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Excerpt From "Geeks" 162

If you click the read-more link below you will be treated to an excerpt from our own Jon Katz's new book Geeks. Regular readers know my aversion to paper books, but I've read this one, and it's worth your while. Katz explores Geek culture by following a couple of geek kids from Idaho to Chicago. It's a true story, and Jesse and Eric are Slashdot regulars. We don't feel right writing a review of the book since we'd be sadly biased, so read this chapter, and make up your own minds about it... but I hope you enjoy it. This is a story that I think many of us will understand.

Geek (noun) [probably from English dialect geek, geck fool, from Low German geck, from Middle Low German; First appeared 1914]: 1. a person often of an intellectual bent who is disapproved of. 2. a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake.

-Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Computer geek n. 1. One who eats (computer) bugs for a living. One who fulfills all the dreariest negative stereotypes about hackers: an asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced monomaniac with all the personality of a cheese grater. Cannot be used by outsiders without implied insult to all hackers; compare black-on-black vs. white-on-black usage of "nigger." A computer geek may be either a fundamentally clueless individual or a proto-hacker in larval stage. Also called turbo nerd, turbo geek. See also propeller head, clustergeeking, geek out, wannabee, terminal junkie, spod, weenie. 2. Some self-described computer geeks use this term in a positive sense and protest sense (this seems to have been a post-1990 development).

-Eric S. Raymond,

The New Hacker's Dictionary, third edition

Geek: A person who, for one reason or another, is considered socially unacceptable by the person speaking. A computer geek is someone who is socially inept but expert with computers. As computers become more important in the average person's life, this term becomes more often a compliment than an insult.
-Mike McConnell,

High-Tech Dictionary

Geek: Short for computer geek, an individual with a passion for computers, to the exclusion of other normal human interests. Depending on the context, it can be used in either a derogatory or affectionate manner. Basically, geek and nerd are synonymous.


Geek: Encarta Encyclopedia found no matches for: GEEK

-Microsoft Encarta Encylopedia, 1998 edition

Geek: A member of the new cultural elite, a pop-culture-loving, techno-centered Community of Social Discontents. Most geeks rose above a suffocatingly unimaginative educational system, where they were surrounded by obnoxious social values and hostile peers, to build the freest and most inventive culture on the planet: the Internet and World Wide Web. Now running the systems that run the world.

Tendency toward braininess and individuality, traits that often trigger resentment, isolation, or exclusion. Identifiable by a singular obsessiveness about the things they love, both work and play, and a well-honed sense of bitter, even savage, outsider humor. Universally suspicious of authority. In this era, the Geek Ascension, a positive, even envied term. Definitions involving chicken heads no longer apply.

-Jon Katz,

Jackson Township, New York
June 1999



WHERE DOES it begin, this sense of being the Other? It can come early on, when you find yourself alone in your childhood bedroom, raising tropical fish, composing a poem, writing code, meeting friends mostly online, playing by yourself. Or in middle school, when the jocks turn on you and you pray you will get through gym class alive.

Or maybe it comes in high school, where you find yourself on the outside looking in, getting jostled in the halls, watching TV on weekends while everyone else goes to parties.

After some time, there's an accumulation of slights, hurts, realizations: You don't have a lot of friends; other kids avoid you; you're not good at sports or interested in shopping; the teachers seem to like their other students a lot more. There are few school activities you want to be part of, even if you could. The things you like aren't the same things most other people like.

The alienation is sometimes mild, sometimes savage. Sometimes it lasts a few years, sometimes a lifetime. It depends on where you live, who your parents are, whether there's a single teacher who appreciates you, whether you can cling to one or two friends, how well you can hide your brains.

Increasingly, your lifeline is technology. Computers and the amazing power they give you-to install a new operating system, to confide in like-minded allies three time zones away, to slay tormentors on the screen even if you can't do much about the ones at school-are your passion. They give you skills and competence, or distraction and escape, or direction and stature, or all of the above.

Eventually, many of the people who call themselves geeks report a coming out, not unlike coming to terms with being gay or lesbian: a moment when you realize and acknowledge who you are and who you're never going to be.

"One day in my sophomore year," a kid named Jason e-mailed me, "I was sitting in the school cafeteria watching the kids at the other tables laugh and have fun, plotting how I was going to get home early and start playing Quake. And I suddenly got it. I was a geek. I was never going to be like them. They were never going to let me in. So I came out as a geek. . . . I can't say life has been a breeze, but after that, it was okay."

Some say they get comfortable with themselves afterward; many never do. But however long it lasts, at some point somewhere, you brush against this outsiderness-among geeks, it's the one common rite of passage. A few carry the scars around with them for good. Sometimes they hurt themselves. Sometimes-rarely-they hurt other people. But if you're lucky, you move past it, perhaps to a college where Others go. You find a community, a place where you're welcome.

For the first time, you're important, vital, on the inside; a citizen of an amazing new nation. You can instantly connect with the others like you. Being smart isn't a liability; it's usually the only thing that matters.

Whether you're a programmer or Web designer or developer, an artist, help-desk geek, or tech supporter, a filmmaker or writer, you're a part of the Geek Ascension. People need you. They hire you. They can't afford to be contemptuous. Life isn't a breeze, but it sure is different. You have an open invitation to what is, at the moment, the greatest party in the world: the Internet and the World Wide Web.


I CAME face to face with the Geek Ascension at an ugly suburban Chicago cable-TV studio on a bitter winter morning in 1996, toward the end of a contentious tour for my first nonfiction book.

Virtuous Reality was a collection of essays about kids, culture, violence, and morality, a loosely focused defense of screen culture-the Net, the Web, TV, movies-against the politicians, journalists, and academics banging the drums, then and now, about the looming collapse of civilization. It was a position, therefore, that had prompted weeks of media sparring with members of the so-called intelligentsia and representatives of groups that had decency in their titles. I was the degenerate, the anti-Christ, a champion of porn and perversion.
The tour was winding down, thankfully, when I arrived for this predawn breakfast show. There was hardly anyone in the building but the anchorman, a handful of cameramen, the control-room techs, a producer, my book-tour escort, and me. Outside, the wind was howling; my fingers, though I was gripping a cup of coffee, were numb.

Watching the monitor in the green room, I saw Brian, the anchor, launch into the by-now-familiar tease of the segment as the inevitably frenetic producer guided me through makeup, prepped me for about ninety seconds, hustled me into the studio.

"Here's an interesting point of view," I heard the anchor say cheerfully just before I walked onto the set. "A former TV producer-and a father-who says the Internet isn't a dangerous place for your kids!"
I was wearing out, worn down by weeks of arguing. I was sick of myself, of the blah-blah coming out of my interviewers' mouths and my own. I was even more sick of people like this Parents for Decency flak, on the phone from Washington, D.C., where spokesmen for decency all seem to be.

"Just last week, a nine-year-old girl was lured into a park by some pervert online and raped," she announced in professional alarm. "Is that the kind of thing Mr. Katz wants us to ignore?"

Brian appeared stunned. "That sounds awful," he said, suddenly less friendly. "What about that?"

"Brian," I snapped, "it seems so dumb for us to be sitting here in a TV studio-with all the junk that you people put on the air all day, from soap operas to freeway shootings-and have to actually argue that the Internet isn't a dangerous place. Kids are more likely to have planes fall on their heads than to get hurt on the Net."

Brian and I were both startled to hear the sound of applause coming from somewhere in the cavernous studio. Brian flushed, hesitated, then plowed on. Shocked, I looked around. Two cameramen were standing right on the studio floor clapping. So were a handful of techs inside the darkened control room, nodding at me, smiling and waving, giving me the thumbs-up, and yelping, "Yeah!" and "Awright!"

In a past life, I'd been executive producer of The CBS Morning News. I knew how CBS management-or I, for that matter-would have reacted to such an outburst. Blood would have been spilled.

In fact, Brian was livid when we went to a commercial. "The bastards, I can't believe they did that."

"Jeez," I said, still startled but pleased. "How do they get away with that? I would think they'd get fired."

"Are you kidding?" Brian muttered through gritted teeth. "We just built a new digitalized control room and automated camera system. We're still working out the bugs. How could we fire those guys? Nobody else could possibly run the damn place!"

On the way out, I stopped by the control room. Three kids were sitting at the blinking, beeping, spaceship-like console, beaming at me and high-fiving each other. They had scraggly longish hair and were wearing T-shirts-one Star Trek, one that said HACKERS DO WANT SEX! and one that really caught my attention: GEEK AND PROUD.

I made the rounds, shaking hands, collecting good wishes and slaps on the back like a candidate working the crowd. Nothing remotely like this had happened on any of my previous book tours. I liked it. "Hey thanks," I said. "I appreciate that. I hope you don't get in trouble."

The three of them snorted. "Hey, no sweat," one answered. "We're safe in here, man. There are a hundred pretty-boy anchors they could hire. And they change general managers every other month. But we've been here for two years. We set this control room up. The cameras, graphics, and commercial scripts are fully computerized, all digitalized. We worked up the programs that run the studio. We are the only irreplaceable people in the building. Welcome to the geek kingdom."

During the tour, I'd been filing daily Virtuous Reality book tour reports to Hotwired, the website I wrote for. Readers followed my travels, critiqued my press interviews, showed up at book signings, called in to chat on talk shows. So I reported my encounter with the control-room crew in a column headlined "The Rise of the Geeks." The next day, I had hundreds of e-mail messages from people all over the country, proudly claiming the name for themselves.

It was eye-opening. The definition of "geek" no longer had anything to do with biting the heads off chickens. These self-proclaimed geeks invited me to visit their offices, studios, and homes. "We run the systems that run the world," one e-mailed me from New York. "Until recently, most CEOs wouldn't have let us in the door. Now we sit next to the CEOs. We are the only people who know how the place operates, how to retrieve files, how to keep the neural systems running. We are the indispensables."

I'd been inducted, suddenly, into a previously secret society. Wherever I went-Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, radio stations in L.A. and San Francisco-these mostly young men in T-shirts, more secure and cheerful than almost everybody around them, came up and introduced themselves, patted me on the back, offered to take me out for pizza, warned me about nasty anchors and interviewers. They were all walking billboards for Star Wars, various ISPs, Beavis and Butt-Head, diverse websites and computer games.

As I learned more, I wrote several additional Hotwired columns about geekhood, and e-mail responses poured in by the metric ton. They flowed in for months. I'm still getting them.

THEIRS IS an accidental empire. Almost no one foresaw the explosion of the Internet or its mushrooming importance. "The Internet's pace of adoption eclipses all other technologies that preceded it," a U.S. Commerce Department report declared in 1998. "Radio was in existence thirty-eight years before fifty million people tuned in; TV took thirteen years to reach that benchmark. Sixteen years after the first PC [personal computer] kit came out, fifty million people were using one. Once it was opened to the general public, the Internet crossed that line in four years." Although most Americans had never even heard the term a generation ago, the United States will have more than 133 million Net users this year, according to the Computer Industry Almanac.

Historians can point to other periods of astonishing technological upheaval-the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution-but they're hard pressed to find a similar convergence of a particular subculture and an explosive economic boom. Tech industries are growing so quickly that almost anything you publish about them is instantly dated. A finding like the American Electronics Association's 1997 estimate that the U.S. high-tech industry employed 4.3 million workers is inaccurate as this is being written and will be more inaccurate when it's read.

But the sense of limitless prospects for geeks is confirmed by the job market itself. At the beginning of 1998, the Commerce Department reported that about 190,000 U.S. information technology jobs were going begging at any given time, and that close to 100,000 new ones would be created annually for the next decade. The three fastest-growing occupations over the next several years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics added, will be computer scientists (who can work as theorists, researchers, or inventors), computer engineers (who work with the hardware or software of systems design and development, including programming or networking), and systems analysts (who solve specific computer problems, and adapt systems to individual and or corporate needs).

Geeks, then, are literally building the new global economy, constructing and expanding the Internet and the World Wide Web as well as maintaining it. They're paid well for their skills: Starting salaries for college grads with computer degrees average $35,000 to $40,000, says the National Association of Colleges and Employers, but the demand is so intense that many geeks forego or abandon college. Elite geek-incubators like Caltech, Stanford, and MIT complain that some of their best students abandon graduate school for lucrative positions in technology industries. Top-tier recruits not only command high salaries, but the prospect of stock-option wealth before they're thirty.

A society that desperately needs geeks, however, does not have to like them. In fact geeks and their handiwork generate considerable wariness and mistrust. Historians of technology like Langdon Winner have written that throughout history, widespread unease about science and technology has amounted almost to a religious upheaval.

Notice the moral outrage present in so much contemporary media coverage and political criticism of technology. Critics lambaste overdoses of TV-watching, violent video games, and porn on the Net; they warn of online thieves, perverts, vandals, and hate-mongers; they call for V-chips, blocking and filtering software, elaborate ratings systems. They even want the Ten Commandments posted, like reassuring sprigs of wolfbane, in public schools.

If we are outraged and frightened by the spread of new technology, how are we supposed to feel about the new techno-elite busily making it all possible? "Why do I get this feeling that they-all of them, politicians, teachers, bosses-hate us more than ever?"

e-mailed Rocket Roger in the week after the Columbine High School tragedy.

Not surprisingly, geeks can harbor a xenophobic streak of their own. Geeks often see the workplace, and the world, as split into two camps-those who get it and those who don't. The latter are usually derided as clueless "suits," irritating obstacles to efficiency and technological progress. "We make the systems that the suits screw up," is how one geek described this conflict.

The suits, in turn, view geeks as antisocial, unpredictable, and difficult, though they need them too badly to do much about it. They resent the way geeks' strong bargaining power exempts them from having to mainstream, to "grow up," the way previous generations did when they entered the workforce.

Why shouldn't they have autonomy and power? geeks respond; they can be unnervingly arrogant. Geeks know a lot of things most people don't know and can do things most people are only beginning to understand.

Until now, nerds and geeks (and their more conventional predecessors, the engineers), marginalized as unglamorous, have never had great status or influence. But the Internet is the hottest and hippest place in American culture, and the whole notion of outsiderness has been up-ended in a world where geeks are uniquely-and often solely-qualified to operate the most complex and vital systems, and where the demand for their work will greatly exceed their ability to fulfill it for years to come.

For the first time ever, it's a great time to be a geek.


WHAT, EXACTLY, is a geek?

After years of trying to grapple with the question, I still find it largely unanswerable. Continually meeting and corresponding with geeks has made my idea broader than the stereotype of the asocial, techno-obsessed loner.

For one thing, you can hardly be a geek all by yourself. The online world is one giant community comprised of hundreds of thousands of smaller ones, all involving connections to other people. The geekiest hangouts on the Net and Web-the open source and free software movement sites-are vast, hivelike communities of worker geeks patching together cheap and efficient new software that they distribute freely and generously to one another. That's not something loners could or would do.

In fact, the word "geek" is growing so inclusive as to be practically undefinable. I've met skinny and fat geeks, awkward and charming ones, cheerful and grumpy ones-but never a dumb one.

Still, in the narrowest sense, a contemporary geek is a computer-centered obsessive, one of the legions building the infrastructure of the Net and its related programs and systems. Geeks are at its white-hot epicenter.

Beyond them are the brainy, single-minded outsiders drawn to a wide range of creative pursuits-from raves to Japanese animation-who live beyond the contented or constrained mainstream and find passion and joy in what they do. Sometimes they feel like and call themselves geeks.

The truth is, geeks aren't like other people. They've grown up in the freest media environment ever. They talk openly about sex and politics, debate the future of technology, dump on revered leaders, challenge the existence of God, and are viscerally libertarian. They defy government, business, or any other institution to shut down their freewheeling culture.

And how could anyone? Ideas are free, literally and figuratively. Geeks download software, movies, and music without charge; they never pay for news or information; they swap and barter. Increasingly, they live in a digital world, one much more compelling than the one that has rejected or marginalized them. Being online has liberated them in stunning ways. Looks don't matter online. Neither does race, the number of degrees one has or doesn't have, or the cadence of speech. Ideas and personalities, presented in their purest sense, have a different dimension.

Geeks know-perhaps better than anyone-that computers aren't a substitute for human contact, for family and friends, for neighborhoods and restaurants and theaters. But cyberspace is a world, albeit a virtual one. Contact and community mean somewhat different things there, but they are real nonetheless.

THE ROOTS of the term are important. At the turn of the century, "geek" had a very particular meaning-geeks were the destitute nomads who bit the heads off chickens and rats at circuses and carnivals in exchange for food or a place to sleep.

For nearly seventy years, the term was unambiguously derisive, expanding to label freaks, oddballs, anyone distinctly nonconformist or strange.

But in the 1980s, a number of sometimes outcast or persecuted social groups in America-blacks, gays, women, nerds-began practicing language inversion as a self-defense measure. They adopted the most hateful words used against them as a badge of pride.

Rappers began singing about "niggas" and gay activists started calling themselves "queers." A motorcycle group called Dykes on Bikes roared proudly at the head of gay pride parades. Young women invoked "grrrl" power. The noxious terms became the coolest-a cultural trick that, for their targets, seemed to remove the words' painful sting. Similarly, as hacker and writer Eric Raymond suggests, in the nineties the word "geek" evoked newer, more positive qualities.

As the Internet began to expand beyond its early cadre of hackers, some like-minded tenants in Santa Cruz, Austin, San Francisco, and Ann Arbor began dubbing their communal homes "geek houses." Formed at a time when the wide-bandwidth phone lines necessary to explore the Net were expensive and rare, these enclaves became techno-communities, sharing sometimes pirated T-1 lines and other requirements. The bright students they attracted used technology not to isolate themselves, as media stereotypes would have it, but to make connections.

The geek houses didn't last long. Faster and cheaper modems, ISDN and T-1 lines and other useful developments for data transmission became ubiquitous, spread to offices and university campuses, and made techno-communities almost instantly obsolete.

But the term kept spreading, picked up by the smart, obsessive, intensely focused people working to build the Internet and the World Wide Web-programmers, gamers, developers, and designers-and by their consumers and allies beyond. Geek chic-black-rimmed glasses, for instance-became a fashion trend. Bill Gates was a corporate geek, a category inconceivable a decade earlier, and no one was laughing. As the Web became culturally trendy, the image of its pale and asocial founders faded. Now it's amusing to see the term "geek" springing up almost everywhere-on TV shows (you know you've arrived when a network launches a primetime series called Freaks and Geeks), in advertising, on T-shirts and baseball caps. And appropriated by people who wouldn't have given a real geek the time of day just a few years ago.

People e-mail me all the time asking if they are geeks.
In this culture, I figure people have the right to name themselves; if you feel like a geek, you are one. But there are some clues: You are online a good part of the time. You feel a personal connection with technology, less its mechanics than its applications and consequences. You're a fan of The Simpsons and The Matrix. You saw Phantom Menace opening weekend despite the hype and despite Jar Jar. You are obsessive about pop culture, which is what you talk about with your friends or coworkers every Monday.

You don't like being told what to do, authority being a force you see as not generally on your side. Life began for you when you got out of high school, which, more likely than not, was a profoundly painful experience. You didn't go to the prom, or if you did, you certainly didn't feel comfortable there. Maybe your parents helped you get through, maybe a teacher or a soulmate.

Now, you zone out on your work. You solve problems and puzzles. You love to create things just for the kick of it. Even though you're indispensable to the company that's hired you, it's almost impossible to imagine yourself running it. You may have power of your own now-a family, money-yet you see yourself as one who never quite fits in. In many ways, geekdom is a state of mind, a sense of yourself in relation to the world that's not easily rewritten.


PONDERING GEEKNESS and its meaning, I made an excursion to Berkeley last year to put the question to somebody I trusted to know: Louis Rossetto, founder of Wired magazine.

The trip was a pilgrimage and an excuse. Louis was a geek in every sense of the word as I understood it, although not without his considerable contradictions: He lived and worked outside the mainstream, eschewed suits and "suits," was short on patience and social skills but passionate about the power of digital technology to reshape the world. I had written for Louis for five happy years, until he lost control of his magazine in a bitter financial wrangle and Wired was acquired by the Condé Nast Publishing Group.

I met him in the early nineties when I was media critic for Rolling Stone and got an unexpected e-mail: Louis was coming to New York on a business trip and invited me to dinner. There was no small talk of any sort in the message, no chat, no preamble. What he sent was a long and thoughtful invitation to write for Wired-a summons, really-accompanied by a wonderful screed about the Internet blasting away corrupt Eastern media institutions and replacing them with a new culture in which nothing would be the same-not words, images, businesses, or institutions.

A few years earlier, Louis had come out of nowhere-Amsterdam, in fact-to peddle his notion for a magazine about the computer culture. In Europe, he'd published a forerunner, a magazine called Language Technology that then became Electric Word. Now he thought America was ripe for such a publication, an idea almost universally rejected until Wired eventually made its debut and hit the magazine industry like a nuke.

Our dinner, Louis proposed, would take place at a coffee shop on Eighth Avenue. This was a surprise; media moguls that I'd dined with usually preferred Orso or, if truly anxious to signal their importance, had sandwiches brought into the office. I e-mailed somebody I knew at Wired to ask what Louis was like.

"Well," my friend replied, "we just had our annual Election Day meeting in which Louis calls the whole staff together and urges us all not to vote, so that we won't be supporting a useless, outdated, two-party political system."

I fell in love.

When I bought some copies of the magazine, I was further mesmerized. The cover was a luminous orange; some strange purple graphic blotted out most of the text on the contents page; and an incomprehensible quote about the future was sprawled across a staggeringly expensive four-page color spread up front.

Everyone I knew in New York, including editors at Rolling Stone, New York, and GQ, jeered at Wired. It was ugly. It was silly. It was, well, geeky. And doomed. Computers would never grow much beyond a small group of nerds.

The middle-class, whose dollars advertisers lusted for, would never embrace computers; thus nobody would ever make money with a computer magazine. Kids would never read it. Or, only kids would read it. It was incomprehensible, indulgent crap. The Net was a fringe medium, a toy, a fad. Wired was a brutal rebuke to the ingrown, narcissistic media culture of New York, where no story could be more important or interesting than the people who covered it.

Inside Wired, the stories were text-heavy and surprising, sometimes brilliant features about the wiring of the world, sometimes rambling manifestos about how the Internet would one day transform all of civilization.

The magazine violated every publishing precept and was almost immediately ragingly successful. It launched a counterculture that elbowed the increasingly resentful rock-and-rolling baby boomers aside for good and created a parallel nation, almost entirely constructed and inhabited by the people called geeks.

Intrigued, I sat in a Greek coffee shop and watched the door for the arrival of a man who had described himself as pale, skinny, and rumpled. A half hour or so after the appointed time, a pale, skinny, and rumpled man wearing a worn black sweatshirt that said Wired in barely visible letters, with the hood up over his head, came in and scanned the tables. My first thought was that this was the Unabomber; he rather resembled the hooded visage on the "wanted" posters being circulated by the FBI.

Louis sat down and ordered some tea. He wasn't hungry.

He talked like a Trotskyite, all fierce idealism, taking off on amazing riffs about history and politics, but also making it clear that he wanted to make a lot of money. He imagined a Wired media empire that would trumpet news of the coming revolution all over the world. For some reason, he took it as a given that I was potentially a kindred spirit who just didn't get it-yet.

He wanted the old media, which he reviled and castigated continuously, to love Wired and appreciate what he had done. (He was always astonished and hurt when they didn't.) He hated Wall Street; he wanted Wall Street to give him money. He had sometimes brilliant, sometimes barely fathomable visions for the future. Some of them came to pass.

A radical, even a revolutionary, it was easy to picture Louis tossing bricks outside the Bastille or running through the streets of Moscow with the Cossacks in hot pursuit. Yet he was approachable, too, at least if he found you interesting. If he didn't, he wasted no time in letting you know it.

The news about computers, he announced, wasn't about money, but ideas-how they could be manipulated, reproduced, stored, represented, combined, and connected. Computers and the Net would transform everything; nobody and no institution would remain untouched-not scientists, academics, artists, politicians, journalists, homemakers, doctors, lawyers, or schoolkids. Computing was no longer the sole province of nerds and engineers but also the new locus of creative people-poets, painters, novelists, critics. These, he said, were the geeks. It was probably the first time I remember hearing the word outside the context of freaks and carnivals, and I was momentarily startled. But it was just a word, a passing reference, and it didn't surface again for a while.

Computing had always been seen as a scientific process, Louis went on, but that was shortsighted. Networked computers were a medium, a world, a nation even-a new thing, a new method, a new process. Imagine words and images as fluid, mutable, nonlinear; all broken down into data, bits, atoms; all transmitted freely around the world to anyone with the right machine.

He pulled out several articles, some reprints of Net writings, early copies and prototypes of Wired and tossed them all at me. He peppered me with questions, harangued me with diatribes. I'd rarely met a magazine editor with such raw enthusiasm; the ones I knew tended to talk about marketing plans and demographics.

We talked about the Net and about Louis's idea of a civil society. We talked about Elvis and Thomas Paine. One thing you can be sure of, he told me, as he picked up the check before I had finished eating: the media I'd worked in were done, over. Newspapers were tired, stuffy, aging. Network TV was finished. The slick magazines, all of which featured the same celebrities on the same covers, were dinosaurs. None of them had anything to say to the young, to the future.

Was I coming or not? he asked abruptly.

Where? I stammered, thinking for a second that he meant San Francisco.

"Along," he said.


Good, he said, because otherwise, a media critic like me would soon have nothing to write about.

He tossed his backpack over his shoulder and got up. He was sorry he had to go, he said, but he had to get up early the next morning to get out to Bell Labs in New Jersey. They were doing a lot of neat stuff.

For the next few years, I had more fun than I'd ever had in my life writing for Wired, then for its website Hotwired as well.
In stunning contrast to the from-the-top-down world of Eastern media, where publishers and editors huddle constantly to decide what they want writers to write, Louis was a profoundly libertarian, if undisciplined, editorial genius. He overreached, alienated, and offended. But he also captured and advanced a revolutionary culture.

What happened to Wired was almost mythical, of course, following the inexorable march of modern American capitalism and its Darwinian laws. Louis overextended his revolution. After building the magazine, he hired platoons of brilliant geeks to develop the ambitious and expensive Hotwired. He launched British and Japanese editions of the magazine, followed by a book-publishing division and an ill-fated and short-lived TV show.

In July 1996, Wired offered its stock to Wall Street. The IPO failed to attract enough investors, and was withdrawn. The company that had defined the digital revolution so spectacularly was firmly rebuffed by the existing order. And the man who had helped spark the revolution was soon back on the outside-the traditional geek fate. Louis eventually lost control of everything in the Wired empire and retreated to the Berkeley Hills with his wife, Wired publisher Jane Metcalfe, where, in the next few years they had two children, Zoe and Orson.

Louis and I stayed in touch via e-mail. We never talked about the financial or legal maneuverings, but it was clear he was devastated by the loss of Wired, uncharacteristically depressed, in pain, uncertain about what to do next.

Condé Nast, the publisher of slick, sweet-smelling magazines like Glamour and Details, quickly purged Wired of the ideas, arguments, and rhetoric that had been the hallmarks of Louis and his strange band of cyber-theorists. If the new Wired was intelligent and professional, it also seemed bland, focused on celebrity, business, and machinery. It became the very kind of medium that Louis had always railed against. Not long afterward, Hotwired was also sold off, to the Net company Lycos.

I'd retreated back to Rolling Stone before Wired's new editors had a chance to toss me out, which they clearly were eager to do. Louis had e-mailed me his regrets when he'd heard I'd left.

Publicly, he had vanished, at least in the media sense. He was rumored to be involved in the legal and financial maneuverings over the sale of the magazine. He had refused to say anything to the press.

I felt almost superstitious about not starting this book without his input and his blessing, however. Though he'd hardly given an interview since his retreat, he agreed to see me and e-mailed elaborate directions to his house.

Louis's aerie proved accessible only by footpath. His son, Orson, was running around with his nanny, while workmen banged and hammered at the residence, which hung above San Francisco Bay. Louis made a cup of tea, then sat down on a couch.

He looked fit, but saddened, the pain visible in his eyes. But he was warm and welcoming. When I told him about my book and asked how he defined a geek, he grew instantly animated, leaning forward and waving his hands as he always did when captivated by an idea.

My own sense of a geek, I prompted, centered around the idea of alienation. That was part of what fascinated me, not the technology, but the seemingly common experience of life outside the mainstream, life with resentment and some pain. It seemed a thread linking the residents of the burgeoning Geek Kingdom.

Louis had little time for emotional deconstruction. Alienation was part of life for him and people like him, the ticket you paid to get in, neither surprising nor, to him, particularly interesting.

Class used to be about race, gender, social standing-old ideas, he said. Geeks were involved with the new ones. "The new cultural class has no physical demands or restrictions," he said. "There are music geeks and dance geeks. Geekdom is evolving. Anybody who is obsessed with a topic and becomes completely one with it . . . whether it's computers, music, or art-geeks come into that. Geeks is sometimes about technology but mostly, it's about brains, and about being resented for being smart."

He told me a story about the first time he met Bill Atkinson, "one of the people who worked on the Macintosh with Steve Jobs back at the beginning. He engineered the interface. I met him in Amsterdam when he was going around promoting a new Apple product called Hypercard. After our interview, we went out to the center of town, where we sat at a street café and watched the amazing people go by. He'd never been to Amsterdam before.

"He was there with a colleague, another nerd. And suddenly they started talking about calling home to find out what was on Star Trek; the first episode of the second series was debuting that night. And it struck me: these guys don't just make technology because they're paid for it, they do it because they like it, and they like it because of how it works and because of what it makes possible. They like it because they find aspects of it really cool.

"All geeks have this magpie sensibility, right up to and including Gates," he went on, warming up now. "Jobs says 'insanely great,' and Gates says 'really neat,' and what they both really mean is that they like the ingenuity, smartness, cleverness, intelligence, just plain coolness of stuff."

Then, lapsing into the sixties' jargon that marked his own youth, he said, "Geeks are cats who dig a special kind of cool. It's the newest cool, the cool of the new-and there's nothing sleeker, shinier, and newer than the human race's latest scientific intuitions that alter the universe."

Most of the editors and publishers I knew didn't want to talk about geeks at all. Louis would talk about them forever. "Because they revel in redefining what's possible, they are inherently revolutionaries," he went on, getting excited. "They live to hallucinate new visions, to invent the next big thing, to prove the smug adherents of the status quo wrong. For the longest time, they were unappreciated, servants to bureaucrats and politicians in whatever organization they were part of, a benign cult relegated to the margins of social respectability. But in a world where the human mind is the most precious node on the planet's nervous system, pure meritocracy is not only possible and desirable, but inevitable."

A few years earlier, a vintage Louis rant like this would have been emblazoned, along with suitably arresting and strange artwork, across several pages of Wired. But that morning, the only audience was me, sitting alone with him in his living room.

There had always been a biblical element to Louis's saga-he'd screwed up, and was therefore condemned to wander in the desert. He might never enter the promised land, but the young people he'd led out of bondage would cross over.
AND THEY were having a marvelous time, it seemed.

As responses to the geek columns continued to roll in, I heard from a Texas minister whose website allowed his parishioners to give him feedback on his sermons, and from an Alaskan Inuit who ran her tribe's computer operations. Programmers, gamers, designers, and systems operators weighed in with their tales of vindication, of a new order unfolding. "We're building the pyramids of tomorrow," wrote JameB2. "Ain't it cool?"

They thrilled to the great reversal: The suits were dependent on them. Let the gatekeepers and moral guardians cluck and caw about civilization crumbling. They loved their bold new world and were filled with passion and enthusiasm about it.

They also celebrated the experience of finding one another. They were almost painfully eager for community.

"The term 'geek' and the terribly powerful social and emotional stigma that accompanies the term had me running from it,"

e-mailed Doug Riordan, an online developer. "Now I find myself embracing what I am. I am my own geek."

One response stood out, from another correspondent who'd become his own geek. I happened to be online late at night, sorting through the geek outpouring, when an e-message appeared from a small town in southern Idaho. E-mail sometimes has a peculiar chemistry all its own. Instantly transfixed, I had the sense a writer sometimes gets when he's stumbled across the very thing he's been looking for.

Here was someone-a kid barely out of high school, Jesse Dailey-expressing surprise that his own experience with geekhood was so widespread, even universal; he'd been stunned to recognize his travails-and also his triumphs-in my columns.

He'd written to tell me about a Geek Club that a sympathetic teacher had founded for Jesse and a few of his friends, and how the club had quickly become an institution at their rural school. The idea of a Geek Club in Middleton, Idaho, amazed me in itself. But I also responded to the kid's tone; his mixture of vulnerability, pride, and defiance.

I e-mailed him back and asked him to tell me more about himself.

He was a working-class geek who had done almost everything it was possible to do to and with a computer, and who'd graduated from high school a year earlier, Jesse wrote. He was working unenthusiastically but diligently in a small computer shop in dreary Caldwell. He shared an apartment with a classmate and fellow Geek Club alumnus, Eric Twilegar, who had a different kind of dead-end job: selling computers at Office Max in nearby Nampa. They spent most of their lives online, Jesse said, gaming, trawling for music, downloading free software.

The Geek Club-and this was where the triumph came in-had changed his life, he said, given him a place to belong, a name to call himself. Caldwell wasn't a particularly rewarding or stimulating place to live, he acknowledged, but that mattered less than it used to: He lived on the Net, which alone formed the boundaries of his life.

I'd been planning to crisscross the country visiting a number of the geeks who had contacted me. But after exchanging a few

e-mails and phone calls with Jesse, I dropped that idea. I thought I'd found a better way to tell this story. I was soon on a plane to Idaho.



July 1999

I'm the "Head Geek" at my high school, which means that I work for the tech administrator doing IT-type work and coordinating the other work-study nerds. As you may imagine, we catch a lot of flak from other students because we spend so much time and energy on the computers at school, not to mention our own machines at home. When this happens, one of the things we do to shrug it off is to joke that if they didn't have us to keep their computers running, the school would cease to function. This is not altogether untrue.

Anyway, I was thinking about this tonight and watching Dune, the movie (it's a lot better if you've read the book, by the way). It occurred to me that what is true of my school is also true of other organizations, from small businesses to the federal government. Just like the Fremen in the movie stopped the universe by stopping the export of Spice, if computer geeks stopped working en masse, the whole country, and even the world, would grind to a halt.

How would this work though? Could some teamsteresque union (hopefully sans Jimmy Hoffa) work together on things that are important to us? I figured you might be a good person to write to about this. You seem to get this kind of thing:).


Pick this book at ThinkGeek.

Contents of Book

Introduction: The Geek Ascension xvii

  1. First Encounter 3
  2. TheCave 16
  3. The Geek Club 25
  4. Leave Fast 37
  5. The Trip 55
  6. Thanksgiving 72
  7. The More Things Change 81
  8. Escape from Richton Park 98
  9. The Dean 121
  10. Into the Hellmouth 145
  11. Don't Expect Miracles 180

The Letter 185
Finito 187
Epilogue 189
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Excerpt From "Geeks"

Comments Filter:
  • by pb ( 1020 )
    It looks like a book, but I don't believe it.

    The only piece of information I got out of this is that "geek" has switched meanings with "nerd". Wow. Out of the 80's and into the 90's. Gee.

    And what's this about biting the heads off of chickens?!?

    I think I'll save my time, money, and patience, and just read The Hacker Crackdown again.
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • Exactly right. If there is one thing that annoys me about Mr. Katz is that he tends towards melodramatics. It's in everything that he does.

    Geeks can't just be people who happen to enjoy playing with technology. No, they have to be downtrodden cast-outs. Frankly the more I read about Mr. Katz's "geeks" the more I become offended that the term might possibly apply to me.

    I am not some sorry victim looking for salvation in an Emacs buffer.

    His melodrama carries over into the rest of his narration as well. For example, I happen to live in Nampa ID. And while there is some agriculture that happens near Middleton, it certainly isn't the backwoods that Katz makes it out to be.

    Heck, Middleton is 15 minutes from Boise, home of Hewlett Packard and Micron. Zilog is right down the street, and there is plenty of big business with the mandatory big networks of computers.
  • In this culture, I figure people have the right to name themselves; if you feel like a

    geek, you are one. But there are some clues: You are online a good part of the time.
    You feel a personal connection with technology, less its mechanics than its
    applications and consequences. You're a fan of The Simpsons and The Matrix. You
    saw Phantom Menace opening weekend despite the hype and despite Jar Jar. You are
    obsessive about pop culture, which is what you talk about with your friends or
    coworkers every Monday.

    Gah! So when did being a fscking fanboy qualify people for geekdom? Damnit, first the 3l337 h4x0rs and CNN corrupted the good name of hack, now this dope is screwing up geekdom. Oh no! What shall I call myself now? In the imoral words of Da-glo Abortions, "ARGH FUCK KILL!"

  • Let's face it, most geeks are interested in our machines and whatever directly affects that, not large viewpoints about all the massive changes to society which our behaviour is influencing.

    This is mostly because Katz tends to be representative of those who do care about this stuff. Some of the people here might like the whole "geek community" thing and having it publicized ad nauseam, but some of us don't like being associated with a lot of the ideas and stereotypes put forth, especially when those ideas and stereotypes are put forth by one of those we don't like being associated with in the first place. I read slashdot, I hack code for a living, and probably fit at least a fair number of the stereotypes put forth, but this incessant rambling on social alienation and such like makes the "geek community" Katz purports to represent look like a bunch of whiners.

    The movie "Hackers" is a good example of the general problem I'm trying to explain. I suppose there's some segment of the population that supported the idea of hackers as portrayed in the movie as being correct, but many who would otherwise describe themselves as a "hacker" ended up getting lumped into the idea of a punk kid whose goal it is to break into computers and generally use computer knowledge to subvert laws for personal gain (ignoring the rather trite "poor little hackers v. big mean ol' corporation" plot).

    Is it so much to ask just to be considered another person, who happens to work with computers and enjoy it? I might have had a different adolescent experience than a lot of people and have different interests than others, but it gets aggravating to have the idea that childhood alienation defines my being shoved down my throat in every post by Jon Katz.

    Social implications of the community may be very interesting, but I don't work in the tech industry and use computers to be involved in a social movement, I do it because I like computers. If I wanted a social movement, I'd join one, but this whole social agenda that's being increasingly associated with "geeks" and "hackers" is irritating, and misses the mark completely.
    Kevin Doherty
  • There was a segment on "The Nature of Things" last night which had me thinking about Jon's obsession with the Helmouth articles.

    In a nutshell, the theory is that the "nature" component of the nature vs nurture debate has more to do with peer groups than it does with parents.

    The segment was called "Do parents matter?"

    The thought is certianly not original, but the papers and the solid evidence is original. I should probably give the book a read.

    They had an interview with an terribly rejected plump school kid, he was in absolute tears because day in day out for what perceptibly is his entire life, he has lived in a world where none of his peers would even give him the time of day.

    A quick blurb from a psychologist followed and said, to paraprhase, "Take anybody and place them in a situation where they are among 24 peers, all of which dislike them, for years and there will certainly be long lasting, profound, adverse effects on that individual's personality."

    http://w =NT20000207.html []

    It was a fantastic segment, and it reiterated and vastly expanded upon much of what Jon has been going on about for the past year or so... including discussions of not only the "geeks", "outcasts" or "loners", but including brief analysis of those who are popular, those who are leaders and soforth.

  • I love the Southpark reference in there, nice job, Jon!
    I thought it to start a little slowly, but once you started, you really got going on it, I think I'll have to traipse on over to an online bookstore and get myself a copy of this.
  • Seriously, can we get a Katz topic so I can block everything related to him? I know, I should show some self-control and ignore him but something about him compels me to read and flame every time I realize he's there. Fortunately, this piece is so long and uses "geek" so many times my brain segfaulted after the 5th paragraph.

    Cannot be used by outsiders without implied insult to all hackers; compare black-on-black vs. white-on-black usage of "nigger.

    In his second or third piece here, before we got an ignore author option, didn't he ridicule somebody for telling him exactly that?
  • I mean face it folks, if you dont like it, dont read it, and if you can do BETTER DO IT!

    Somebody moderate this post up, even for just this one line.


  • You can set your prefs to filter out Katz articles, unfortunately this feature is circumvented by others posting his crap.

    A message to all you young techno geeks out threre: "Katz is full of shit". He has virtually no technical expertise,however he longs to be considered a geek.

    Perhaps if we ignore him, he will go away. He is the Microsoft Windows of tech journalists... A cheap blasphemous imitation.
  • I really don't understand why you're always arguing with yourself. Do you have multiple personality disorder or something?
  • I would make a slight change to what Mr. Katz defines as a 'geek'.

    An individual, who, of higher than average creative ability has alienated him or herself from the social machine, and devoted themselves to a practice that is in its nature introverted.

    This leaves the hype-technology aspect behind. I don't feel that being technologically inclined should be an inclusion statement. Sure, in today's culture and society it is the most prevolant, but it is not the only way, nor was it ever the only way.

    It is completely possible for a person, who like a computer-geek, has alienated themselves and dived into something such as writing esoteric philosophical fiction, to be a geek as well.

    I have another small issue with auto-alienation and self-alienation. It is my belief that the geek is the one in control of that situation to a larger extent that John Katz seems to protray. Some people are brought up in an environment that causes them to be less socially apt than others. At some point in their life they choose to alienate themselves, even if unconciously.

    It is not popular to say this, because a lot of us have gone through a lot of pain in our early years with hazing and alienation. It isn't easy to look at yourself and say, "Hey, maybe I was the one at fault." I'm not about to say that the insenstive folks who reigned their terror in highschool are off clean either. What I am saying is that it was a choice, most likely an unconcious choice, to alienate yourself. I know, because that is precisely what I did, unconsciously. I have seen plenty of intelligent, and by the worlds standards, unattractive individuals do just fine in the social arena. There is more to it than just that.

    Also, I am not saying it is necessarily a Bad choice for a person to make. I know in my case, I am glad that I am who I am. I am glad that I can be the person that people call on when they need help with a technical matter. I enjoy exploring the depths of computers and I wouldn't have it any other way. The "social" life to me is dull compared to the technological life.

    I just have a problem with people saying it was all their fault for making me this way. Own up to the fact that you made that decision, and you enjoy it, and now you are happy with it. A lot of those others arn't happy with themselves right now.

    I do agree whole-heartedly with what he says overall though. Be happy with yourself. Understand that you are an important and integral part of this society, even if you chose to recluse yourself socially. Be confident in your choice. Most of us are, it is always nice to hear another "geek" saying it though.

  • We don't feel right writing a review of the book since we'd be sadly biased, so read this chapter, and make up your own minds about it...

    Yeah, 'cause everyone knows how hard Slashdot strives for impartiality. It's what's made Slashdot the beacon of journalism that it is today!

    Seriouly, I laughed for minutes when I read that. :) Will have to check out the excerpt later if I have time, it's just too lengthy to read during a break.


  • Personally, I really think the words "geek" and "nerd" are so derogatory and negative that they have no place within the community at this time. Their continued use within the community makes it seem to outsiders that these words carry no derogatory connotation; this is particularly troubling.
    I can see the perspective of those who use these words like some African-Americans use the word "nigger" to describe themselves or other African-Americans. (In this case a label used by some in an insulting manner is being reclaimed by self-application. Some think this self-application takes the bite out of the word and that they reclaim power over the word.) However, many African-Americans still find the word "nigger" offensive even when coming from a fellow African-American. (I'm not trying to compare the plights of these two very different communities; I'm only using this example to illustrate the common phenomenon of reclaiming derogatory epithets.)
    It's my opinion--though I may be in a small minority in feeling so--that outsiders do not have the right to use the words "geek" and "nerd," nor do members of the community have the right to use the words in settings outside the community.
  • Amen. (Or whatever) Being elite (l33t,er33t, whatever) just means joining somebody else's definition of correct, even if it's wrong.


    I generally distrust those who take pride in being elite, as they often become that which they tend to dislike in the first place. Heh.

  • I think most of us would like our slashdot without katz and were happier when we didn't have to see anything related to him.

    Speak for yourself, not me. I have this strange ability to look at the front page, read the intro to a story by Katz or anyone else, and go on to the next summary if it fails to interest me. Sadly, some of the more braindamaged among the Slashdot readership cannot grasp this concept and are forced to click on the link and waste time posting empty rants.

    I recommend therapy.

  • >I grew up reading Science Fiction of the type of
    >Heinlein, Asimov, etc.. VERY wordy authors..

    >>Damn right! and very good at it.

    But you can't beat Bujold for a ripping yarn.
  • I've read every article that's been posted by Katz. I enjoy reading his writing, even if I don't agree with all of it. I have a really hard time understanding why so many people have such a hard time with his essays.

    I hear a lot of complaints about how he pigeon-holes and stereotypes geeks and what-not. What's up with that? In my personal experience of dealing with a *lot* of geeks, I've found he's *mostly* right. Of course there are exceptions (there are always exceptions) but try as we might, we can't all be beautiful and unique little snowflakes. Geeks are just as cliquish, stand-offish, opinionated, and dead-sure that we're "right" as any other group on this planet.

    Katz offers a completely valid perspective on geek culture. I know for a fact that he's done a lot of hanging out with geeks, talking with geeks, interviewing of geeks, and has made several attempts at geekdom himself. The difference is that he's looking in from the outside .. the way most of the world looks in on it.

    Sure, he waxes romantic on the nature of being a geek .. but why not? What's wrong with the idea that geeks might actually be an interesting and diverse crowd? In my humble opinion, he's doing quite a bit to make us more palateable to the general population .. which is a good thing.

    In my humble opinion, we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss him as a crackpot and a lamer. The world is a hell of a lot larger than our little subculture. Perhaps we should pay attention?
  • Well, either I'm wrong or Katz is, so I'll opt for Katz. :) I think of myself as a computer geek, but not as a computer nerd. Computer geeks have the same technical knowledge/expertise/love/whatever as computer nerds do, but unlike the nerds, geeks actually have a life, too.
  • Katz Bashers appear to be a dime a dozen but has it ever occured to you that maybe he really is a worthwhile writer? Maybe, just maybe he can use his clout and apparent talent to communicate a remotely clear picture of geek society to the public. Wouldn't that be better than the image they presently have stuffed in their heads?

    Futhermore, I have a difficult time understanding why anyone can possibly be so upset about his existence. Are you jealous that a precieved non-geek is writing for what is considered a prestigous geek zine and you aren't? Well, anyway, I don't really care too much... but the anamocity does grow tiresome.


    Ryan Taylor

  • He's not a gasbag, he is, ironicaly, speaking about something which most of this crowd have no interest in: social movements. Let's face it, most geeks are interested in our machines and whatever directly affects that, not large viewpoints about all the massive changes to society which our behaviour is influencing.

    Which is a pity...

    Yes, I know I ramble and my spelling isn't quite up to scratch. If you wish to complain,
  • I apologise for such a futile comment, but Hemos has hit the nail smack-bang on the head.
    I've been controlling myself about this, but it's extremely frustating trying to read some *inteligent* comments about the article (be they negative or positive) when half the friggin posts are by people complaining that since the author isn't Katz, the filtering system didn't work.

    This , as the brits say, is not cricket!

    Folks, one friggin article mentioning Katz is not going to make an otherwise enjoyable day into hell-on-earth!

    If you feel that badly about Katz, go ahead make *1* (one) post about filtering, mail Rob (politely) and ask him to code up something to filter this, whatever, but be polite, and understanding about the fact that SOME OF US actually enjoy discussing such flighty, light and superficial (your words, not mine) articles such as these.

    And you're mucking it up for the rest of us...

    Yes, I know I ramble and my spelling isn't quite up to scratch. If you wish to complain,
  • >I grew up reading Science Fiction of the type of Heinlein, Asimov, etc.. VERY wordy authors..
    Damn right! and very good at it.

    You actually managed to put into words what I was thinking about, but couldn't put into words: that most people who so venomenously complain about Katz seem to miss the point of his essays because they do not *make the effort* to follow through to the end. He doesn't make his points simple, direct ant to the point because his subjects are not "simple, direct and to the point".

    These are not tecnical Man-pages, folks, you can't have a black-on-white statement about these topics without mentioning all the multiple sounds and tastes since just mentioning the shades of grey is too restrictive.

    Also another interesting point about these people is that many of them would be just as vicious about condemning self-censorship software... and then they complain that they "can't filter Jon Katz out". Pornography, vile pornography. ;)

    Yes, I know I ramble and my spelling isn't quite up to scratch. If you wish to complain,
  • We don't like being compared to you either ;) But hey, it works.
  • First off, this was an excerpt of a book about geeks for the general public. This explains and IMO excuses both the at times incredulous tone and the fact that he seems to be telling us geeks what we are.

    This is a different thing entirely from his writings on /. for the geek audience (still, I kind of enjoy his perspective).

    Secondly, for better or worse, the general public doesn't get their news from the source, but through spokespeople like Jon. Partially, this is because many geeks don't write well (just look at some of the other comments ;), and partially because the system sucks and people don't listen to us.

    Right now we're stuck with the occasional simplifications, melodramatics and outright errors that these spokespeople weave into their work. I'd rather have Jon presenting geek culture to the world than just about anyone else.

  • Pretty much describes me except for the "elite" part. Being part of any "elite" class makes my skin crawl. :p
  • Sure, I agree that he got it backwards there; "pop culture" and popular media are the one thing I can think of that I've always disliked (as opposed to all the happy fun things I've always _liked_).

    But...saying that (approximately) "most geeks also go out of their way to be opposite to popular culture" is just as much of a stereotype as Mr. Katz is making. In my opinion it's just as erroneous. You can't tell a geek by appearance.

    It's an inner drive that separates.
  • Ok, couple of questions for everbody:

    1. What the Hell is it about JK that brings out the worst in you guys? Granted he can be a bit elitest and occasionally arrogant, but it's not like we don't slip into that from time to time as well. So, lay it on for the table for me, what SPECIFICALLY is your problem with him? And try and put it in a concise, logical arguement for a change.

    2. Why do you guys [ you know who you are! ] jump down his throat everytime JK, or anyone else for that matter, tries to expand the definition of "geek" beyond the most rigid stereotype of the 'hacker geek'? It's that kind of judgemental, exclusionary crap that most of us have been regularly slapped with since childhood and frankly you should know better. IMHO, while the term 'hacker' is intimately tied with the almost obsessive interest in computers, 'geek' doesn't nessecarily have to be. I know I'm going to get flamed to Hell for this but I think Katz may be right on this point: being a 'geek' has more with a kind of "screw you people, I'll do what I want" passion about the things you're interested in, whether it be computers, music, or whatever, than the classic stereotype's strictly compu-centric view. Maybe that also would answer a question that's come up numerous times here on slashdot and other places: where are all the female geeks? Perhaps we've only been looking using the primarily male hacker geek image as the template. Making the same mistake the rest of world has with us, seeing only that someone doesn't fit our precise self-definition and is therefore not 'one of us.' I would like to think that we as a community are more insightful and understanding then that, so I would ask that you read this and consider it.

    A geek is ultimately a person who passionate about what interests them and will do involve themselves in it for the shear love of it, often forgoing that which others consider essential to life. A geek is an artist at heart, whether it be an artist of code or another medium, who uses the tools at hand to bring their ideas into being. Technology has provided them with the most powerful tools in the history of mankind and they are fully prepared to use them to there utmost to pursue what they are passionate about. Geeks, by a combination of circumstance and personality, are at once idealistic and cynical. They consider themselves the equal of anyone with supposed 'authority' and are ultimately only accountable to their own conscience.....

    Just my opinions, take it or leave it...

    Any and all comments would be welcome.
  • Well, I subscribe to the creed that wealth is an accident that happens to you while you're pursuing your interests. Some of the most successful hackers never sought fame and just happened to them. Take the whole Linux/Apache/ thing. Success happened accidentally while hackers were trying to do cool stuff. I think the worst thing you can do to your career as a "technologist" is force something, and the worst thing you can do to your hacker ethic is to "sell-out". - the Java Mozilla []
  • This excerpt is really the epitome of what I think most people on Slashdot believe. There are very good reasons for people holding the type of philosophy that Katz espouses, but I think it's necessary to examine the effects of this attitude towards society. First of all, the example Katz gives in the excerpt about the television interview is pretty telling about the attitudes of a lot of self-described geeks. These guys were essentally being unapoligetic jackasses because they held something over the other people at the station. I really don't see how this is any different than the football players in high school shoving someone's head in the toilet. You see this kind of behavior all of the time among, for example, system administrators.

    There are lots of people who don't get along well socially, and I think that this, more than anything is the best definition of a geek. I think it's important for normal people to be tolerant of people who don't have the same social skills as them, but at the same time, it's as important for geeks to realize that just as they lack skills that others have, others don't know as much about computers, or math, or whatever else. I see so many geeks deride people for their inability to use a computer, or their lack of inteligence, but just as these people lack certain skills, so do the geeks.

    The lesson that Katz is trying to teach is that it's good to be a geek, and it's good to be arrogant about the skills that you have if you happen to be economically in demand. I think that this is a dangerous lesson for the geeks, and for society in general. In order to have a world that we all want to live in, people need to understand, accept, and be tolerant of everyone's differences. We need everyone, from the supermarket checkout clerk, to the system administrator to work together to make this into the kind of world we want to live in.

    Do you want to live up to your full potential? Do you want to make the world a better place for everyone to live? Tommorow can be the start of a sea-change in all of our lives if we make it so. Let's show a little consideration and kindness. Don't waste your most precious resource on petty arguments. Carpe diem. Let's cast off this tribalism and all work together for a great future! Technology has given us the opportunity to make all of our lives better. Let's not waste the opportunity through intolerance and hatred, on both sides.
  • There is another sort of filter you can use .... your eyes. All you had to do was see "John Katz" in the blurb and ignore the story - instead this stupid thread is wasting the time of everyone who IS actually interested. Do you really dislike John Katz stories so much that even seeing them on your front page is offensive ?
  • It was a joke, son.
  • Geek: Encarta Encyclopedia found no matches for: GEEK

    Ahah! Now I finally understand the poor quality of Microsoft code...

  • He has it precisely backwards. He talks as if people start out being ostracized and seek solace in technology. The truth is precisely the opposite. I was taking apart calculators and badgering my poor mother for books on astronomy long before I had any sense of being different.

    He concentrates far too much on the ostracism, which is really only a symptom of geekdom, and not part of the disease. A lot of us geeks didn't really have all that many problems in high school, despite hanging out in the "science resource center" and the chess club. I hit 6'2" at sixteen, so people rarely messed with me. Does that make me less of a geek?

    In terms of "alienation", well, I know I was avoiding what was "popular" as much as the "popular" were avoiding me. Perhaps even more so. And I think that is more of a reflection of geekdom. I didn't hide out in the computer room because I was alienated, and didn't get to join those fun after school activities. Perhaps they wouldn't have let me. Who knows, as I never tried. I hung out there because I thought those after school activities were lame and most of the people who participated in them were idiots, or merely dull.

    This article is really about the geek stereotype, not what most people who consider themselves geeks actually are.

  • I think Katz has it all backwards. Yes, many geeks were picked on in school and some may not have Emily Post approved social skills, but this is not what makes up geeks. Reading the first few thousand words of the excerpt he seems to be arguing that social isolation is what causes geekdom. In fact the opposite is true. It is the focus on technology that causes the distance from "normal" society.

    When I was 12 years old, the only thing I cared about was hacking my TRS-80. I wrote thousands and thousands of lines of code for that beast because it was what I loved to do. It took precedence over playing sports or going to dances at school or other things that some other kids were into. But the fact that I was not interested in their Lord of the Flies style social Darwinism did not make me code better.

    I think Katz fails to appreciate that we are differenct because we are different. The societal pressure didn't make us learn assembly language. This is the same reason he wants to lump artists and other nonconformists together with geeks. He sees the external similarities between groups of social outcasts, but misses the essence of geekdom entirely.

    I don't want to seem to harsh on him, though. At least Katz is putting forward the effort to try and understand who geeks are and what makes us tick. He's not there yet, but at least he's trying, and that's a lot more than I can say about most non-geeks I encounter.
  • >watching Dune, the movie (it's a lot better if >you've read the book, by the way). It occurred

    Incidentally, I will never forgive it for the (brief) marching-in-unison on the sands scene. It glares.

    >export of Spice, if computer geeks stopped >working en masse, the whole country, and even >the world, would grind to a halt.

    Ego anyone? Atlas Shrugged?
    Well, I suppose it's supposed to be "geeky" to refer to a recent science fiction book, rather than actually being knowledgable about ones literary &/or philosophical heritage. Whatever.
  • We need another box that says click here if you don't want to see anythign associated with John Katz damme it.

  • And you don't have to read this users comments either... Nor do you have to respond to them.

    Seeing *anything* related to Jon Katz fucks with those of us that want to have some intelligent discussion on /.


  • There are options to exclude stories on certain subjects. Are you proposing that Slashdot get rid of that filtering since no one is going to force you, or anyone else, to read an article they don't want to? Probably not. So what's the big deal in asking Rob to add an option to exclude Katz?


  • Your post might make sense if the parent post were an empty rant. However, it's not. The poster makes a legitimate point in asking for an option to exclude all articles about Katz, not just the ones by Katz. Albeit, it might have made more sense to e-mail Rob about it (which is something I did).

    There are options to exclude other topics, despite the fact that no one is forced to read articles on those topics, so why not an option to exclude articles on Katz, despite the fact that no one is forced to read articles on Katz?

  • **"...or at least, that was MY take on the article. One of the things about Katz that I like is many different people get many different impressions of what he meant, which is kind of kewl, IMHO."**

    This is why I like slashdot. The snippet that I pasted above, from your earlier remarks, set me to thinking. My disposition toward Jon Katz is, generally, that of an adversary. I do not normally agree with his views or opinions, and I believe that this has probably (to some degree) closed my mind to the overall messages that he is attempting to get out.

    For what is probably the first time in any of our lives, we have a form of media that is legitimitely *ours*. We submit what is news, comment on, critique, struggle and, occasionally, are a part of the story itself. Slashdot has taken the news and made it, for most, personal. Along with this new power of inclusion, we have been presented with Jon Katz. His role is, essentially, our role...only more formalized.

    Bearing this in mind, I'd like to thank you. To disagree with someone because you have a different opinion is one thing. To disagree with someone on blind, stubborn "I don't like you" principle is sheer closed-mindedness. You have made me question whether my arguments with Jon Katz's opinions are based off of genuine thought or ignorant assumption.

    I'm going to need to re-read a few things and check, but I'm fairly certain that my initial reading was done critically... Closed-mindedly. If this is the case, then you have been a great help.
  • I love slashdot, but...Damn. Enough with the pandering bullshit already. Somehow, I find it exceptionally difficult to accept being characterized as a victim. It seems a little bizarre to have some Geek-Friendly Geek-wannabe identify my 'plight' and attempt to offer guidance through these tumultuous times of strife. In reading the writings of Mr. Katz you'd almost have to accept the notion that Computer Users are oppressed...It's utter bunk. This is not the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. We aren't fighting Communism, Aids, Rascism, Hunger or anything of actual global importance. Where is the oppression in a 12 year-old not being allowed to enter a rated R film without his parents? This is IMPORTANT?? Come off it. How valid is the opinion of a man who would advise you to expose children to things that their young minds may not be prepared to comprehend? How valid are the thoughts of a man that would have us go to such ridiculous extremes for so little...for nothing at all.

    Couldn't you guys have selected a more relevant advocate for your /. audience?

    The "Hellmouth" series was a relevant and insightful piece of writing. It was timely and did a lot of good toward opening the eyes of the media, officials and parents to the reality that stupid people do stupid things. It opened up a few eyes to the fact that a stereotypical geek does not kill...a homicidal geek, on the other hand, does. But, why does Mr. Katz believe that every issue at arises is another "Hellmouth" crisis? The answer is: Attention. His interest is not genuine concern. This is business to him. Mr. Katz seeks attention. Attention adds viability to his presence as a journalist which lends to his ability to earn greater sums for future works. It's artificial interest and it shows every time he offers us an issue and urges us to rip the system in response. It's Always The Same! We, as /. readers are repeatedly baited by nonsense issues. Repeatedly, we are offered these issues as crises that require radical action. Repeatedly, we are pandered to on the same nerve that he hit with the "Hellmouth" series. It's not working anymore.

  • I agree with you on mearly all of your points. Perhaps I didn't reference this instance clearly enough, so I will correct it now.

    The issue that I took with Mr. Katz on that article and perspective was his angle of, "Take a kid to the movies day," in which he was recommending that you, as a stranger, escort a child or a near-child into an R rated film because the MPAA says that you can't. He took no regard to the interests of the parents that would, at least attempt, to educate their children responsibly.

    What is boils down to (in example) was that he was asking you to take my unescorted 12 year-old child into a movie...with no interaction with or approval from me...the child's parent. As a parent, I am aware that the world itself will influence my child in ways that I could never hope to control. The best that I can do is to inform and educate them responsibly and hope for the best. But to see someone outright telling the general public to remove my right to so much as make that attempt to guide my child is ludicrous to me.

    This is just one example of the many instances for which he has contrived juvenile, needless and potentially harmful solutions to trivial situations. If I wanted my 12 year-old son to see a movie I would take him there myself. It is MY role to determine what I feel is best for my child...Not Mr. Katz's.

    That's all. :)

  • He's too dramatic. Everything he writes sounds like the rough draft of a script for a TV movie-of-the-week. I think that he drags down the respectability of Slashdot, especially since the people that run this site seem to treat him as if he is some kind of Holy Scribe of Geekness.
  • > And I would submit that a lot of the people who complain about him being long-winded and > rambling grew up in the age of 30 second sound bites and cover blurbs on pulp books being > more important than the actual CONTENT of the work. No co-incidence that he was/is a Rolling Stone writer. They always seem to give their authors a lot more space and time to present a story properly. Katz's style is very RS, too.
  • > And I would submit that a lot of the people who complain about him being long-winded and
    > rambling grew up in the age of 30 second sound bites and cover blurbs on pulp books being
    > more important than the actual CONTENT of the work.

    No co-incidence that he was/is a Rolling Stone writer.
    They always seem to give their authors a lot more space
    and time to present a story properly. Katz's style is very RS, too.
  • If this book is about Geeks, and is presumably to be read by people including Geeks....why isn't it available in a digitally downloadable form? Personally, I'd like to read this on my Palm Pilot, especially since shipping to get the thing to me in Germany takes 6-8 weeks and costs $8.50. If I could just download the thing, I could have it now.



  • Just when I thought I could avoid having to flame his commentary by excluding his articles in my preferences, here I go again.

    YABLWJKE - Yet Another Boring Long Winded Jon Katz Essay...
  • *Linux addresses some of these issues, but that was not intentional. It just happens to be free.*

    Unless I am misunderstanding your intent here, I heartily disagree.. Linux was written by Linus because he didnt want to/couldnt afford to/pay for a full distro of a commercial Unix. He DECIDED to keep it free to give others in his position the same benefit he gave himself.

    That sound to me very much like Intent.. it IS the OS for the masses, if the masses just want to learn a bit to use it.

    Now.. as far as "intent" meaning it can run on cheap boxen anyone can get at a thrift store these days, that was more of an accident, or a lack of real forward momentum in the Linux Movement. (a combination, I would say, as Linux tends to progress linearly, whereas WIndows Stair-steps upwards to new hardware every release or two, Linux takes them into account, but remains an option for everthing previous).


  • ***The 'outsider' stereotype that katz presents of geeks, is IMHO total BULL. I've always considered myself a computer geek, a Star Trek geek, a RPG geek, later a MTG geek, and general all-around techno-geek. My friends also shared my interests. However, none of us were alienated outsiders in High School. I was an athlete, a thespian, a class clown. In no way did I, or do I fit the stereotypes, and I don't believe that Katz should be perpetuating them.***

    Right.. YOU didnt. but I did. and a lot of people I know did (suffer in school that is) and some of them didnt.. one of the geekiest guys I know has a wonderful outlook, a warm personality, and fits in wonderefully with the real world (or would, if it werent for the shaved head, huge tattoos, and the leg braces from the MS.. ) but he chooses to eschew that so he can be a programmer/net admin at a small local ISP. He wouldnt be HIM if he wore a suit, had a Pierce Brosnan cut, and didnt scream profanity at random just to watch people jump.

    One must remember, not ALL geeks will fit ALL the profile points Katz gave, some will fit most, some will fit few, and a few will fit NONE of them.. there HAS to be a geek in the world that had it ALL up until a traumatic car accident at 23 forced him into the world of the net, etc etc etc.. and I didnt see that mentioned anywhere.

    Not all hippies had long hair and smoked pot either, but a group classification, by its very nature, has to take the stats exhibited by the majority, and, unfortunately, miss the minority.

    I would assume, that if you read /. regularly and understand what you read, and DONT do it just to flame and get your name on a webpage, you fall into at least enough of the category of "geek" that you can call yourself one. But dont let anyone call YOU one if you dont FEEL like one.


  • **Where is the oppression in a 12 year-old not being allowed to enter a rated R film without his parents? This is IMPORTANT?? Come off it. How valid is the opinion of a man who would advise you to expose children to things that their young minds may not be prepared to comprehend? How valid are the thoughts of a man that would have us go to such ridiculous extremes for so little...for nothing at all. **

    The opression? the opression, in my mind, comes from the fact that the MPAA rating system SUCKS, that its okay to have people blown to hell in a film, but a naked arse or a bad word is not. HUH???? I think that parents should be required to accompany ANYONE under the age of 18 to ALL movies.. maybe then their kids wouldnt be in the parking lot breaking the antenna off my car, or setting fire to my cat. But seriously: why does a movie get an NC:17, or R rating for the FAKE portrayal of something they can see on The evening news (real, and usually just as graphic) or on the Soap Operas (fake, but graphic none-theless) or on NYPD Blue? Its the PARENTS decision, and the difference between an INFORMED decision and a FORCED decision is quite large indeed.

    If I remember correctly, the movie in question was SP BLU.. and that was not a movie I would take my 7 year old to see, *nor is the series something I allow him to watch* however, I dont think there was ANYTHING in there that I wouldnt let him experience at 15, 16, etc.. I dont think we can keep children sheltered until they turn 18 and then go "Okay.. here ya go.. now you can vote, go kill in the army, see movies, FINALLY see a naked breast on Film, and BTW, you are now totally responsible for your entire life, and please dont kill anyone learning how to exercise that responsibility".

    Just my take on this.


  • **He's not a gasbag, he is, ironicaly, speaking about something which most of this crowd have no interest in: social movements. Let's face it, most geeks are interested in our machines and whatever directly affects that, not large viewpoints about all the massive changes to society which our behaviour is influencing. **

    And I would submit that a lot of the people who complain about him being long-winded and rambling grew up in the age of 30 second sound bites and cover blurbs on pulp books being more important than the actual CONTENT of the work.

    I grew up reading Science Fiction of the type of Heinlein, Asimov, etc.. VERY wordy authors.. but I learned in that that READING the entire thing did much to enhance the ENJOYMENT of the thing. Just like a Cliff Notes will let you pass the test, you cannot claim you KNOW "The Scarlet Letter" until you have actually READ it.

    Another point: I think you are right on the nose.. the first time Katz claims that "Geeks are against the dehumanization of the working class by the demagoguist huge corporations through the use of suits and job titles" or some close thought to that, some dude who is a communist devil worshiping homosexual with three feet decides HE has just been insulted because he doesnt fit (one) of those ideas, and just has to flame to preserve his good name.

    I think you are right.. may geeks treat life like they treat slashdot.. check off the boxes about what you want to read, ignore the rest of the world, whether or not it matters, and then bitch yea and mightily when you even SEE reference to something that you didnt check off.. (see all the people whining that they saw a piece on Katz.. I for one could care LESS about BSD, but if I see a piece I dont want to read, hey, I dont read it, I dont get my panties in a knot because the blurb appeared on SlashDot.)

    I mean, Slashdot is FREE.. it is put up by someone else, it is a PRIVELEGE to people, NOT a right, so quit whining.. if you dont wanna read it, skip the blurb and dont click "read more".. also humorous to me is the number of people who seem to feel that their opinion is great, but are afraid to express it anywhere but under A/C.. *sigh*

    The First Amendment, unfortunately, does not come with an instruction manual.


  • **What is boils down to (in example) was that he was asking you to take my unescorted 12 year-old child into a movie...with no interaction with or approval from me...the child's parent. As a parent, I am aware that the world itself will influence my child in ways that I could never hope to control. The best that I can do is to inform and educate them responsibly and hope for the best. But to see someone outright telling the general public to remove my right to so much as make that attempt to guide my child is ludicrous to me. **

    I recall reading that article, and I dont EVER recall him saying "12 year old child".. I suspect he was using his article with the assumption that anyone who would actually DO it would have SOME form of basic judgement that would translate to "if your neighbors 16 year old wants to see it that is one thing, but a 9 year old is a different story".. or at least, that was MY take on the article. One of the things about Katz that I like is many different people get many different impressions of what he meant, which is kind of kewl, IMHO.

    So.. I can see your point, but I did not think he meant 12 year olds, I thought he meant children who are close enough to the age of majority to make decisions for themselves, especially regarding a cartoon.


  • The 'outsider' stereotype that katz presents of geeks, is IMHO total BULL. I've always considered myself a computer geek, a Star Trek geek, a RPG geek, later a MTG geek, and general all-around techno-geek. My friends also shared my interests. However, none of us were alienated outsiders in High School. I was an athlete, a thespian, a class clown. In no way did I, or do I fit the stereotypes, and I don't believe that Katz should be perpetuating them.
  • " Not all hippies had long hair and smoked pot either, but a group classification, by its very nature, has to take the stats exhibited by the majority, and, unfortunately, miss the minority. " Acknowledged. However, I think that it does a disservice to the geek population to focus on the negative aspects of geekdom. I just don't agree with the fact that being socially outcast is a lowest common denominator of the geek class. Nice sig btw , its an all time favorite quote of mine.
  • Looks like Jon is really getting a big media-push for his book. See the following link [] for yet another excerpt, and an interview with the man.

    Disclosure: I work for the company which produces this site. This post is not intended to be shameless self-promotion, if it comes across that way, I apologize.
  • You trolls can go screw yourselves, I think this is awesome. I really don't like being compared to gays... but I suppose it does make sense. I am deffinately getting a copy of this.
  • Subject line says it all, geek-boy. ;-)
  • sounds like a terribly boring read to me...
  • Which plays right into the whole independent, libertarian mindset Katz mentioned, eh?

  • Such as why Katz always seems to veer to the left on issues of religion and politics.

  • If you would have read that chapter, you will have, in fact, discovered that you just said EXACTLY what Jon Katz was saying---

    thank you for wasting my time
  • You feel a personal connection with technology, less its mechanics than its applications and consequences.

    ?????? I am a professional engineer. I design computers for a living. Yes, you better believe I care deeply about the mechanics of technology. If Katz had ever written a single line of code in his life, or understood some single basic concept of how the simplest technology works, he might have the slightest clue. So geeks are only the people sit on the newsgroups and argue about DeCSS and online privacy?? For Christ's sake, Tom Brokaw cares more about the application of technology than the mechanics. So does my grandma. Congratulations Katz, you just created a generalization which EXCLUDES anybody with any clue whatsoever about technology, and includes the rest. The people who built the damn computers you are using are not technically savvy? God damn, you are a moron, Katz.

    They talk openly about sex and politics, debate the future of technology, dump on revered leaders, challenge the existence of God, and are viscerally libertarian. They defy government, business, or any other institution to shut down their freewheeling culture.

    Right. Every geek is a libertarian, and every geek is an atheist. Was this guy born yesterday?? Even on Slashdot (does that count as a "hip open source hang out", Katz??) there are plenty of liberal and Christian posters. Sheesh. PLEASE stop using the word "geek" Katz - you are simply describing a clique of people who cannot think for themselves and just copy their values from each other. You don't deserve the word "geek".

    You're a fan of The Simpsons and The Matrix. You saw Phantom Menace opening weekend despite the hype and despite Jar Jar. You are obsessive about pop culture, which is what you talk about with your friends or coworkers every Monday.

    "Despite the hype"? The hype was CREATED by Star Wars fans!!! Remember the people who bought the ticket only to see the 30 second trailer? But these people are now BESIDES the hype?? Knock, knock - any thing at all in that head of yours??

    But, anyways, I don't own a TV and am certainly not interested in cheesy sci-fi, and I don't give a rat's ass about pop culture. But I do have VAX cluster in my home (but I guess that just makes corporate, since VMS is not open source.... aieeee!) and use it to calculate palindromes. Oh, I guess I'm not a geek now (the horror!!!!) because I hate Linux and because I haven't caught a single episode of Voyageor.

    The only people more clueless than Katz are those who actually wrote to him asking if they were a geek, as if Katz's approval somehow affords some sort of self-confidence. Those people long for acceptance even more than the highest ranks in the high school cliques. Sheesh.

    The whole essence of geekdom is that there is supposed to be no agenda and people are supposed to think for themselves. The only difference between geeks is that some are fat and some are skinny??? Katz is such a moronic, clueless jackass, that he says someone who watches some certain teevee show and watches some movie and subscribes to some political agenda is a geek. Geez, could you miss the point a little more?? No longer is being a geek about striking out your own identity, but its about subscribing to Katz's GEEK-HOWTO and buying into a few mass-consumed, mass-produced, mass-cultural media products. Give me a fucking break. (The fact that Katz's stereotypes are so true says more that the self-proclaimed "geek" community is more a bunch of copy-cats than free-thinking rebels, but that's a story for another day...)

    You are truly an absolute disgrace to true free thinking individuals. You think being a geek is to just be like everybody else in this stupid global clique. Please do us a favor and stop calling your community "geeks". You are not a geek, and your followers are not geeks, you are a wannabe and your followers are commoditized automatons.

  • "You are obsessive about pop culture, which is what you talk about with your friends or coworkers every Monday."
    No! Not pop culture, more like counter culture.

    Most of the geeks I know dress completely in black, listen to bands no one has ever heard of,
    and hate traditional media of any kind.

    I have trouble imagining any geek discussing the last night's episode of Friends around a water cooler at the office ;)

    Thank you, that is all.

  • 25.html?cb=13&sc=0 []

    You see, the revolution has already started, but it's actually the 'geeks' whose heads will roll, and it is the people like Jon 'executive producer' Katz who will be doing the chopping. Yes, there will be much wailing and crashing of NTeeth ( ;) ) but the PHBs would rather die in control than survive only at the mercy of detested 'geeks'.

    As for me, I'm unfortunately not socially acceptable enough to fit Jon's image. I have yet to see TPM, only saw the matrix when given a VHS tape of it as a present, and am as likely to enjoy Confucian Chinese culture (The Analects is pretty cool reading) as pop culture, if not more so. If I buy a magazine it's a geeky one- I consider Cinefex (EFX professional geeks) and Ultraflight (ultralight aircraft geeks) to be geeky. I'll devour these for information. I know a lot about many things but never mastered fun or recreation...

    ...and in some ways this is a type of geekiness, but in other ways it's something else: autism. I have Asperger's Syndrome, which has colored my life a huge amount. As such, I can't seriously think I speak for anybody in particular, much less 'geeks', and if Katz manages to make a whole pop subculture out of selfproclaimed 'geeks' to rule the world, I doubt it'd have anything to do with me, I doubt any of the new 'geeks' would have any sense that I was one of them.

    And I am OK with this, because _they_ are the ones lining up for the guillotine: 25.html?cb=13&sc=0 []. Me, well maybe I am just some stupid autistic person who doesn't understand what it is to be properly human, but all this 'rule the world' stuff seems very stupid to me. What will you do with it once you rule it? Who will sanitize the telephones, or middle manage? At least you're led by a tired TV producer :)

  • I'm going to attempt a different definition of geek, a psychological one and to some extent a cultural one.

    A geek is someone who fits their cultural milieu poorly and substitutes skills or knowledge for social approval as a form of self-valuation.

    Not everyone will approve of this definition. 'Geek' has come to represent a lot of different things to different people over the last 15-odd years, but I think my definition describes the thing Katz is most trying to find.

    I think it's important to have a conception of 'geek' that is completely apart from computers. I have seen and known geeks of other varieties. Every language department has its geeks - the ones who speak the language fluently and know it inside and out. I've been one of those. Science departments are full of geeks who are only marginally interested in computers. (I've been one of those too.) Even traditional humanities have their geeks: anthropology geeks who know everything there is to know about digging stuff up and what happened to the Hittites, lit geeks who live for obscure 19th century French authors, medival studies geeks who can explain in detail the economic system of 13th century Romania. Those people are all geeks, and any geek would recognise them nearly on sight.

    They tend to be highly literate and have a lot of distain for at least some aspect of common culture, but which are the causes and which are the consequence of their condition is not clear.

    'Geekhood' is not about science-fiction, although SF plays a role in the lives most highly-literate young anglophones. 'Geekhood' is not about computers, although few young, literate, skilled anglo-americans are ignorant of computing these days. It is about knowing instead of peer approbation.

    It's true that, perhaps for the first time in human history, geekhood has been a mark of success rather than failure. In the past, there was far less need for specialised knowledge, although there was some need. Today, it's hard to undertake any important enterprise without the assistance of some form of geek, possessing a specialised knowledge that not everyone has the time to learn.

    However, geekhood has by-products. The most notorious is poor self-esteem, because ultimately knowledge is a poor substitute for peer approval. Geeks are sometimes, perhaps even often, able to find a few of their own kind and join a social circle, but even there the poor self-esteen can be fatal. A community of geeks, by its nature, is poorly suited to providing emotional support. When you have a group of people, all of whom hate themselves, they probably also hate each other at some level. It's hard, if not impossible, to get over the desire to bail on your geek friends and become one of the 'normal' people, if only you could.

    That kind of damage can easily follow you through your entire life.

    It's relatively easy for a geek to decide that their specialised skills or knoledge are more important than the trival pursuits of others. Isolation and a belief that everyone else is stupid can, in a fairly important segment of the geek population, become debilitating. You get guys like the Unibomber that way.

    I don't wish to say that geeks are mentally ill, or at any rate more so than the so-called normals, but that a psychological understanding of their circumstances is important to who, and what, they are. I hope Katzes book helps to find that kind of understanding.

    We (the X-er geeks) are the first large generation of geeks not to be labelled loosers after growing up. We can at least try to make life a little easier for the next generation of geeks, but it won't happen until we try to understand what happened to us.
  • Why didn't my Katz repellent block this? Damn, now I'm starting to breakout. 8^)
  • What's informative about this? Hemos is basically telling anyone who complains about Katz, to fuck off. Hemos, if you want to tell someone to fuck off, just do it -- don't hide behind several thousand words of verbiage.
  • I know I was avoiding what was "popular" as much as the "popular" were avoiding me

    Exactly! Most /.ers (the ones who post intellegably, anyway) are/were the same way. JonKatz: we don't want to be one of "them", and if you do, stop representing yourself as a geek/nerd/techno-junkie/whatever, cause you're not. You're the LinuxOne of writing; hoping to make a fast buck off the buzzwords before people figure out you're clueless.

    This article is really about the geek stereotype
    Agreed. It's the stereotype as seen by other "normal" people. It's not my stereotype, leave me out of this.

    At least I know of one more book I don't need to waste my money on. JonKatz: you're going downhill. The hellmouth stuff was good, thought provoking material, but this is just fluff.
  • What the Hell is it about JK that brings out the worst in you guys?
    I can't speak for the others, but JonKatz pisses me off for several reasons.

    1. He pretends to be something he's not. Katz sees himself as a "geek" and a "nerd" and thinks he's an expert on them. This from a man who can't figure out a better way to turn his writing into HTML than to use the HTML output filter of MS Word on his Macintosh. Look at his older stuff, you'll see question marks in the place of double quotes all over the place as well as other annoying HTML errors.

    2. He does #1 for the purpose of making money. Wannabees are bad, but sellouts are worse.

    3. He never lets lack of factual information stand in the way of a good story. Read his pieces on installing Linux. He's clueless.

    4. He's in the midst of a downhill slide in quality. The hellmouth series was good, if only for the discussions they generated. Recently, he's just plain sucked. As mentoned before, dictionary quotes in an essay are a middle-school trick to waste paper, not a good professional writing style.

  • 1) He's elitist and arrogant. I don't really care who called him asking for his opinion on the AOL/TW deal. My opinion of his writing will not improve even if the Queen of England herselves phones him to ask if Steve Case is really the Prince of Insufficent Light.

    2) He's a lazy writer. Come on, I gave up using Dictionary Definitions to introduce an essay way back in Junior High when a Creative Writing teacher told me how lazy it is.

    3) His sense of historical proportion is incredibly awful. In some of his "Look at this new thing that will save the world!" pieces, I wonder if he remembers being wrong about all the previous pieces. Or if he will ever crack open a history book and read about Oneida or the Chataqua movement.

    4) He loves to generalize, and generalize poorly. Oh, geeks are libertarian atheists who love to talk about pop culture. Big businesses are all eeeevil. People who don't like me are hate-mongers who are scared of the truth. Wah, Wah.

    5) He often lacks any real insight. Incite is more like it -- his articles seem designed more to generate responses than to present a cogent, tight argument. You can see this in phrases like "This may be the most important discovery ever..." or "Businesses have always sought to do this..."

    6) He Just Doesn't Get It. I used to read those silly Nancy Drew mysteries, when I was seven or eight. Then I realized that there were two plots -- one for the even books and one for the odd. I never sent e-mail to the publisher, but if I had, it would read like some of Katz' fan mail. (I hope he edits it severely before he posts it.) Just because you get responses doesn't make you right.

    (As for point two, I'd argue that I'm sick enough of being stereotyped anyway for being various combinations of male, celibate, mid-20s, overeducated, and rather nonsocial that any definition of "geek" you try to apply to me will not go over very well.)


  • Hmmm, didn't know that - jeez, this guy was in one of the most powerful jobs on the planet, TV NEWS, media, the class that makes/breaks political candidates and vastly influences opinion, at least of those whose 'reality' is shaped largely by TeeVee. (gag)

    Anyhow, at least one cultural Z-mismatch here is that the audience he's addressing is notoriously IMPATIENT, you either get to the point QUICK or piss off folks. Hence the gasbag status, most hated, etc. Hopefully he's not paid by the word!

    Who was it, Churchill I think, said if you want a two hour speech I can deliver it now; if you want a 5 minute talk, it will take me a month to prepare. Jon could really use an editor (human) to cut out the linguistic flab.

    Howard Roark
  • Let me tell you, you sound extremely intelligent too. If you hadn't noticed, I have Katz filtered, and therefore choose not to read his crap. But when Taco posts something for Katz to expand his market, I get annoyed and vocal about it. He's taking advantage of the fact that I do not want to read Katz' crap.

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt for not totally understanding my stance on this.
  • This is ridiculous. Counting also the Katz interview posting today, this is the third time this year, and its only the start of February, that a Katz piece has been posted in such a way as to avoid the Katz Repellent. Is this being done on purpose? If you don't like Katz, the chances are you don't feel indifferent, you hate him so much you would be pleased to hear he was dead! Wake up /. , I suspect the Katz Repellent is the most popular exclude box you provide. If you want to force Katz down everyones's pipe (and lose eyeballs in the process), just remove the Katz Repellent altogether. It is starting to look like a conspiracy. Are you getting a share in the profits of his book or something?

    Show us that you want to do the right thing. Do something about this before the interview answers are posted, so this doesn't happen a fourth time this year (or ever again).

  • I was simply highlighting the depth of feeling that those of us with the Katz Repellent (in case you don't know what I'm talking about, this is an 'exclude if author is Jon Katz' option in user preferences) enabled truly feel. We really don't like him. OK, I wouldn't like to hear that he was dead. If he died, I would rather that the item got filtered out by the Katz Repellent. Clear?

    My voice is one of a multitude raising the same complaint in this story and the interview Katz story today. I wouldn't normally bother to raise a point someone else had made, but the point is that the Katz lovers don't believe that many people dislike Katz. We are flaming to bring attention to our plight. This is /. civil disobedience!

    You say that we don't have to read him, but that is not entirely true. When we switched on the Katz Repellent, we were under the impression it meant we wouldn't have to see his writings ever again. The only reason that we have had to see his writing three times in the last few weeks is because the stories are being submitted under other peoples' names. The first time this happened, we could believe it was a genuinely one off situation where the poster hadn't considered this angle. Now it is starting to look like a media whore conspiracy.

    The reason I dislike him is because he is the ultimate media whore. When he wrote for HotWired, that was OK, because he was a media whore writing articles for people who were interested in media whoring. He used to right articles about 'nu media' and how he had noticed this and how he understood this thing and could help everyone else get it. He had a dream of being Jon Katz, Nu Media Guru, who everyone would admire and say nice things about, and include in the history books, and quote in all other media. Over on HotWired, you could read his column a couple of times and decide whether you thought he was enacting a plan to ellevate himself within the media and never read his stuff again, or (if you were an aspiring media whore) he was saying all the things you wanted to hear, and could become a devotee. HotWired died, and Katz had to find a Nu base from which to continue his plan. /. was where he washed up.

    When he arrived here, I read his articles. I was interested to see if he would mend his ways now he was speaking to a new audience, a group of people that knew a thing or two about the possibilities of the future (and would cringe at the pathetic respelling of words so as to appear in the know). I switched on the Katz Repellent when he was writing article after article about the Columbine masacre. These articles showed Katz up to his old tricks - writing exactly what they wanted to hear. Plenty of people who read /. and have strong 'geek' credentials managed to go through school without being bullied. Plenty of people that are in no way related to 'geekdom' get bullied mercilessly at school. Being a target of bullying is more to do with exhibiting a lack of social skills, even fluanting it by dressing in a way to make sure everyone knows you want to stay apart from that you can't understand - normal human interaction. I speak from experience. I had a bad time at school, but I don't put it down to everyone else's fault, some great conspiracy against geeks. I know that it was caused by my inappropriate social behaviour, which was socialised into me by lack of contact with people with strong social skills.

    Katz just plays up to peoples' preconceptions. People who are being bullied feel paranoid, and rarely see any cause for it in themselves (I didn't understand for years). So Katz writes about how terrible it is, and how it is everybody else's evil fault. And he comes up with a ludicrously over the top title for his articles, and then starts trying to turn that title into a brand name. Essentially, he exploits the weak and the vain, in order to promote himself. Just like the leaders of pseudo-religious cults.

    Katz's agenda appears to be the furtherance of Katz. Now it appears that someone on his side has spotted the popularity of the Katz Repellent, and decided to do something about this. Knowing that a lot of people don't want to see some material but using a method of transmission that will ensure they see it anyway is a lot like spam email. Some porn site (Katz, to a Katz lover, is a lot like mutual masturbation) knows that if they send an indesciminate piece of spam, 99% of recipients will be offended, but 1% might respond, and they don't care about the 99% because 1% is a lot of eyeballs and the 99% would never visit their site anyway. OK, the interview Katz article is just a cult of Katz piece, but this book exert is clearly being provided to try to drive book sales. Its as though someone has thought 'Well if even a few people that filter Katz see this and just for once like it, that's still a few extra sales.'

    Why give us the chance to express our preference, and then just ignore it?

  • I've always thought of "pop culture" as the opposite of "high culture" rather than "counterculture". "High culture" is what people experience because someone says it's good for them; "pop culture" is what people experience because it has personal meaning to them.
  • I'm one of the folks who read Slashdot quite often, but who don't define themselves as "geeks". There's a reason why.

    When I was young, sent to the library each day at noon to plunk away on an Apple ][ because they didn't have a reading group I fit in, the isolation I felt didn't really contain any social power. Computers were necessary tools. Not "cool", by any means. At least, not to others. By and large, there wasn't much you could impress Joe Average with. In fifth grade, being a wiz at even the newest videogames (Swashbuckler, anyone?) wasn't anything compared to being good at kickball on the playground. Being a geek meant you had little to no social power.

    How times have changed!

    Computers are good for everything now. Computers are cool! And being good at, say, creating images with Photoshop or 3DMax, or music with FastTracker 2 or your own MIDI setup, or setting up your own netbox with Linux -- these things are tremendously cool in the eyes of almost anybody. The tables have turned. It's now the idiot kid who ISN'T on the Internet that's made to feel ostracized.

    And just as when Jocks held the lion's share of social power, and used it to shame and ridicule others, Geeks have proven themselves no more virtuous. Geeks present their standard -- technical knowledge -- as the only one worth being judged by, just like Jocks of the past used their standard of physical prowess.

    And judge they do! Far more harshly, I think, than most Jocks ever did. I can hear the Jock Horror stories echoing up from Slashdot's depths, but the fact remains that the psychic trauma of being shoved into a locker as an anonymous body will nearly always pale in comparison to being scrutinized and evaluated for your intellectual merits -- being ridiculed for who you are on the inside -- and found wanting.

    Or to say it another way: Geeks are fucking brutal. And what's worse? They're taking over. The world is rapidly becoming less and less comprehensible to Joe Average, and the Geeks don't see anything wrong with that. "It's MY turn NOW!", or so the feeling goes. And so we're left in a world being dominated by those who nurse wounds inflicted upon them ages ago; those who prefer the digital communiques of Quake clan members to switching off the box and finding a girl to dance with. We're left in a world ruled by those who carry the deepest grudge against it, and have the power to make payback hurt.

    I think, on the very deepest level, many Geeks hate being human beings. They look back on the social awkwardness they experienced in the past and say, "If this pain is what it means to be human, then fuck being human. Flood me with nanotech. Replace my neurons with processors. Make me into something else. Because I don't want to be what I am now."

    What a terrifying state for the world to be in. It terrifies me, at any rate.

    Admittedly, this is all rather broad, and I think I share a common history with many of the people who are aching to rise up in flames right now. (Assuming this post isn't too late to actually be seen.) There are geekish aspects to me, too. But I still want to be a human being. I want to be sociable rather than knowledgable. I like people! I like being around them, finding out about them, smoking with them, drinking with them, and I don't want my body flooded with nanotech. No future world of quantum-computer-powered star radiation analyzation digital epiphanies will ever compare to being kissed on the lips by a girl you are so damned in love with.

    If Geeks could only learn to love and treasure other people once more, the way they longed for the companionship of others as kids, I think I'd be proud to call myself one.

    Until then, I'm just an average person.

    And that, despite what you might think, is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.

    "It may be a question whether machinery does not encumber... whether we have not lost, by refinement, some energy, some vigor of wild virtue. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good." Not the Unabomber. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance."
  • Could Jon Katz play on the geek stereotype anymore? I doubt it.
  • Shut the fuck up and go away. Katz isn't a 1/10 as annoying as all you bitchers.

    YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ IT, but your comments about how much it annoys you fuck with the rest of us who still like, at times, to have some intelligent discussion on /.

    I don't agree if you hadn't noticed.
  • one would think that if you dislike him so much you wouldn't continue to spend time talking about it. And I believe complaints about /. should be directed at those who 1) can fix it, and 2) give a shit about your opinion. Note, neither I nor the other posters fit this description, so bitching and whining should be done in email to those who do. I'm breaking my own rule, 'cause it's finally pissed me off, and now *I* get to be the hypocrite.
  • He's taking advantage of the fact that I do not want to read Katz' crap.

    No he's using his site to promote it's only source of professional content (outside the readers/posters). Maybe it's the fact that is *impossible* to read Katz content without the crap, and today it just pissed my off. Both articles (which are special) had about 5 pages of crap talking about how much people were mad that they saw an article about an author they had blocked. What they didn't realize is that OHMYGOD, 1) is a book review and basically a follow-up to an old /. story (the Rolling Stone article) and 2) is an interview with the guy a whole bunch of folks don't respect.

    And because of the way /. works (and some unfortunate moderation, your original post was so off-topic as to be laughable) I have to read all the bitching and whining, and now everyone who loads this article see this crap.

    hmm, I'm taking this way too seriously, but /. is worth defending.

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt for not totally understanding my stance on this.

    Thanks, but I do, and I think you're wrong. I don't post to articles that I don't think are interesting or I have nothing to say other than "I don't think this article is interesting/appropriate".

    If you have a personal probelm with Katz, or the way the /. team runs their site, tell them, not us.
  • hukt on foniks dint werk fer me... - the Java Mozilla []
  • Ummm; it points to slashdot. The link to the ThinkGeek Geeks page is Here. []
  • To put it bluntly, no one forces you to read a Katz story, whether by him or concerning him. You get the first fifty words on the default page; anything beyond that is your business, your action, and quite frankly your fault if you don't like him but read him anyway.

  • You skimmed it looking for something to complain about, didn't you?

    He acknowledged the fact that not all geeks are computer geeks, saying that was only the "narrowest definition", and also acknowledged that everyone has a different idea of who is a geek and who isn't.

  • You admit you didn't read it, then you go on to complain about it. That sure made a lot of sense...
  • Someone please moderate that up.
  • I think most of us would like our slashdot without katz and were happier when we didn't have to see anything related to him. This has more to do with him showing up even when you have stories by him blocked than random flamings.
  • I can sort of belive 1, but 2 ? come on you cann't really belive that. If I say I don't want to see anything from Katz why would I want to post questions to him ? I simply want my /. experience - Katz.
  • Did the Geeks create the Net or the Net create the Geeks? There is no answer to this question. Each generation of geeks creates the foundation for those that follow. The Net has become a gathering place for many small and widely dispersed, self-selected groups because it makes possible community divorced from location. Large cities have often drawn minorities to them in the past. If you are a minority (linguistic, racial, religious, or otherwise), you stand a better chance of being able to get together with your fellows in a high concentration of people, even if they are no more common there.

    If you draw the definition of geek broadly enough, then it fits any marginalized minority. True enough, it is frequently used almost that broadly. And oddly enough, I suspect there are some other odd commonalities among those of us who fit the definition of 20 years ago, bright, focused on intellectual interests to the exclusion of more common hobbies, socially awkward to some degree.
    Many of us have never been called geeks by anyone who isn't actually a geek. As The Jargon File [] points out in A Portrait of J. Random Hacker [], the typical hacker is a voracious reader on a surprisingly wide range of subjects. Reading that description, I saw more of myself in it than I saw in Katz's piece above. I knew when I read it that the person or people who wrote it understood.

    Not surprisingly, geeks can harbor a xenophobic streak of their own. Geeks often see the workplace, and the world, as split into two camps-those who get it and those who don't. The latter are usually derided as clueless "suits," irritating obstacles to efficiency and technological progress. "We make the systems that the suits screw up," is how one geek described this conflict.

    This particular statement reminded me instantly of The Programmers' Stone []. It describes the tension between what The Stone referred to as mappers and packers. One of the things that I regret about print media is that it must, of necessity, be more self-contained. Readers are less well served by references to other sources rather than led to further clarification. In this case, I believe that the discussion in The Stone about the effect of education on children's natural tendency towards mapping may shed more light on what geeks are than any single other source I have read recently. We are the ones who have not forgotten how to map, but who in many cases felt isolated because of that. Another article that examines this same issue from the perspective of intelligence and psychology is The Outsiders []. If you've had a difficulty communicating with non-geeks, both of these articles are worth reading.

  • While it may be true that Jon is not a perfect fit for the /. crowd, he is obviously in his element here, and I found this excerpt to be really good. I think I even recognized a quote from something I sent him a couple of years ago :-)

    I'll buy the book when I get some extra money.

    If you can't figure out how to mail me, don't.
  • I don't know about your experiences in life, but I think it happens this way more than u'd think. Today, I'm a successful DBA for a major company, but yesterday... in the 80's.... in high school particularly, it was NOT cool to be associated with computers or that scene in general. More people collect Mp3's than just freaks. I personally hate ICQ and IRC, but I respect the people who use these technologies as a part of the overall whole. I don't want to be labelled as anything, but admittedly a geek is not a bad think to be in my mind. I genuinely respect the kids who are out there writing wickedly fast code in the demoscene, and I see testamonials from folks like John Carmack who openly admits to a childhood of questionable social standing (I believe amoral was the description he used). These people are not normal in the strict sense. They almost uniformly do not conform to the drab grey dilbertesque cube life of the corporate standard, even if they work there. I think you've identified a minority of people in the pr0n/crack site crowd, and have overlooked the large numbers of people who, in the course of the last few years , have established themselves as geeks by action not speech. When I became a geek, we had no imitators, and I assure you I CAN code on that level. -wanrat
  • Absolutely, except that I would go a bit further down that line. Alienation and outsiderness do not a geek make. I actually did participate in some HS activities (not sports, of course)and certainly never felt ostracized because I coded. I also don't like this idea of single minded obsession K promotes. Some of us also like to think of ourselves as reasonably well read and posessed from time to time of insights into history, politics, literature, or the arts. Does this make us less geeky? The core geek ethos is at the junction of inquisitiveness and imposition of one's own will on the surrounding world. What is? What ramifications does that have? What can I do with that? Technological applications lend themselves to this outlook, as they are concrete- the feedback is immediate, the conclusions and results (relatively) tangible. It is quite possible- actually I see it beginning to happen- that geekdom with revolt against this "computer nerd" pidgeon-hole and assert its competence in other areas as well. Meanwhile those who are following the pack are desperately trying to paint themselves as "geeks" when they are in reality simply users- the mass, the mob. Finally, I REALLY don't like this direction of "we control the spice, we control the universe" remember: that only works if you stop the flow of spice, any true geek should scream against that possibility. Revolution is good, Hitler/Gatesesque drive to assert one's significance due to some reversal in social status and absurd megalomanical ego ain't cool... and is contrary to the spirit we should uphold. Rant completed. Tranq
  • by Hemos ( 2 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2000 @09:11AM (#1295097) Homepage Journal
    Try reading this: 221&mode=thread
  • by chromatic ( 9471 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2000 @10:28AM (#1295098) Homepage

    You do realize that the little link on the front page that says "Read More" is an option, and not a command, right?



  • by kevlar ( 13509 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2000 @09:21AM (#1295099)
    There's a reason why I have postings by Jon Katz filtered. Its because I don't feel like reading what he has to say. Can you please make an option to have submissions _about_ Katz filtered as well? It just annoys me. I don't read his stuff. I don't want to read his stuff. I know you don't want people annoyed with /.

    If you agree with me, then moderate up.
  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2000 @10:18AM (#1295100)
    "Geek: A member of the new cultural elite, a pop-culture-loving, techno-centered"

    Um, unless I'm grossly missing it, aren't geeks more inclined to hate or be disgusted with pop culture? After all, is the the popular culture that has rejected many of us and made us what we are. I can't stand pop culture...filled we Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys, Pokemon, and all the other worthless trappings of rampant commercialism. The only form of pop-culture I can stand is the Andy Warhol take, in which pop-culture is its own comedic and tragic art. - the Java Mozilla []
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2000 @10:11AM (#1295101)
    The muddling of "geek" and "technology" and the general consensus that the combination is always a good thing is annoying. For example, Linus is certainly a hacker with a vision, but he's also married, has a kid, and has interests outside of programming. But the geeks Jon Katz always write about are weird people who tend to be introverted--as many people are--but they make up for their lack of social life by doing the high tech equivalent of watching TV. They obsessively surf the web for nudie pictures of Natalie Portman and Gillian Anderson. They rally behind pointless causes (e.g. GeForce, Athlon). They collect MP3s and software cracks. And that's about all. Somehow Mr. Katz is trying to put these people and more intelligent people who can write code on the same level. It's not the same thing. Give it up.
  • by Ravagin ( 100668 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2000 @12:31PM (#1295102)
    A rather good piece, if I may be allowed to say so. However...
    I strongly disagree with Mr. Katz's statements about geeks "obsessing over pop culture." No. No. I proudly consider myself a geek, and for me one of the greatest things about it is not being like everyone else. I can't stand most of pop culture. In terms of music, I listen to Celtic, Blues, "classic" rock like Clapton, and classical, venturing into "pop" only for They Might Be Giants. The only TV I watch is Star Trek, when I can. I find pop culture repellant.
    So either I am unique for a geek (oooh, rhyme), or else this is yet another generalization which cannot be made about geeks.
    In fact, that's quite interesting. Maybe one of the great things about geeks is that you can't generalize them too much. Hmmm...
    "Ladies and gentlemen, this is NPR! And that's time for a drum solo!"
  • by Maeryk ( 87865 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2000 @08:39AM (#1295103) Journal
    Im not sure what take to take on this, so I will start here:
    Im a little uncomfortable with the assertion that ALL geeks are tecnologically advanced.. with computers, anyway.. I mean, wouldnt someone who loves to work on cars and make them all they can be fall into the same category? Im not sure.
    High school alienation.. wow.. theres a new one.. by that definition, most of the people I know would be a "geek".. yet I have several friends whom I have to set up Quake for who then CALL themselves geeks cause they play quake. I dont THINK so tim.
    I suspect the definition lies in a mass subset of what he said.. I mean, the definitions he gave fit just about anyone, in the long view, hippies, militarists, gays, etc.. and I know geeks who are all of the above.. I dont think a "geek" can be defined by anyone BUT the geek in question. I dont NEED someone telling me Im a geek, but I'll be pissed if someone tells me im NOT when I define myself that way. *(and im not ashamed to do so, as the amount of money I have sent to Copyleft will attest.)*

    I just think the "geek" culture are the ones who make the most SENSE (you know? logic?) in the world right now. WHat the HELL does it matter how long my hair is, whether or not I wear wingtips or sneakers, or denim or Armani, if I DO MY JOB WELL AND MAKE MONEY FOR THE SYSTEM? The assumption that EVERYONE in an office must wear a suit is outdated, ridiculous, and just plain silly.. make the people who have contact with the outside world wear them, let those of us who wander around dirty and climb under desks and behind machines in labs to repair them wear clothes that are DESIGNED to get dirty.

    I like Katz, and I dont think he is "cashing in on geeks" anymore than Gibson did, or Star Trek does every time they open a new movie, Im not unhappy that hes written a book about it. I mean face it folks, if you dont like it, dont read it, and if you can do BETTER DO IT!

    just my several bucks worth of opinion.


The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.