I am a geek. There, it’s out in the open now. I enjoy computer programming, Star Trek and jokes about the square root of Pi. I’ve known I was this way since elementary school. When I was 10, my parents bought me an old Texas Instruments TI-99. It used a TV for a monitor. It didn’t have a hard drive, so I couldn’t save anything. It was a beautiful thing that wouldn’t measure up to the most basic cell phone today. As a little mini-geek, I would find “programs” in magazines to type out that would do amazing stuff like make blinking blocks move across the screen. It made my heart beat with such excitement. Later on, in high school, I took a programming class in BASIC (yes, that is actually its name). I loved it. I could do cool stuff, like make the computer write words to the screen.
For some reason, I never really built on my nascent geek activities until I became an adult. But now, I am a web developer. I create websites and web applications for a living. By my own estimation, I’m a pretty decent one. And I’m still employed, so that must say something. Recently, I attended a developer’s conference in Kansas City. The sessions I chose there were very inspiring: Clean Code, Behavior Driven Design, Aspect Oriented Programming, Intro to Clojure (bored yet?). I also networked a bit and just people-watched the mass collection of geekdom. Listening to two days worth of buzzwords and code-speak, I came to a realization. While I have become a serious geek, I am not an Uber Geek©. Yes, that is capitalized. When you reach Uber Geek status, it is like having letters after your name (Ph.D., D.D.S., U.G.).
First, let me describe an Uber Geek to you. They are the people who live and breathe technology. They could talk for hours about the various pros and cons of Object Oriented Programming, Aspect Oriented Programming and Functional Programming. They wear t-shirts that no one but an Uber Geek would understand, like this (for the uninitiated, 127.0.0.1 is “home” for a website on your computer; just go with it). They often travel in packs. And they can usually recite arcane lines from any Star Trek movie or TV episode (no, wait, that’s me). None of these qualities are in any way negative. They just describe individuals who are extremely passionate about technology and like to associate with others who feel the same. Back in high school, these would stereotypically be the outcast and bullied. Now, they secretly rule the world. You think I’m kidding, but people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Sergey Brin and Larry Page (the Google guys) are household names today. Chances are you’re using one or more of their products just to read this.
It was unsettling to realize I was not a part of the elite geekdom I felt emanating from others at the conference. I have thought of myself for a while as a true geek, which turns out was an impression I formed when comparing myself to the general public. When I am put in the middle of this mass of nerdness, I come up a bit short. Don’t get me wrong, I am not feeling sorry for myself. I am just resetting the bar for what it takes to get to pocket-protector status. To up my Geek cred, I’ve got some steps to take. I’ve got to start Tweeting about technology related things. Maybe I’ll come up with a new alter ego on Twitter, like @nerdinator or @kinggeek (for those who really want to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @third2home, I promise not to tweet about programming...much; for those who don’t know what Twitter is, just keep moving). I’ll start talking about buzzwords like “technical debt” and “agile development”. Perhaps I can even find some t-shirts with funny geek sayings like “I love my motherboard” or “I’ll show you my code if you show me yours.” What do you think? Can a nearly 40 year old minor geek grow his inner geekness?
Maybe I’ll use the same developer’s conference next year as a benchmark of how I’m doing. I can go back and throw around all my new geek terms. I’ll attend the geekiest talks I can find and ask a question or two. It will be like I am training for a geek marathon. Of course, like one of my co-workers has pointed out, the first person who ran a marathon died, so maybe I won’t train quite that hard.