Three Great Things About Being A Geek (And One That Made Me Sad)

Microsoft devoted the opening keynote of Tech Ed 2011 to celebrating the great things about being a geek. These are the three reasons highlighted that I particularly liked, and the one that made me a touch sadface.

Celebrating geek culture is a sensible thing to do when opening Tech Ed for two reasons. Firstly, with 2500 IT managers and developers attending, there's no point pretending it's not a huge geekfest. Secondly, with not much to reveal in the way of new product (since all the cool new Windows 8 stuff is under wraps until the Build conference kicks off in the US in a couple of weeks), it's not like a major announcement is getting bumped.

I'm a geek, so I'm happy to be reminded of what's good about the geek approach. Except in one case, but we'll get to that.

Geeks know the value of curiosity

Jared Green, director of the hilarious Beached Az, used the cartoon to highlight the importance of curiosity. Being a geek means you're happy to investigate new ideas, and that's easier than ever these days: as Green pointed out, "the internet is curiosity's playground".

Geeks work hard to solve real-world problems

It's worth pointing out in an era where a vocal percentage of the population argues "as long as broadband is fast enough for email, it's fine": technology advancements change lives. Cochlear senior product manager Jane Cockburn discussed the simple human impact that curing deafness can have: "Imagine if you were a parent and you couldn't hear your child cry at night." That problem isn't solved with a defeatist attitude: it's solved with persistence, purpose and a willingness to get deep into some science.

Geeks recognise the value and the limits of perfection

We've already covered Matthew Magain's arguments for pursuing perfection. It's clear that perfection isn't always a worthwhile goal, but it's also clear that many geeks won't settle for a "near enough" approach.

Sadface moment: The outgoing geek

The event was hosted by Adam Spencer, who was happy to talk up his geek credentials. He told a story of how when his Year 2 class was given an impromptu maths test and a cool kid decided to copy his answers, he wrote down answers that were all out by 20, waited until the cool kid raced up to hand in his exam, and then went back and put the correct answers on his own test. He got 20/20; the cool kid got three days of remedial maths. And Spencer said he wasn't worried at all about possible playground ramifications, ie getting beaten up:

I was a one-man geek juggernaut and no tough kid was going to stop me.

It's a great yarn, but I don't believe that all geeks would feel that way. And I don't believe it because I certainly didn't feel that way. When you're a primary school kid with brains and no brawn, you're going to get mocked and bullied and occasionally beaten. So hearing that story didn't make me smile; it just reminded me of the more miserable moments in my school career. I hope your mileage differs.

What aspects of being a geek do you most like to celebrate? Tell us in the comments.

Angus Kidman attended Tech Ed as a guest of Microsoft.


    I remember a kid copied off me when I was in year 1, except it was a questionnaire about what we wanted to be when we were older.

      Another dissatisfied IT employee no doubt lol

    Maybe I was lucky, but when I was growing up, being smart was considered a *good* thing, and not something people would beat you up over.

      You mean before they invented the microchip I take it? Ah yes it was a different world back then, we used to whittle when it was rainy and roll hoops down the street likety split in the sun, yep them was the days, we didn't have none of that fancy computer learnin either, chalk and a slate, if you wanted to increase the memory of you device, you just writ them words smaller, heh. Nah, just joshin ya there Matt! #][

        I know this was a joke, but just for the record, I'm in my mid twenties.

    Hmmm well I'm an outgoing geek. I did get bullied but luckily not physically. I'm still outgoing and find it a bit frustrating not being able to meet/recognise other geeks who are actually socially well-adjusted (I know it's a generalisation.. but they are hard to identify unless you specifically raise a geek topic!) ...Even more difficult when you're looking for someone who's also same-sex attracted >.<

      Anna, ever considered switching teams? Sincerely, Well-Adjusted.

        Yes, because it's that easy to 'switch teams', Richard? Have YOU considered 'switching teams'?

          Oh dear Olearymo!

          Poor Richard just showed his innate geek credentials (Non-PC, undiplomatic and socially awkward) but you pulled him up!

          I am glad he got over this, or at least didn't take any notice of you, before he made further comment below!

          Who is the real geek?

      Really, you're having trouble meeting geeky grrls? I've been with mine for *counts* nearly half of my life now and have met countless geeky single grrls :)

      Oh, and "Richard"... "switch teams"... really? *shakes head slowly*

    When I saw "outgoing geek" I thought it would be about Steve Jobs.


      Out going tyrant probably fits better!

    Not having the guts to stand up for yourself is not something to identify with as being a geek.

    I'm a geek and I bash up school kids all the time!

      Oh THIS made my morning. You win the internets for today.

    Suppose I'm just lucky. I'm 6'5" and pretty solid. Always have been. I was always the tallest in my school and classes.

    Being a geek had it's benefits - size didn't make me a target!

    about not hearing your baby cry at night, We have a baby signaler such as this: (still technology as any others) , I am surprised he did not mention that for the deaf.

    (or co-sleep)

    In a way, it makes me mad for that person to treat us we are incapable to care for our children without hearing. It take some creativity but we manage just fine. My son is still alive and breathing to this day (I co-sleep)

      people often don't really think that hard about these things and aren't familiar with them. That said, I don't think he was implying you can't care for your child. Just that the fact you can't hear him is something to be overcome. And like you have said, you overcame it.

        This person work with deaf people, so I can't tell S/He is patronizing us or not.

    Quite interesting there.

    Being a 'geek' back in my home country was actually revered. You get all the perks and the smarter kids are the popular ones.

    In contrast, after moving to Australia, being a 'geek' was basically social suicide. I had a hard time finding friends because the dumb jocks would force everyone to ostracise you lest they somehow get infected by the 'geek' disease.

      Funny - I grew up an Australian 'geek' and although I can't say I was revered, I never had any problems just because I knew a bit more about science & tech than most.

      Perhaps it was your expectation of reverence that put people off side.

      The chance of jocks getting "geek" disease is VERY small - the "geek" disease is very picky - you need to be intelligent (OK so that rules out 90% of jocks - sorry) AND you have to have a passion for the future - not for what you were in highschool (OK so there goes the other 10% - damn) :)

    The idea of being able to influence people through knowledge of arcane subjects. I describe it as knowing a little bit about everything and nothing about anything.

    Also, god I miss having Adam Spencer and Wil Anderson on the radio. They were soooooooo good together.

    Adam: You know, that reminds me of a mathema...

      I never even heard them broacast together but just imagining them interacting in my brain makes me miss them anyway!

        They did Triple J breakfast for a couple of years... like, 2003-2005 or something.

          Yes! That was the greatest radio show EVA and in the afternoon they had Chris and Craig from the Chasers.

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