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How To Be A Geek Goddess 349

Posted by samzenpus
from the Ramia-goddess-of-corn-chips-power-strips-and-motherboards dept.
stoolpigeon writes "The geek world is dominated by those of the male persuasion. For those of us working in a technology related field, or who spend a considerable amount of time pursuing high tech leisure, we usually find women to be in the minority. I've seen considerable discussion over the years on how to change this imbalance but I think it is safe to say that right now that it remains. Many women are interested in using technology, they just don't want to dive in to quite the same depth. Or they may not be interested in the way most men approach it. Columnist and tech-writer Christina Tynan-Wood has attempted to come to their rescue with her book How To Be A Geek Goddess." Read below for the rest of JR's review.
How To Be A Geek Goddess
author Christina Tynan-Wood
pages 343
publisher No Starch Press
rating 7/10
reviewer JR Peck
ISBN 978-1-59327-187-9
summary Practical advice for using computers with smarts and style.
I have to say that the title misled me. I picked this book up thinking that it would be perfect for my wife. I wouldn't call her a geek, she doesn't have the same passion for working with tech stuff that I have. But she is knowledgeable and knows quite a bit more about IT than many of my guy friends. She is very comfortable working with vi and has written a decent amount of C over the years for various embedded shops. Unfortunately she found the book to be overly basic and wasn't too interested. This book is about becoming conversant in the very basics, explained with an attempt to frame everything in terms of a woman's perspective. So if you are a woman who is already very comfortable in the IT space, or if you are thinking of buying this for someone like that, you may want to dig through a copy and see if it will be useful. My guess is that it wont.

The other group that may still find this book to be useful, but to a lesser degree than they may like is anyone using any operating system other than windows. The first chapter, which discusses how to purchase a computer frames the operating systems question as "Apple or Windows?" There is no mention of any other option. As far as the options given, the author lands pretty firmly on the side of Microsoft and so when platform plays a role in topics covered later in the book it is pretty much from a Windows perspective. There are plenty of topics covered that are not really OS dependent, such as anything web related (which is a lot of the book) or the non-computer sections covering hardware like digital cameras, monitors and PDAs.

Someone who is an avid computer user and die hard fan of Linux or Apple systems may look at what I've just said and decide that this book is completely useless. And for them that is going to pretty much be the case. That leaves the question of who could use this book. It is quite possible that this could be an absolute God-send to someone who is just about computer illiterate and quite content to stay on the dominant platform of the day. By extension this could become a useful tool for the true Geek that wants off the support treadmill.

There are probably some out there who are really tired of answering questions about what type of PC to buy. Or having to drop by a relative or friend's house to set up wireless or the new printer. It could even be worse, being dragged into Frys Electronics or Best Buy and participating in purchasing a new Vista machine. The solution to busting out of that cycle could be handing over a copy of this book, and if it brings true freedom it could be worth every penny.

The topics covered in the book are dressed up in analogies to what may be considered more traditional female fare. If you find this to be bothersome, don't blame me, I'm just the messenger. Tynan-Wood discusses for instance, building a software "wardrobe." And I'd like to note that within the Windows space she does offer up many free (as in speech and beer) applications including the likes of The Gimp, Pidgin and Audacity. Tech accessories are handled in a section on "The Lust for Luxury Gear". Setting up a new system and getting things dialed in is part of the "housebreaking" process. In fact if you've ever flipped through an issue of Cosmo or Vogue, you should have a decent idea of the tone and style of discourse in this book.

All of the basics are covered including setting up a home network and how to set up proper security. Each section gives basic and practical advice on making decisions on hardware and software, almost always offering multiple options. And while the packaging is different than anything I've ever seen in a tech book, the underlying information is the same. Someone who reads this through will come away knowing the difference between adware, spyware and viruses as well as what a botnet is.

Dispersed amongst the regular text, which is accompanied by many black and white illustrations, are little "Dear Abby" type questions and their accompanying response. These give a good insight into the level of reader the book aims to help. One question answered is the following, "When my sister-in-law emails me files, the filenames always have three letters at the end that mean nothing to me. Files on my own computer don't seem to have them, so I thought it was one of her crazy systems. I deleted the letters and gave the files names I liked. Oops. You are probably laughing at me because I obviously did something stupid. Now my computer can't open any of those files. It gave me a good excuse not to read her novel or look at 2,000 blurry vacation photos but what did I do wrong?" The answer goes on to explain file types, extensions and some basics on managing them in windows.

Along with covering how to purchase and set up hardware the book covers the same for software. There is also information on security, not just local but also how to think about safely navigating the web and what is available there. The last two sections cover the social web and relationships on line, with everything from dating sites to cyber sex. There is also an entire section on watching over children and helping them to use computers safely.

The information is accurate and covers the basics very well, within the parameters I've described above. For the proverbial grandmother or mom at home, this book is probably going to give them all they need and probably just a touch more than they may want. I guess that is the bottom line. I think this book will give a novice a strong sense of confidence and independence. I am sure there are women out there who don't want to rely on anyone else to help them with computer issues but they don't want to really dig deep into highly technical information. This may be exactly what they need.

On the other hand, and I guess this comes from my more cynical side, I've dealt with plenty of men and women who don't know much about computers and they don't want to know. They seem to revel in their ignorance and are quite happy to just rely on others to keep things working for them. Unfortunately I am unaware of any way to make them read this or to make the information their own. Reading books to learn tends to fall into a geek category of its own. Until there actually is a series on this in Cosmo or they find a way to fit into American Idol or something, there will still probably be those who call on us to take care of their gear.

All that said, sometimes I forget that I'm a statistical anomaly. Most people don't run Linux, or OS X for that matter. Even more could care less about why they difference between ogg and mp3. For that mass of folks out there, especially the women, this may be the only computer book they ever find interesting. Someone like that would probably rate it a ten. I found the focus too narrow and the title set up expectations I didn't think it met so I've knocked it down to seven.

You can purchase How To Be A Geek Goddess from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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How To Be A Geek Goddess

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  • Simple (Score:5, Funny)

    by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:08PM (#26984197)
    1. Be a woman. 2. ?????? 3. Profit!
  • Well, duh. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:09PM (#26984213)

    All that said, sometimes I forget that I'm a statistical anomaly. Most people don't run Linux, or OS X for that matter. Even more could care less about why they difference between ogg and mp3. For that mass of folks out there, especially the women, this may be the only computer book they ever find interesting. Someone like that would probably rate it a ten. I found the focus too narrow and the title set up expectations I didn't think it met so I've knocked it down to seven.

    I think it's safe to say that you're not the book's target audience.

    For one thing, I'm assuming you're male.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stoolpigeon (454276) *

      I am a guy and my wife laughed at me every time she'd walk by when I was reading it. But if I wasn't clear - the book's title led me to believe the book was about a how a female geek could become more of a geek - instead it was how women who aren't geeks at all can get along using modern tech primarily in the pc realm.

  • by olddotter (638430) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:09PM (#26984215) Homepage
    I think she passed that class with flying colors.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tulcod (1056476)

      Well, unfortunately, that goes for a lot of books.

      However, I indeed expected a bit more, reading the book's title. But I guess you can't really tell someone to become a geek, just like you can't just tell a scientist to become a christian/muslim/pastafarian.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Thelasko (1196535)
      I think when all of us read the title, we imagined Abby from NCIS. [wikipedia.org] Upon discovering what the book was really about, we were disappointed.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Hybrid-brain (1478551)

        I think when all of us read the title, we imagined Abby from NCIS. [wikipedia.org] Upon discovering what the book was really about, we were disappointed.

        I think most geek/nerd guys dream date would be Abby. Present company excluded. She's a great woman..........just slightly hyper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SDF-7 (556604)

      I think she passed that class with flying colors.

      I must have been reading /. too long... I first read that as flying chairs.

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:11PM (#26984259) Homepage

    Many women are interested in using technology, they just don't want to dive in to quite the same depth.

    When it comes to technology you have to be balls deep.

    • by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:21PM (#26984411)

      Many women are interested in using technology, they just don't want to dive in to quite the same depth.

      When it comes to technology you have to be balls deep.

      Joking aside (nice one, though), you make a very good point. That was the one part of the article that struck me regardless of gender. This is why we even have different levels of geeks (from script kiddie to Ubergeek). It's all a matter of dedication and passion.

      That being said, perhaps there is a parallel between the gender dominance and the dedication and passion it takes. I'm not saying that women don't have the dedication and passion, but true Ubergeeks tend to sacrifice a lot (like a social life and even personal grooming habits to varying degrees) to get to and stay on top of their game.

      • by bjourne (1034822)

        I used to think that too. Most women are not interested in technology but they could be as good at it that the most talented (male) hackers are. But there are six billion people in this world and I can't think of a single open source project headed by a female programmer. Not even seem a female patch contributor (but pseudonyms makes it hard sometimes). I have never personally met a female programmer that was above average. The best female programmers didn't even play in the same division as the good male o

        • by cecille (583022)
          The thing with usernames though, is that you really DON'T know. Hell, one of the usernames I use is gender-specific (ends in "girl") and people still assume I'm male.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by CyradisNYC (1141143)
        Does being at the top of the geek game seriously require the lack of a 15 minute shower or a 10 minute trip to the washer/dryer for laundry? Isn't there some sort of larger personality issue involved there?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by wipeMyButt (1411817)

        (like a social life and even personal grooming habits to varying degrees)

        Oh c'mon... most ubergeeks are willing to sacrifice WAY more than that. Hell, I don't think those are even considered sacrifices.

    • From what I understand about my ex-wife, that would be up to her chin.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:13PM (#26984291)

    Tell her all she really needs is a Princess Leia slave garb costume; Every geek will drool.

  • With the exception of appealing to a potential silicon valley soon to be millionaire why would a woman desire to appeal to a geeks nature ?

    I'm gonna get so killed for this, but one of the reason geeks are geeks is because there social ineptness allows for incredible amounts of free time to work on stuff like Linux ? or hacking my iPhone.

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:17PM (#26984341) Journal

      Three words:
      Low. Hanging. Fruit.

    • by furby076 (1461805)

      allows for incredible amounts of free time to work on stuff like Linux ? or hacking my iPhone.

      I see where you're going with this. You're trying to get one of the /. geeks to hack your phone for you. Well-played young man well-played.

    • by Synn (6288)

      The same reason you see some girls in male dominated sports, they like to be around areas where there's so few girls that the ones there get a lot of attention from the guys.

      Be a cute girl. Go to a comic book convention. Bask in the attention.

  • How awful (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fallingcow (213461) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:15PM (#26984317) Homepage

    Sounds miss-titled. Looks like it's relying on trendy, targeted marketing for sales. Possibly a bit insulting. Wouldn't buy it for anyone whose intelligence I respected.

  • Seven or Ten? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:22PM (#26984433)

    For that mass of folks out there, especially the women, this may be the only computer book they ever find interesting. Someone like that would probably rate it a ten. I found the focus too narrow and the title set up expectations I didn't think it met so I've knocked it down to seven.

    If you found the focus to narrow, does the book claim to cover more ground? If not, then that issue can simply be explained by the fact that you are not their targeted audience. If you think that the title set up certain expectations, it is simply a case of you judging the book by its cover. That you are not their intended audience is not any fault of the book, if they did not claim that you are their intended audience.

    If you think it's a 10 for their intended audience, then rate it a 10, with the caveat that the book has a specific type of audience in mind (which you have done very well throughout the review). I just don't see why you would possibly lower its rating simply because you are not their target audience.

  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:28PM (#26984499)
    Well first Zeus needs to transform himself into an animal like a swan, or a bull, and then he seduces some comely greek lass (hopefully a goddess in her own right) and impregnates her, and if you're lucky then the offspring (you) will be a female and of a goddess type rather than a mere mortal. Of course, Aphrodite was born because Cronus cut off Ouranos' genitals and threw them into the sea. The genitals floated around in the sea for a long time turned into Aphrodite, so that's another way to be a greek goddess. Oh, and there's Hera who was eaten by her father because he thought one of his children would betray him. Luckily for her Rhia gave him some herbs that made him barf. I suppose that's better than the "floating genitals" method of conception though...

    Oh wait... that title doesn't say greek does it? Nevermind.
  • Anonymous Coward? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:43PM (#26984671)

    About ten years ago I halted a lecture at a major physics department to haul out a post-doc cad who was dissing a female guest lecturer. She was presenting a Nobel-replacement lecture, and this dick would not shut up. You want to attract women into science, and actually see them in the halls? Shut the fuck up, and treat them with respect. They know more than you.

  • Missing the point? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CyradisNYC (1141143)
    I question the approach of books like this. The underlying assumption here, whether or not the reviewer agrees with me, is that women will use a computer differently. But from what's described, that's not what's in this book. Most people, men and women, need the exact same things out of their computer. (Internet, word processing, basic tasks--I'm not including gaming because I think most people not slashdot readers have use a X-box/Playstation/Wii for that these days.) These same people don't want to spend
  • Do your job as well as you can, and don't bring attention to the fact that you are female. They guys will know that. But bringing it up all the times makes it difficult to have a good professional relation with the other guys. Problems happened when you compensate in two ways become to passive and seem like you don't know what you are doing or too aggressive where they try to avoid you, and afraid that they will need to walk on eggshells where every decision you make needs to be second guessed. Have work wi

  • From the review it sound like it should be titled : How To Be A Geek Goddess Poser

    The description makes it sound like it is for women who aren't really interested in geeky pursuits per se, but find them selves working with/forced to socialize with geek type people. it's seems like the people this book is targeted toward are only interested in the most superficial aspects of geekdom in order to try to give the appearance of fitting in with a certain type of crowd.

  • Typically its.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:48PM (#26984739)
    Sit in front of the computer with webcam focused on cleavage
  • by Zantetsuken (935350) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:54PM (#26984815) Homepage
    I don't care what gender or race you are, you can try to act like a geek, but won't ever be one if you aren't already (in which case it's not acting) - that only puts you up against people who really are geeks/nerds/tech heads/etc and shows just how much fail you really are...
    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      Agreed. Any attempts to 'act geek' will seem trite by comparison to those of us who were nerdy before 'geek was chic'.

      Being a geek 99% of the time means enduring some sort of social torment before you can win over the rest of the mortals with your sheer genius.

    • that only puts you up against people who really are geeks/nerds/tech heads/etc and shows just how much fail you really are

      Yes, I've lost count of the number of people I've sent away crying by telling them they are NOT a geek.

  • I don't think we should worry about "gender imbalances" in different fields. We'd all like to think "IT" is special, but it's just another career. Let's level with ourselves here.

    Plus, who wants to spend long hours at work with pizza-stained unfashionable people with poor social skills under the constant fear of being outsourced to a $3/hr PhD in Timbuktu?

    Just do what you like and do it well.
           

    • by mdm-adph (1030332)

      Ah, but until we're all paid the same domestically, the complaints will continue.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      We'd all like to think "IT" is special, but it's just another career. Let's level with ourselves here.

      Except it's only recently that IT/development have become "just another career", pre-dot com it was pretty uncommon for someone to just decide to work in IT compared to the situation post-dot com where lots of suit-wearing career-bots have joined IT, thank Bob I work on a team where all the guys have beards...

      /Mikael

  • Have a genuine passion for technology.

    Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of women will naturally fail at that key point. No need to write a book that goes beyond that one requirement.

  • Finally! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Phizzle (1109923)
    Finally a book dedicated to pitching the female gender to the oversexed, jaded with female attention and amazingly discriminating world of geeks. Ummm, yay.
  • Many women are interested in using technology, they just don't want to dive in to quite the same depth. Or they may not be interested in the way most men approach it.

    Or... and I'm going out on a limb here... many women don't want men telling them what they want. "Just don't want to dive into quite the same depth"? Dear lord.

  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @03:34PM (#26985321) Homepage
    It's trendy to be a geek. I hate to say it but it's true. Perhaps it's a combination of the popularity of the internet and the fact that so many are going into things like IT and computer science, but sadly it's just not what it was. There are posers, psuedo-geeks and people who think they're a geek. I remember a time when being called a geek or a nerd was dished out as an insult and when those who were still valued the fact that they were independent of much of society which saw little value in their skills and interests.

    These days, many so-called geeks have neither a soldering iron nor a multimeter a callsign. They don't know how to operate an oscilloscope, geiger counter or compound microscope.

    The fact that you've plugged in a cat-5 cable does not make you a computer geek. Using Perl or Javascript does not make you a programmer.
  • Solution (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @03:34PM (#26985323)

    I've seen considerable discussion over the years on how to change this imbalance

    Just have a lot of geek guys read the Goddess book. Some will want to convert.

  • Almost 100 comments now and nobody's pointed out that Kim Komando [komando.com] has already claimed the title "America's Digital Goddess" [komando.com]?

    I mean it says it right on her website so it must be true.

    And no, she doesn't run Linux. She could possibly have a beowulf clustrer, though.

  • ...they just don't want to dive in to quite the same depth. Or they may not be interested in the way most men approach it.

    So... they aren't geeks. What's the problem again?
  • is to be as good with technology as a man is or better. She ought to be able to pull her own weight as anyone else can. She should not weasel her way out of work by claiming to be female and that gives her special treatment to goof off by gossiping, or calling other coworkers names, or calling the men idiots because we write code differently than she does, or cry when she does not get her way.

    A Geek Goddess should be treated as an equal to a man, there should be no gender discrimination, that is how employm

  • Rule 16 of the internet - There are NO girls on the internets.
  • by Requiem18th (742389) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @11:16PM (#26992725)

    Girls don't listen to this, just be yourselves dammit!

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson

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