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.[imgclear]

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.

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