundaries on us, not the group.

    Geeks stand up for what they believe in. We are typically young and brash and want to see change made. We are the protesters of the new millenium. We use a different medium than was used before. We are who we are, not what someone labels us as.

    Please forgive the rant. He was just wrong for creating a false label for the "geek".
    • by Reckless Visionary (323969) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:16PM (#4388454)
      Geeks stand up for what they believe in.

      No they don't. They stand up and bitch to each other on geek-only websites about how no one else will stand up for them.

    • I don't like the fact that he calls us "pasty, long haired, UN*X t-shirt wearing" individuals.

      Hmmm... I need to go get a tan, get a haircut, and toss out my RSA in Perl t-shirt. Stupid stereotypes!

    • by WinterSolstice (223271) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:28PM (#4388566)
      I see your point here, but I think what you are missing the real problem.

      Geeks have become a clique

      That is the problem. Just like some people who don't ride skateboards are called Skateboarders, and people who are into Anne Rice are called Goths, Geeks are now a "culture". This is the fundamental problem.

      I don't know about you, but I AM NOT A GEEK. I am a highly paid, moderately liberal computer professional. I do not have a ponytail, I do not wear t-shirts with political slogans (most of my shirts are free vendor handouts with software or hardware logos), and I most certainly am not going to say that I belong to any particular cultural group.

      However, I might be classed (by another individual) as a geek, since I can program in dozens of languages, configure routers, wire hubs, build servers, manage workstations, hand-edit the Windows Registry, and still remember the PET. I am against the DMCA, against harsh limits on fair use (while being for reasonable limits), and against an Orwellian future.

      Does that make me a geek? Do I care? No. I think that is the problem. Geeks used to be just about anyone who was technical (in anything from Art to Circuitry), and had "fallen out of society" at some point. I have miserable social skills, for example.

      Perhaps those of us who seem to be the former geeks should just go back to ignoring these morons, and especially anyone who claims to have geek pride. Or, perhaps we should just be more assertive in saying "F@#K You!" when people try to classify us.

      My views probably don't agree with your views in lots of ways. Good. Keep it that way. Be yourself, and to hell with anyone else. Just don't forget that "Geek" apparently is now a culture that was built around the people, not the other way around.

      /Rant

      -WS

      • by PunchMonkey (261983) on Friday October 04, 2002 @03:35PM (#4389165) Homepage
        I don't know about you, but I AM NOT A GEEK.

        I don't know about you,

        But if it looks like a duck:
        " can program in dozens of languages, configure routers, wire hubs, build servers, manage workstations, hand-edit the Windows Registry, and still remember the PET."

        Sounds like a duck:
        "I am against the DMCA, against harsh limits on fair use (while being for reasonable limits), and against an Orwellian future."

        And walks like a duck:
        "I have miserable social skills".

        Odds are....

        you're a duck.

    • I don't like the fact that the US is becoming more and more government controlled.

      And the Government is becoming more corporate-controlled. The combination of these two is the source of the current mess.

  • by Target Drone (546651) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:09PM (#4388397)
    use our voice for progress and not petty squabbling

    The sooner we can put our petty squabbling aside the sooner we can get move on to the real issue.

    Which is better Star Trek or Star Wars?

  • Did he proofread? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by back_pages (600753) <back_pages@c[ ]net ['ox.' in gap]> on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:12PM (#4388420) Journal
    I didn't bother with the counterargument, but I don't exactly feel compelled.

    He says geeks used to argue over the standard stuff, vi vs. emacs, keyboard vs. mouse, X vs. console, PC vs. microcomputer. Fair enough. Now he says that nobody argues against DRM, the DMCA, and invasions of privacy.

    I suppose Soviet Communists in the olden days would argue about whether rubber or leather boots were better in springtime, but nobody felt justified saying, "Those capitalists aren't that bad!" Likewise, these days in America, there is plenty of talk about whether N'Bizkit is better than Limp Korn, or whatever retarded ear-shit people listen to. Yet nobody stands up and says, "You know, we really should let the state run all of our industry."

    So big surprise, we're all in agreement about things that threaten the foundation and definition of the group. What an insight, you might as well go write an internet editorial about it and get Michael to post on Slashdot.

    Ya know, it really is telling when I got halfway through this post and thought to myself, "Well goddamn, this must have been another piece of drivel that Micheal thought was really clever, like that time he shared with us the story about adjusting your TVs brightness control to play PS2." What crap.

  • I've always been kinda fringe geek. Not really a great programmer, more an observer, plotter, and wannabe administrator. Not nearly as geek as many I know, but still geek enough to be considered by people who aren't geeky at all. Unfortunately, we've got one thing making "geekdom" feel polluted, and that's the cram-away certification crowd.

    High school kids coming out with MCSE's, places you can get a CCNA quick, or A+ certification that just seems like a joke to any old-school type. These people are the "new geek chic" and they're anything but.
    • by guacamolefoo (577448) on Friday October 04, 2002 @04:44PM (#4389750) Homepage Journal
      When I read the title to the parent in this thread, I thought to myself, "I can't believe this crap got modded up." Upon further reflection, there is something of a point to be made.

      > High school kids coming out with MCSE's, places
      > you can get a CCNA quick, or A+ certification
      > that just seems like a joke to any old-school
      > type. These people are the "new geek chic" and
      > they're anything but.

      After having RTFA, the Standard editorial giving rise to this item on /. can be reduced to the following, IMHO:

      "Geeks are now a special interest lobbying group, whereas before they were a cultural phenomenon."

      To me, this accounts for the coalescing of what had been a cultural phenomenon around a sort of common themes and political aspirations. There is an established culture. It is primarily anti-capitalist in economics and pro-libertarian vis-a-vis individual rights.

      Summarizing the geek culture in general terms of course does not sweep every individual into lockstep with those ideas, but the broad cultural trends are undeniably there. We all know which way the wind blows on /.

      As far as the geek chic thing goes, I don't see it as a cultural phenomenon. People look for opportunity and "e" anything seemed like the land of milk and honey for a while. That is going through a natural (and welcome) correction right now through typical economic feedback loops. Hopefully, the wheat will be separated from the chaff. Unfortunately, there are lots of human and political costs that result from the upheaval of a boom/bust cycle like we just had. Sorry if you got laid off, but many IT jobs just shouldn't have existed in the last several years.

      The prior poster bemoans certifications as diluting the geek culture that predated and gave rise to what he/she/it termed "geek chic." Let me Cliff Claven that for a minute, too:

      Certification is useful as a specialized population of knowledge workers grows -- personal contact no longer serves to differentiate dedication to a craft. Certification provides a rough proxy to the dedication aspect (i.e. "I am willing to spend beaucoup bucks on cram courses and tests") but it does not dictate that one with a certification is qualified for pouring piss out of boots.

      In many respects, even a four year college education falls into this category -- you need to have it, but it doesn't mean you can do anything after you get it. It is a exclusionary qualification -- if you don't have it, you're fucked. If you do have it, you have doors opened.

      In a general reply to your post, I think your underlying assumption is wrong: geek chic never existed. It was all about the money and trying to avoid looking like a poseur. On the bright side, the reversal of IT's economic fortunes may slow some of the changes you bemoan. Unfortunately, I don't see that genie ever going back into the bottle.

      As for myself, when I stopped seeing fat guys with beards, suspenders, and flannel shirts at trade shows, I knew the sharks were in the water and something more pure and carefree had been lost. I'll miss it.

      guac-foo.

  • RIP (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ctrl-Z (28806) <timNO@SPAMtimcoleman.com> on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:13PM (#4388435) Homepage Journal

    Just what exactly do geeks have against the Routing Information Protocol [faqs.org]?
    • Re:RIP (Score:5, Funny)

      by Plutor (2994) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:24PM (#4388519) Homepage
      Just what exactly do geeks have against the Routing Information Protocol?

      Let's start with the usual.

      1) True distance routing protocols, like RIP, are inherently flawed. It requires a table of the entire network to be stored on each router, requiring precious hard drive or flash memory space.

      2) RIP broadcasts its entire table every thirty seconds.

      3) The maximum size of a RIP packet is 512 bytes, so any reasonably sized network will have RIP updates sent as multiple packets. This, combined with 2, can add up to a lot of data transfer FAST.

      4) Extremely slow convergence

      5) Lack of VLSM support in RIP1 (which too many campuses are still using).

      6) Lack of configurability where route summarization is concerned.

      Oh wait.. were you joking?
    • Re:RIP (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scrutty (24640)
      He meant this lovely act of parliament [homeoffice.gov.uk], and subsequent government attempts to amend it. The register is a UK based tech news site ( and a particularly clueless and crappy one at the best of times). But you knew all that already , didn't you ?

      Interestingly enough while we are talking about UK specifics, I do think this sort of "geek groupthink" the article complains about is becoming more detectable, and one of the symptoms of it I have run into locally a couple of times are UK "geeks" who spout off about the DMCA and illegality of decss and other US specific tech legalities, seemingly ignorant of the fact that they don't actually apply to their own national jurisdiction. Generally they then move on to tell me that OpenBSD is more secure by design, RMS is a lunatic , emacs/vi/KDE/GNOME sucks , X11 is bloated, windows crashes a lot , all the other 2nd hand opinions you see on sites like this every day, blah blah. I have a name for these people, and it isn't "geeks". But I'm not sure that its anything sinister. You could probably chalk it up to the fact that the sort of people who use their computers a lot are nowadays exposed to a wider pool of consensus due to the increasing penetration of the internet. This always happens as something moves from the fringes,to a trend and then into the mainstream.

      Lets face it, in 2002 there isn't anything terribly "geek"-ish, or whatever you want to call it, about having linux on a home( or even work ) computer, using the web,and being aware of DRM issues ( at least napster and DVD region coding ) and buying T-shirts online that reference these things. In fact there hasn't been for a good few years now. Sturgeons Law, people. As always, look to the fringes for the voices of dissent, of course those fringes are always being redefined. Thats how social evolution works, I've always thought. Celebrate diversity for sure, but don't forget elitism sucks.

  • by Usquebaugh (230216) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:15PM (#4388446)
    ...if I'll conform to some media stereo type. I speak for myself and don't need no stinking clique focus group telling me what to be.

    Jesus next we'll have a tech website that champions free speech but fails to run stories about itself.

    *sniff* whatever happened to Jon Katz?
  • by Archfeld (6757) <treboreel@live.com> on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:17PM (#4388461) Journal
    Conformity : Proudly serving painfully boring people since time began....

    geeks are misfits, not some social group you can mobilize, the more mainstream the issue the more support you will lose and the more fragmentation you will see. The authors' failure to understand, just highlights the fact that he's not a geek but a suit trying to be cool. The sub-culture WAS NEVER tied together by commonality but by opposition of the homogenization of culture. Here this 'guest' editor is bemoaning the lack of just such a thing....
    The counter culture is STILL there they've just shunned the icons proposed for them by the 'man' and those that would make a buck of them.

    TGIF, and rant off......
  • The Geek Party? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Raster Burn (213891) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:17PM (#4388465)
    Since when has being a geek been political? Granted, I agree with the majority on Slashdot on certain issues, but not with others. I thought geekdom was about a love for technology.

    If being a geek means I'm some kind of political activist hippie, count me out.
  • by Wraithlyn (133796) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:19PM (#4388474)
    "Others, such as the hatred of Microsoft and the loathing of Spam come from a quite reverse philosophy - a principled distain of the side-effects of capitalism, betraying socialist ancestry."

    Yeah, whatever. My hatred of Microsoft comes from the lack of stability in their operating systems, and their predatory, monopolistic practices (which have been confirmed in a court of law, thank you very much)

    And Spam? Do I even have to address this point? I hate it because it wastes my time, it wastes internet bandwidth and storage space, and the people sending it don't even really have to pay very much to inconvenience the entire email reading planet. It's unbalanced.

    "If none of this is making sense to you, try the following mental exercise. Could you sit in a pub with a group of geeks, defend the RIP Act, and convince them that you were still one of them?"

    Yes I could. Perhaps I have more open minded friends than you, who are willing to entertain an argument without ostracizing someone with an alternative viewpoint.

    I'm a geek because I've loved fooling with computers my entire life, have a profound desire to see technology used to improve the world, and have developed quite a bit of hardware, software, and programming expertise. My political affiliations don't enter into it. Neither do my race, sex, nationality, or religous beliefs.
    • I friend of mine, once argued very convincingly
      that it would be a very good thing is no one
      had any privacy, provided that applied to
      goverments, companies, politicians etc as well
      as citizens.

      Its a theme that been explored in stories
      occasionally, for instance in "The light of
      other days".

      But if its the goverments and companies with privacy and me without it, then no thanks.
    • a principled distain of the side-effects of capitalism
      My hatred of Microsoft comes from...their predatory, monopolistic practices. And Spam?...the people sending it don't even really have to pay very much to inconvenience the entire email reading planet
      Microsoft's predatory monopolistic practices are a side-effect of capitalism run unchecked and betraying its socialist ancestry. Monopolies are not inherently evil...until they are leveraged to destroy the ability for others to challenge them in an open market...thus betraying the socialism.

      Spam is a direct capitalistic, commercialistic creation. Again, the problem becomes the fact that a shouting match ensues to see who can get the loudest, most ubiquitous voice to the consumer for the least amount of money...well, nearly free e-mail multiple times a day seems to be working in that regard.

      There are plenty of other reasons to hate these two things, some of which you named, but it seems a good portion of your views are still in line with the author's analysis.

      • That's great how you picked the closing points of each view, which were practically afterthoughts, and declared that to be the "good portion" of my views.

        When I curse Microsoft because Windows crashes, it's not because I have "disdain of the side-effects of capitalism, betraying socialist ancestry." That's a load of over-analytical, pedantic nonsense.

        When I curse the spam-merchants because I have to manually go through multiple email accounts daily and methodically delete tons of crap, once again, it's not because I have "disdain of the side-effects of capitalism, betraying socialist ancestry." I don't hate advertising. I have no problem with TV commercials, billboards, banner ads, or whatever. It's the physical act of having to spend time dealing with it that I hate. And Geeks are not alone in that.
    • My hatred of Microsoft comes from the lack of stability in their operating systems and their predatory, monopolistic practices

      Interesting that you mention stability first over your other reasons. The last two releases from Microsoft, Windows 2000 and Windows XP have been very stable for me at home and in the office. I can't really speak for Linux since I don't use it as a workstation and give it the beating that I give XP. As far as servers go, aside from an occasional hardware failure I've seen no difference in stability among Win2k, HP/UX, or Solaris.

      I see an aweful lot of people on slashdot complain about Windows stability. Either they're running older versions of Windows, have some really shitty or misconfigured hardware, or are overclocking.

    • I'm not even that bugged by the predatory monopolistic practices, except for the relationship with their product quality. So many of their products over the years were Bad Bad Bad Mindbogglingly Bloatwarily Bad! And they used that badness to force you to buy upgrades - because their badness wasn't just about instability and failure to use knowledge that the computer community had accumulated over the years, it was about incompatibility. Each version of Office had some file formats that were sufficiently incompatible with previous versions that if people around you started using them, you'd have to upgrade too, just in self-defense. And that dragged along having to upgrade the OS. Some of the incompatibilities were blatant, like naming critical directories "My Documents" and "Program Files" with spaces in the middle, just to break programs that used 8.3 naming.

      Some of this just happened to them, forced by the market demands for backward compatibility which made it hard to get rid of previous decisions that had caused instability. But there was so much that was well-known about how to do things that they ignored - a friend of mine described trying to teach them about caching when he gave a talk there in the mid-80s ("How come Unix is so much faster at handling files - the hardware isn't much faster?") And some of it was trying to simultaneously look Just Like A Macintosh without looking like a lawsuit-attracting cheap knockoff of the Mac knockoff of the Xerox Star. And some was deadline pressure, and all that. But it was still so inexcusably bad.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Too often as Geeks we point out limitations and flaws within a technology plan, instead of pointing out the things that can be accomplished.

    By pointing out a limitation or flaw the ones who understand the most are deemed "too negative" by managers and marketeers.

    If you are too negative, too often, you will be pigeon-holed as a nay-sayer; even if you turn out to be right.

    Geeks aren't marketeers so we lack the euphemisms to use when speaking to marketeers. Instead of saying: "Technology doesn't permit." or "This system is inadequate" the words escape us to reword this into something that can be spun positively.

    In essence: Geeks are excluded because we know too much.

    This response probably pretty extreme, but it sure feels true.

    Quite a bit of the time I find myself not having the necessary time to get buy in to certain designs and architectures. It takes longer to get buy in, than to just implement the architecture.

    I dare any one of you to attempt to explain the following paragraph to a marketeer / managerial type who is still struggling with how to buy a book from Amazon:
    • In the modern times of XML, XSLT, JSP, ASP, .NET, Web Services, and other standardized technologies we are finally seeing a convergence that will allow true RAD to work on a Worldwide scale. Finally, due to underlying standards dictating infrastructure a developer can assemble the pieces to create a system and not worry about underlying implementation.


    I haven't found a manager friendly way to say that yet. Any suggestions?
  • I read that stupid opinion piece earlier today; I thought it was total horseshit.

    "Geeks" aren't becoming "homogenous" or any such thing. The only thing that's going on is many (not all even!) are up in arms about recent abridgements of their freedom from legislation and Microsoft's new tactics. This has nothing to do with homogenity, it simply has to do with a (a couple actually) common enemy.

    And to say that all geeks get upset whenever MS does anything is simply ludicrous, and ignorant of the facts. There are a ton of geeks who are perfectly happy with MS products, but usually not with MS's current drive towards DRM and Palladium et al., which is perfectly understandable and reasonable considering the affect those types of things will have on them.

    This is just stupid...

  • by spiro_killglance (121572) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:26PM (#4388545) Homepage

    Unlike other groups, geeks (i still
    hate the term) are defined by
    intellegance, reason, and the scientific method.
    While other groups will always contain members
    that will hold mad, bad and obviously wrong
    beliefs not matter what, a geek will always
    change beliefs based on evidence and a solid
    reasoned argument based on axioms they share.
    If most geeks are in argeement in belief of something its probably because its (if
    not true) at least as close to true as we can
    get in the limit current knowledge.
    • While other groups will always contain members that will hold mad, bad and obviously wrong beliefs not matter what, a geek will always change beliefs based on evidence and a solid reasoned argument based on axioms they share.

      Then how do you explain all the geek socialists?

      Here's how: The typical "geek" likes rationality, but is generally very bad at understanding human relationships. This is why geeks often make very bad managers, and in fact often have bad experiences with managers.

      So when you go to a geek and say, for example, "We have poor people. How do we solve the problem?" The natural, geek-oriented solution would be to say, "Clearly we need the government to give these people money so that they can subsist long enough to find gainful employment. And clearly, this should be done at the highest levels of government, since a central authority is bound to more efficient than a bunch of non-organized, local governments that will have variable levels of quality".

      The solution is simple, easy-to-understand -- and a dismal failure. Because of the lack of understanding of human nature, which geeks very rarely can factor in. They think everyone strives to do the best they can to "solve the problem once and for all, and move on the next problem". Unfortunately, this is a rare trait.

      A geek cannot even concieve of people who would go out and try to keep people in poverty so that they will continue to have a job and a budget. Yet, those people exist.

  • They call them geeks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Patik (584959)
    I've never understood why people want to be referred to as a geek. It's not a pleasant title, rather it's an insult. Class bullies picks on the scrawny "four-eyed geek". If someone calls you a geek, it's your turn to stand up for yourself. "Geek" has such a negative conotation to it that I will never refer to myself as one, regardless of my involvement with computers and science.
    • I call myself "geek" with much pride.

      I think 20 years ago, yeah, being a "geek" was a bad thing. But, in the past several years, "geek" has become tres chic, especially after the rise of the Internet and the personal computer invading everyone's home. Hell, now if I call myself a "geek", I'm Mr. Popular with people coming up to me asking me all kinds of stupid computer questions, and in gasp of the stuff I have on my computer (such as 6 CDs worth of MacGyver episodes).

      And, "geek" is only a word. It has the meaning you give it. If you take offense to the word "geek", then that's something you have to deal with yourself. To me, I am a proud "geek" ... it's a purely positive word to me. Someone calls me a "geek", I say "damn straight!"
  • Pet Peeve (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lizard_King (149713) on Friday October 04, 2002 @02:35PM (#4388627) Journal
    There is a popular misconception in today's culture that all geeks use and endorse Linux.

    "Geeks may argue about which Linux distro is best ..."

    I would classify myself as a geek and I never felt terribly comfortable using Linux. I've dabbled here and there, kept Linux boxen lying around, but have never used any as my primary machine. I've been a devout BSD fan...until OS X came along.

    "...but they all know that a Good OS Has to Be Free. "

    bullshit. A good OS has to be good. I'll pay for an operating system that I think is solid. I had no problems paying $129 for Jaguar a few weeks ago.

    Geeks are people who are curious about technology and make a living and a hobby out of utilizing technology different ways. Oh wait.... I forgot what site I was posting on. Long live Linux and down with those imperial Microsuck bastards
    • Re:Pet Peeve (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Silverhammer (13644)

      Blockquoth the poster:

      Geeks are people who are curious about technology and make a living and a hobby out of utilizing technology different ways.

      Not quite. Geeks can have an obsessive interest in just about anything: computers, movies, games, comics, math, politics, cars, whatever. It is the obsession itself, and the behavioral quirks resulting from it, that defines us as geeks.

      Sure, geeks are often also technologically literate, but that is because we are more willing and eager to use new technology to satisfy our individual obsessions. Outside of the Slashdot / Register / Ars Technica crowd, most geeks still see the computer as merely a tool.

  • Hmm, then how come there was a counter-argument posted within two and a half hours. Thats not really a sign of monoculture or a 'party-line' which is toed by all. Not to mention the many and varied opinions which are expressed in just about every thread here on /.

    Yes, there are unifying forces at work, but there always has been and hopefully always will. It's this solid foundation which allows the community to discuss, argue and explore just about any idea which we feel we want, from god knows how many viewpoints and angles. We are an open and evolving community, one which has a greater role to play in society and a greater voice than ever. This is probably why people know about the pro-open, anti-infringement stances that are taken on many subjects. It does not mean that there isn't diversity, it just means that some of the more important messages _are_ getting across to the wider world.

    If someone wants to take this as something which it is not (no names mentioned) then that is their right. If someone (no names mentioned) wants to start another lively debate, then this is certainly the way to do it ;)

    viva la revolution!
  • The author of this article seems to believe the following: If you distrust government then you're a libertarian. If you distrust business then you're a socialist. Since many geeks have a healthy distrust of both government and business, and you can't be both a libertarian and a socialist, the author concludes that geek politics is therefore hypocritical (though he doesn't use that word). This is a serious flaw, as our conventional view of left-right politics really doesn't have a place for someone who thinks that neither government nor business should accumulate too much power. We are therefore led to conclude that such views are erroneous, and we must therefore choose a king to serve: government or business, communism or capitalism.

    This is perhaps one of the greatest dangers to "geek politics".
  • Stranger still is the lack of consistency amongst these beliefs. Many values, such as the love of privacy and free speech come from a broadly libertarian tradition evolving from the philosophy of Mill and Locke. Others, such as the hatred of Microsoft and the loathing of Spam come from a quite reverse philosophy - a principled distain of the side-effects of capitalism, betraying socialist ancestry. Still others come from a strong defence of certain rights (notably fair use of copyrighted materials) which seem to be primarily based on rational self-interest, rather than any particular ideology.

    Right, those are the only two possible rationales for moral theory or public policy. (And Mill, a libertarian? Does he mean John Stuart Mill, the utilitarian? WTF is this guy smoking--his assumptions are completely different from Locke's. In fact I'd say all of the positions stated in this guy's passage can be justified in utilitarianism, AKA the greatest good for the greatest number.)

    "Geek politics" follow a really simple direction--more power for individuals, less power for businesses and governments. (It brings to mind Distributivism or micro-capitalism, actually.) Any inconsistancy or hypocrisy this guy sees is simply not there.

  • Bullshit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by The Bungi (221687)
    I'm sure this article will garner accolades around here but the author is no more in tune with the politics of high-tech activism than my grandma is. Turning the 'movement' into a belief system was the worst thing that ever happened to the 'movement' in the first place, because the only thing belief systems beget is intolerance.

    There's a significant difference between fighting for a cause and standing up for what's right, and attempting to force your beliefs on other people. We bemoan the strong-arm tactics employed by big business but we turn around and essentially declare "you're either eith us or against us". Not true? You haven't been reading Slashdot the past four years. We've been clapping in delight every time the house of one of our enemies collapses but we've been ignoring the termites gnawing away at our own basement.

    Simply stopping internal squabbling is not going to do it either. How can we expect to 'dominate the world' when Eugenia Loli has trouble configuring the premier commercial Linux distro? When the most visible end-user Linux company (Lindows) does nothing but stumble in their tracks every time they come up with a new strategy for stealing market share from Microsoft?

    No, what we need is more attention to the realities of the world. Stallman-esque idealism is nice but has gotten us exactly nothing. Radicalism is obviously not working, either. Let the technology stand on its own, and let it cater to the same type of people we attack and disparage for using 'an inferior OS', as if that was somehow indicative of terrible genetic deficiencies.

    We can either break out of this vicious cycle or continue to wallow in our own little pool of muck while we shake our fists at the nice rich beautiful people that walk by.

  • Hey,

    The geeks amongst us should ... rise up and use our voice for progress and not petty squabbling.

    He's right, you know. People in the computer industry need to rise up and use our voice for progress, not petty squabbling! Death to Microsoft!

    That was sarcasm, you see? Rather than using our voices for progress, slashdotters engage in petty squabbling with Microsoft. An I the only one who finds this ironic?

    Michael
  • The geeks amongst us should use this commonality to rise up and use our voice for progress and not petty squabbling.

    We should yeah, but this is Slashdot, right? Did I take a wrong turn?

    Er, maybe we should be working toward a model that emphasizes free wheeling discourse and a respect for dissent rather than idealizing unanimity of purpose. Something scientific-methodish, as geeks generally are in sympathy with the world of science?

    I'm not seeing this supposed "monoculture," to use the article's word. Rather that trying to exploit a unanimity that isn't really there except in opposition to The Bad Guys, maybe we should try to build a culture around curiosity.

    Take a look at any /. story on the environment, and tell me if you see more informative posts -- "I read such and so about Greenland ice cores" -- or more whining about the supposed arguments of straw man "environmentalist" views. When curiosity gets superceded by hackneyed political views, geeks are just as tedious as the next person.

  • I think he's a little off base. He attributes love of privacy and free speech as geek trademarks, but really don't virtually all people in free countries like these things?

    Similarly he says we are unified in our hatred of Microsoft and loathing of Spam. Does anyone know anybody who likes spam? In my experience, many non-geeks hate Microsoft more than we do. You don't have to be a geek to dislike directly or indirectly the RIAA.

    The traits he points out referencing geeks as a monoculture are really just traits of individual humans in general. It's like saying we're a monoculture because we all want to vote or because we dislike junk mail. While it's true that we tend to be a little more evangelical about these things, it's usually just because we know a little more about the situations than the average joe.
  • what drivel (Score:2, Insightful)

    by g4dget (579145)
    We don't need to read any further than this:

    Others, such as the hatred of Microsoft and the loathing of Spam come from a quite reverse philosophy - a principled distain [sic] of the side-effects of capitalism, betraying socialist ancestry.

    Microsoft is a convicted monopolist; their actions are not a "side-effect of capitalism", their actions have been anti-competitive, anti-free market and, arguably, anti-democratic.

    Spam, too, is theft of service--a crime--not a "side-effect of capitalism". I pay for my mail bandwidth, and most of it is taken up by stuff I didn't pay for. Big companies can have anybody prosecuted who as much as connects to their server in a way they don't like, why do I have to put up with megabytes of spam every day?

    Geeks understand the machinations of power, influence and money a lot better than Steinberg gives them credit for, and apparently a lot better than Steinberg himself does. The difference between geeks and other participants in the political process is that geeks often won't shut up about it and they take a long-term perspective and won't accept expedient short-term compromises that only make the situation worse in the long term. The opposition of geeks to Microsoft, the RIAA, and spam doesn't derive from a hypothetical "socialist ancestry", it arises out of a concern that high technology can only prosper in a democratic society, in a free market, and in a country where people can discuss and exchange ideas free from private or public interference.

    Maybe geeks won't be able to prevent the destruction of free speech, free markets, or democratic and constitutional principles in America, but we are certainly not going to shut up about it. If the rest of the country ignores us, that's their loss. We are doing all we can by speaking up.

  • When someone asks me to rise up, I reach for my wallet.

    The reason I'm a geek in the first place is that I place very little trust in the activities of groups and crowds. I think people tend to lose IQ points the more they place themselves in a situation where you get hats, or uniforms, or armbands, or chants, or fucking political agendas, for that matter.

    I'm not particularly misanthropic, but I do think that taking a sociological phenomenon based on an inability to easily conform, then asking them to come up with a coherent platform is an exercise in futility, if not stupidity. There are plenty of geeks in this world that I couldn't stand 10 minutes in a crowded elevator with much less stand side by side in a political rally. That doesn't mean we can't swap tips on router programming.

    Besides, have you seen some of our political beliefs? I know I personally hold a few that could be used to scare chickens to death as a less cruel means of slaughter.

  • by tokki (604363)
    An unfortunate result of the "Geek" culture is that squabbling is typically inherint to our very nature. The "know-it-all" attitude is incredibly pervasive, and arguing a technical or techno-philosophical issue with another geek is akin to slamming your dick in the door. It really doesn't accomplish much (geeks aren't apt to change their minds readily), and it's generally an unpleasent experience.

    Geeks are either afraid to admit any kind of ignorance to any subject, especially technical, or very quick to abmonish someone for asking a question and (how dare he/she) admit ignorance.

    This fear of showing any sign of weakness, as well as the know-it-all attitude, makes it difficult for open discussion and compromise to occur on even trivial issues, thus squabbling is rampant. This is the same in other realms as well of course, but it is an aspect to the geek regime.

    I'm not saying I'm not part of this -- I am a geek as well -- it's just one of our weaknesses.

  • by reallocate (142797) on Friday October 04, 2002 @03:16PM (#4388988)
    This on-target editorial is in tune with Lawrence Lessig's question a few weeks ago: What Have You Been Doing About It? (Lessig's answer: not much, if anything.)

    When identification with a community becomes more important to each community member than the goals or shared behaviors of the community, that community is well on the way to becoming an irrelevant cult. Why? Because an individual need only adopt the accoutrements of the community to claim membership. The need to actually make a substantive contribution to furthering the community's objectives, goes away. In fact, the community's objectives fade away until the sole objective becomes reinforcing each individual's association with the group. In other words, it dissolves into a "us versus them" scenario, where the only thing defining "us" is "not them" status.

    The evidence is here on Slashdot every day: Few expressions of commitment to do anything about DMCA/RIAA/DRM except pen denunciatory posts; Use of "lusers" in reference to "users" (if your an admin, they're really your "customers"); assertions that Unix users are more intelligent than users of other operating systems; unwillingess to consider other points of view; readiness to censor dissenting voices (known as "moderation" around here); a dogmatic belief that everything the "enemy" says and does is a lie and, therefore, unworthy of a second's thought; and, in the obvious case of many posters, an adopted posture of cynicism lacking the credibility of real experience.

  • by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <gorkon.gmail@com> on Friday October 04, 2002 @03:20PM (#4389022)
    I agree with alot of the ideals the common Slashdotter will but I am by no means Liberal. I am for smaller government. I am for people helping themselves and not taking a few bucks out of my wallet every paycheck which is what a government aid program is. I AM for free speech. I am against using P2P to steal (Napster) and using P2P for what it's meant (sharing files that are not copyrighted), but I am against the RIAA making it hard to exercise my fair use rights. I am against the MPAA telling me if I live in another country that I can't buy a DVD their and have it play in my player. I am against them telling me I can't make a fansite on the web celbrating and promoting my favorite TV show. I am FOR the constitution including the second amendment. I am against cameras in public places unless they are controlled by tourists. I am against using technology to ticket someone automagically because they were speeding because thier kid was hurt. I am against the idiot laws that are making clerks card (and possibly swiping a mag stripe on my license) everyone when they want to buy a beer (even though I am OBVIOUSLY over 21). I am FOR everything this country, as a whole, stands for. I am in AGREEMENT with Bush on the war on terrorism, but in disagreement with the need for these STUPID laws/rules regarding things like laptops being used during takeoff, GPS's not allowed at all, cellphones not allowed unless at gate, ILLEGAL search and seizures and other stupid stuff like that. I am FOR studying things LOGICALLY and using the results of that study to guide actions. Let's study the effects of these devices on a aircrafts Avionics. Have there ever been studies done or is this just so the airlines satisfy some stupid notion like that once you get on that plane THEY are your BOSS (instead of treating you like a human being when your not being an asshole). I am a geek. I use Windows, Linux, AIX, Solaris and whatever else I need to do to make a few bucks. Sue me because I don't agree that Microsoft is a monopoly, but I hate them because their os's are unstable and they assume that I don't know what I am doing (not because they are the most popular right now). So kiss my shiny metal ass if I don't fit your damn image for a geek. I am a GEEK and proud of it. Who's next?
    • Well I just added u to my my friends list. ;)
    • And you are not alone here.

      It only seems like you are alone because the editors have a way of spinning a cotton-candy haze of pro-piracy, anti-MS floss about much of the news they disseminate. In turn, the younger participants (and, boy, doesn't it seem like there's an awful lot of high school and college kids on this board?) who are still in the process of forming opinions/having opinions formed for them, hop on the bandwagon -- which is built rather low to the ground to facilitate this.

      Geeks/nerds are defined -- such as we need defining -- by our love for and affinity with technology, not by our politics.

      Some of the geekiest people I have ever met are those who work "behind the scenes" in the entertainment industry, whose jobs center around securing their employers' assets from piracy. I've also met quite a few "Big Brother" geeks for whom the latest surveillance gear was like a newest distro of Linux. Nice guys. 110% Geek. Suffice to say I identified a lot more with them than I do with the juvenile dollar-signs-in-place-of-esses UseNet cast-offs that populate so many of the "political," uhh, discussions, on this board.

      Geeks do not have a common politic, as Marketing Executives, Creative Designers, and athletes do not. I resist SlashDot's heavy-handed Hive-Think attempts to tell me how "we" should think.
  • Its really outrageous to say that being against Microsoft is part of the geek way. Microsoft engineers are as geekie as they get.
    They don't get all riled up about freedom and capitalism, they just sit in their offices and write code. They found a benevolent master that will gives them mountain dew and gives them free pizza.
    Politics are for liberal arts students, not computer geeks.
  • It's anti-intellectualism got more fierce, and alienated all geeks already. And, of course, author fails to grasp that "right" and "left" ideologies' "ancestry" has little to do with that -- it's just both ideologies in their simplistic/extreme forms became merely shells that intellectuals grew up and abandoned.
  • Homogeniety (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilpenguin (18720) on Friday October 04, 2002 @03:46PM (#4389254)
    Since I first started reading and posting to /. I have resisted the motion that there is "a geek community." "Geek" is a person with a certain kind of interest in things scientific and technological (not necessarily in that order). Beyond that, in my experience it is as varied and diverse a collection of individuals as you could hope to find.

    Look at any issue of politics that arises in this forum. I see plenty of my fellow "tax-and-spend" liberals and hordes of reactionary libertarians. Hardly a herd of like-thinkers. Look the the flamewars that emerge between Windows/Linux advicates, Linux/BSD advocates, GPL fans/GPL opponents, hell, emacs/vi. "Geeks" are not some sort of monoculture. And people who claim they speak for the "geek community" are doing so because they want to take a position in front of it. In other words, they are trying to gain power from association with a perceived collective of people.

    But we aren't a monoculture. We aren't even a culture -- we're a shared enthusiasm for techie things. There are communities within geekdom, but there isn't a single community, a single outlook, a single political stance. I'm tired of people speaking for me. This guy doesn't know me, he doesn't speak for me, and there mere accident that we might agree about one or many things does not give him license to claim my voice.
  • by rppp01 (236599)
    I always imagined Katz doing this article on /., not some guest at El Reg.

    Imagine:

    Has the day of the geek gone the way of feelings of Security Americans feel on their home soil? As we survey the post-columbine waste land that is the New Order of the world, we find that more and more, geeks are losing touch with their roots. Gone are the days of vi versus emacs, while now we stand upon the precipice of disorder over the the likes of the DMCA and DRM. Why is our beloved order of geekdom crumbling around us? Has September 11th ripped our geek hearts and souls out, as Columbine did previously. Please read on as I follow the path of the Ruination of Geeks in HellMonth PI: Tragedy over X vs Windows.

    sigh, I miss Katz.
  • The Tron Metaphor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by condour75 (452029)
    What follows is not necessarily true, but a fun way to think about things. Sweeping generalizations here we come!

    There's Alans and there's Flynns.

    The Alans of the world go to a nice, salaried job and have a professional background in Windows APIs, C#, .net. But many of them also share mp3s and might have some personal doubts about Microsoft's hegemony, the RIAA, et al. Most dislike AOL, and all tend to have to fix family and friends' computers. Some of them even run a linux box at home.

    Then there's the Flynns, the guys deeply devoted to the Gnustic mysteries. These guys have good weed, a prodigious mp3 collection, and know every nook and cranny of their /etc/ directory. They tend to be freelance, and find the idea of certification a bit silly. Most hate the notion of DRM, although some may secretly welcome the challenge of breaking new copy protection schemes.

    Many of us fall somewhere on this spectrum. But the future of the system depends on how they work together to fight Dillinger and the MCP. Some Alans will join the dark side. But not all by a long shot, because the limitations imposed on systems by things like the DMCA or (god forbid) palladium run counter to the needs of the Users. And we all believe in the Users, don't we?
  • I just tripped over some cat5. I can't wait to get wireless.
  • What Tom describes is a community with a set of beliefs that's coherent enough to build an effective political advocacy group around, the main ingredient that's lacking now is a single individual or small group willing to put up the startup capital.

    Without the kind of consensus Tom complains about, the possibility to organize to achieve our goals in the political arena simply would not exist.

    As for his complaints about our community losing its purity because we've been forced to take a interest in politics, I could say historically that political newsgroups were among the first things to appear on Usenet. But the fact of the matter is, that the integrity of our computer networks now depends just as much on what the politicians will let us do legally as on our technological skills.

    In the case of the DMCA, if vendors use it to suppress information about exploits and don't bother to patch, the bad guys get to hammer us and we don't get to figure out why.

    If we want to be free to use our own computers as we will, not as a Hollywood content provider community incapable of securing their own Website dictates, we don't have a lot of choice about getting political.

  • It seems to me that the "monoculture" of geekdom that this article refers to is nothing more than a reaction to the forces working against the common geek principles. Though we may have our differences, we see common threats to our ways of life and so we let a lot of our points of contention slide away because there are bigger things at stake. Where the outside world doesn't pry at us we have plenty of contention such as:
    -emacs vs. vi
    -liux distro A vs. linux distro B
    -bsd vs. linux

    We have no end of things to argue about amongst ourselves. The monoculture this article speaks about has mostly to do with how technology has become more a part of mainstream culture and thus drawn the interest of powers that have not normally cared about what us geeks were doing. Most of us stand against the MPAA and the RIAA, etc, because we see them trying to limit what we as geeks have always been able to do. We all want to have the freedom to do what we want with our toys and we don't take kindly to people messing with that freedom.
  • in '80s it was anthony michael hall in sixteen candles. social outcast. young. obsessive behavior. not getting anything in the bedroom.

    in the '90s geek became bill gates (yeah, i know it's ironic anthony michael hall played bill gates in that tv docupic opposite noah wiley's steve jobs). rich. older. strictly technology-associated and more specifically computer-associated. probably getting something in the bedroom now. ;-P

    i wonder what the meaning of geek will be in the '00s? either way, it drifts further away from what i think it should be.

    i like the japanese word "otaku".

    otaku carries all the obsessive weight of the american geek, but overemphasizes the social outcast part, and certainly none of the technophillic rich part. maybe we should disregard the waterdowned term geek in a world where business school dot com scammers could don the adjective in the late '90s to give them some sort of retrohip social cachet.

    face it folks. the word "geek" is dead. real geeks should abandon the term.

    from now on, refer to me as otaku.

    please note, the word otaku must loose an association with a scary underside [geocities.com] first though.

    here are some sites which i guess could define obessive "otaku" best ;-P

    car otaku [metropolis.co.jp]

    anime otaku [umbc.edu]

    fish otaku!? [dti.ne.jp]

    etc...

    The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age's embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today's interface of British and Japanese cultures. I see it in the eyes of the Portobello dealers, and in the eyes of the Japanese collectors: a perfectly calm train-spotter frenzy, murderous and sublime. Understanding otaku-hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the web. There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the post-modern world, whether we want to be or not.

    -William Gibson

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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