geek Chic didn't go away with the first bubble burst, though. There was clearly still so much money to be made that hordes of businesspeople packed into the tech industry and camped, eventually claiming to be geeks themselves, though their technical expertise is generally limited to understanding the full cost of R&D, assemblage and delivery and their geek proclivities are limited to events they sponsor for access to the geeks who attend them.
Many of the businessfolk began their careers in geek trades, and retain geek tendencies, though they suppress those beneath strict limits and concerns about cost, risk and profit potential.
It is possible for a geek, usually an MDG, to become a full-time business person and make decisions based on instincts relevant to the business world rather than that of geeks.
Among the well adjusted of these Former geeks, business interests simply replace several of the hives of topical interest that would normally be filled with technical topics.
Among those insecure about their conversion are geek Bling behaviors designed to reinforce the former geek's Geek Cred – ostentatiously seeking out and talking on an overly familiar (and often technically inaccurate) basis with Specialist geeks at company picnics or other social events, for example.
Specialist geeks, always unsure about the purpose of human interaction anyway, often take these incursions as a sign of weakness or insanity among the company's leadership and begin to trash-talk the former geek even more than they had previously, for having demonstrated a level of technical expertise lower than that of the Specialist. (Specialists, though less broad-spectrum in their geekery than MDGs, tend to be very insecure, finding comfort only in their own areas of technical expertise and the ability to mock anyone in possession of even one fact less than they have, can access or make up on the spot.)
Other categories of suit conceal claimants to geekhood who are more obvious in that their primary interest is not the technology itself, but the packaging, marketing, publicization and sale of the technology.
Though their level of technical knowledge must be far higher than counterparts doing the exact same job to sell undifferentiated vats of butter, the job of Sales, Marketing and Management "geeks" is exactly the same as selling undifferentiated vats of butter. Claims to geekhood, while not always specious among these, are as highly suspect as everything else they say, much of which is either inaccurate, misleadingly shallow or far too grammatical and vocabularious to be acceptable to real geeks.
Never a geek
Most egregious of the species of finance or business bore with claims too geekhood are those who describe their primary characteristics not in terms of interest or curiosity, but as the implementation of chutzpah.
"Entrepreneurs," who start or run technical companies may be highly technical, may have been geeks at one time and may be again. If their focus has shifted to business, finance and operations, to the exclusion of curiosity about how things work and the desire to play with the tools that can affect that, they are not geeks. They are business people (Bores).
Most dangerous among this class of geek-claimant is the "serial entrepreneur," who believes a history of starting, selling or folding technical companies one after another without bringing any to fruition multiplies his or her impact on the real world rather than diluting it. This is not true; nor is the claim to geekhood. Serial entrepreneurs can more accurately be considered to be compulsive gamblers who bet using other people's money, but keep all the winnings.
So who are you?
There are a million varieties and individual variations of the major geek sets of characteristics, preferences and implementation patterns (usually pronounced by those who dislike polysyllables as "life choices").
Which is your major category and what made you that way?
For me (definitely MDG) it was all of the above:
- Cool gadgets that might overcome my own weaknesses while also playing cool games, showing movies, letting me chat with anyone I want without the inconvenience of actually talking to them;
- The impressive reality and awesome potential of systems that can bring the world to us in packages small enough to understand, rather than forcing us to wander uncomprehendingly through it;
- The power of all the other things that become possible as information technology becomes so small and sophisticated it becomes less of a discipline in itself and more of an enabler of nanotechnology, smart materials, enhanced reality, real-time intelligence and data analysis;
- Cameras you can't forget as long as you remembered to bring your phone;
- Lower long-distance phone and cable TV bills.
Were you born a geek? Did you choose it? Was it the need to fix something about yourself? To find the tools to fix some aspect of your world that needed fixing?
Was it the money? The respect of peers? Recognition that without your assistance no one in your organization could do their jobs properly or well? The acknowledgment from business-unit managers and end users that your skills are the only thing standing between them and the unemployment line?
(Sorry, too much sarcasm. Within Corporate America, IT is like a heart surgeon inexplicably treated as a plumber by the people whose lives he or she saves. Everyone acknowledges the job is critical but no one thinks the person who does it is all that important. Surgeons make their own importance clear through the gravitational force of their own egos, if nothing else. Geeks usually resent the need to demonstrate their own worth to people who can't understand what they do and get annoyed that no one seems to be paying attention.)
Was it the need to feel as if you're building, fixing or participating in something important, and the realization that at this point in our cultural history, information technology is the most powerful catalyst for all types of human behavior?
Or was it just pure interest in the complexity, elegance, adaptability and potential of the technology itself?
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.