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[P]
More Geek Proof?

By vaguely_aware in Media
Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 05:18:16 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

As I attempted to drift off to sleep last night, I caught a television commercial for American Express that contained a disturbing tag line. It read "More Geek Proof." Does the non-geek community need to be protected from us?


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Maybe you've seen this commercial. It goes something like this: A guy sits in front of his computer. A friend is watching him over his shoulder. The friend says something to the effect of "I wouldn't do that." The computer guy says "What's wrong with buying patio furniture?"

Friend replies, "There are people in there. Some good, some bad. You want to give them your credit card number?"

"That's okay. I have people in there, too," retorts the computer user.

At this point an image of the American Express card fades in followed by several tag lines, listing "features" the card has. Of course, one of them says "More Geek Proof."

There has been some discussion (okay, an excess of discussion) about the term "geek" as applied to the K5 community, but for the sake of the argument I'm going to assume that most K5 readers are computer-literate and have some kind of vested interest in them. Also for the sake of the argument, I'm also going to assume that the term "geek" applies to them.

There are very few interpretations I can find behind the phrase "More Geek Proof" besides this: If you use our product, the (malevolent) computer enthusiasts will be kept at bay while if you use a competitor's product you might be victimized. The underlying assumption is pretty clear: Geeks cannot be trusted.

Of course, the term "geek" is a strange one anyway. Its original meaning (not the chicken-biting one) was derogatory. Those individuals it was directed at eventually embraced the term, easing its impact. But the term still feels harsh when the connotation is obviously negative. The same could be said for anything. If I called you a "sweetheart" but meant you were a feces-eating son of a jackal, you would be offended despite the fact that the actual word is one of endearment.

So in this context, I, as a K5 reader and therefore geek, have been more or less told I cannot be trusted. To me, this is worse than if they had said "More Hacker Proof." I might argue that the jargon file definition of hacker doesn't correspond with this statement in that context, but I can understand the confusion. Such is a common mistake. But using the word "geek" opens the statement to a much broader interpretation, including in its scope a much wider range of individuals. In fact, ESR's How to be a Hacker piece states that one cannot call themselves a hacker, others must do so. But no one says that anyone who feels a kinship with other like-minded individuals can't call themselves a geek. Perhaps many people believe that the two terms are synonymous.

Especially puzzling is the fact that many people associate themselves with the "geek" moniker yet have little interest in computers. Role-playing gamers, ham radio operators, mathematics majors, physicists and other quasi-social intellectuals have sometimes sought refuge in the so-called geek community, regardless of their computer skills. Is American Express trying to protect its customers from the ham radio operators?

What I found most disturbing was the fact that there didn't seem to be any humor or sarcasm implied by the line, indicating that the company felt that using the term "geek" was not only appropriate, but a serious matter and a lure to potential customers. I'm not a politically correct type of person but I think prejudice should be called what it is. An assumption has been made about the tendencies of a select group of people and they have been lumped together under a label.

Of course, it might be easy to laugh this one off. Who cares, anyway? But I find it strange that this isn't some high school clique ribbing the bookish guy in the front of the class, this is a product marketed toward working adults; the pointless labelling and compartmentalizing of society is extending beyond the walls of the schools. If it's acceptable to imply that geeks are going to steal your credit card information, how far of a stretch is it to envision a campaign where the implication is "Your geeky next door nieghbor probably already has your personal information. Maybe you should call the cops!"?

I must defend American Express a bit. The overall tone of the commercial is light. The message is subtle and most likey harmless, probably those responsible had no intention of making villians out of anyone. I'm sure they didn't use the word "hacker" because they wanted people to use their card online, not be terrified into paranoia. My question is, why implicate a group at all? Wouldn't it have been better to simply say something to the effect of "more secure than ever before?" How is this different from accusing people who dress all in black clothing of being cat-burglars?

Why did AmEx choose to use the line "More Geek Proof?" Is there an alternate explanation? Does the label "geek" deserve the same connotation as the term "hacker?" Should we be upset that a company has used a prejudicial label against us? What kind of action could or should be taken?

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Poll
Have You Seen the Commercial?
o Yes 18%
o No 30%
o I Don't Watch TV 50%

Votes: 253
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Related Links
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o jargon file
o hacker
o Also by vaguely_aware


Display: Sort:
More Geek Proof? | 97 comments (87 topical, 10 editorial, 2 hidden)
Resubmitting comment without rant.. ^_^ (2.28 / 7) (#2)
by shirobara on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 03:47:24 PM EST

Is there anywhere I can see this ad? I'm not going to watch TV in hopes of finding it so I was hoping it was online somewhere. What with all this discussion I'm interested in seeing it now...

No tv? (2.66 / 6) (#8)
by ahabel on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 04:16:47 PM EST

Is there anywhere I can see this ad? I'm not going to watch TV in hopes of finding it so I was hoping it was online somewhere. What with all this discussion I'm interested in seeing it now...

Try Adcritic.

[ Parent ]
AdCritic (none / 0) (#72)
by matthead on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 05:36:11 PM EST

Still looking for a place where I can watch the ad. I guess it's just a damn shame I don't have a TV with cable service, a Windows based PC, or a PPC Macintosh running MacOS.
--
- Matt
I'm at (0.3, -2.5). Where are you?
[ Parent ]
Poll: Non-TV-Watchers (4.07 / 13) (#5)
by Eloquence on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 04:06:22 PM EST

Quite impressive that many other K5 users don't watch TV either. Any chance that we could have this poll on the front page, Rusty? I don't think the polls are as flawed as they're generally percepted to be; because of the user ID requirement, so a poll with ~1000 votes would have some value.
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
Divide et impera (3.42 / 7) (#10)
by Khedak on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 04:21:04 PM EST

Divide and conquer works in advertising as well as in military tactics. When they say "more geek proof" they alienate geeks, but they foster empathy (read: increased sales potential) from people who may be distrustful or disliking of geeks. They didn't create this idea; the idea of computer-savvy people being 'sneaky' and that we are always trying to use our skills to our advantage stems out public animosity to complicated technology. It's not really the technology's fault: it's simply easier to blame the computers and the geeks for the problems since we can then discount whatever they claim is the reason for the problem. If a geek tells someone it's user error, the user will think the geek is out to get them and that the interface should be improved.

When someone can't understand the reasoning for something, they very often feel as if they're being cheated, especially when the conclusion is one that somehow affects them negatively. (Like having tech support tell you that you need a modem to use AOL.)

That's an extreme example, but the example of 'normals' having to trust geeks for such a huge part of their own daily lives understandably gives way to such feelings as irritation and suspicion. That's not to say it's justified, and certainly I disagree with advertising that plays on these feelings in any context. Although I disagree with advertising in general, I think in this case I think we can agree that negative advertising that targets a certain group of people (who have done nothing wrong) is bad. You can target Burglars for security system advertisements, but you can't target Irish people for security system advertisements (although at another time such advertisements might have been effective). It's clearly discriminatory. The only thing I can come up with is that they decided to improve their security and this was the most effective way they could think of to advertise about it. Really dumb.

the importance of ads? (3.90 / 11) (#11)
by DigDoug on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 04:26:29 PM EST

The serious attention that vaguely_aware paid to this 30-second ad struck me with an irony: Aren't ads supposed to be meaningless and content-free? The feeling of deep insult and the call to action apparent in this post must have been sparked by real content. By the same token, it must take some real content to spark those keen cultural insights and deep connections people find in historical advertisements, right? When NPR aired a recent feature about Coca-Cola donating a bunch of old commercials to the Library of Congress, it seemed to me like a pretty big deal. Advertising is important cultural currency!

Or maybe it's not, and maybe we should remember the real purpose of ads: selling stuff. I sure don't like the phrase "more geek proof," but just because AmEx thinks it'll help their business doesn't mean the whole world believes it.

Important in their own way. (4.25 / 4) (#34)
by jetpack on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 09:38:52 PM EST

Given the fact that ads are intended to sucker as many people as possible, I think the content of ads is very important. Or at least, very interesting.

The companies that produce these ads are catering as much as possible to as many folks as possible that will pay money for the service or item that they are promoting. Which sounds obvious, but if you think about it for a moment, that means that successful ad campaigns say alot about the audience they are directed towards.

Now, I don't have any idea if these AmEx adds have been successful or not, but if they are it probably says alot about what the average American thinks about "geeks." And lets face it, the "average American" is not what most of us K5 readers consider a geek. So, it's really not suprising that an advertisement would use the term "geek" to connote someone rather uncool and unsavoury.

So, although I hadn't previously considered the implications of this ad, I think vaguely_aware has a valid point, even if he/she is taking things a bit to the extreme.

Mind you, I bought a TiVo about a week ago, so I'll probably never see any ads again :)


--
/* The beatings will continue until morale improves */
[ Parent ]

The commercial. (3.12 / 8) (#13)
by theR on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 04:52:40 PM EST

Notification: this is mostly a combination of a topical comment and another comment in the same thread I made the first time this story was submitted.

All the ramblings about the term geek aside, I have seen the commercial.

There are very few interpretations I can find behind the phrase "More Geek Proof" besides this: If you use our product, the (malevolent) computer enthusiasts will be kept at bay while if you use a competitor's product you might be victimized. The underlying assumption is pretty clear: Geeks cannot be trusted.

I did not interprate it this way. I got the impression that they were referring to the buyer as a geek and the term "More geek proof" meant that it would provide protection for all those geeks that so often buy things online. To me it seemed like they were marketing to the geek. As we know, for some reason it seems to be more and more hip for someone to term his/herself as a geek these days, and my opinion is that American Express is using this to get geeks to use the card.

After all, the demographics of people who consider themselves or are considered by others to be geeks is a good one for companies trying to make money. The impression of a geek to the average person implies intelligence and very marketable skills. Even for those of a younger age, it implies someone in the family has money to spend. That's why I think they are trying to market to the "geek", not depict them as malevolent people who can't be trusted.

My impression is that they were using the term geekproof to mean that a geek would use it and it would work as intended, meaning securely. If you really want to know what they meant, contact the company that made the add and find out.



Childproof (4.00 / 4) (#14)
by DemiGodez on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 05:17:35 PM EST

Things that are childproof aren't marketed to children. They're marketed to parents who don't want their children messing with whatever it is.

Thus, geekproof, would imply that geeks can't mess with it.

[ Parent ]

foolproof (4.75 / 4) (#51)
by kubalaa on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 03:00:48 AM EST

Foolproof is the only such combination I know of that carries the opposite connotation. (i.e. so simple that even fools CAN use it). Figured it had to be mentioned.

[ Parent ]
"proof" (3.66 / 3) (#22)
by ellF on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 06:57:35 PM EST

furthering the previous comment: "proof", when combined with a noun, is an indication of imperviability to or resistance of said noun. "waterproof" watches, "fireproof" doors. it would pleasantly fuzzy to interpert the ads as being marketed towards geeks, but it's not probable - or linguistically defensible - that such was the intended meaning. ~ellF~

[ Parent ]
Why not? (3.75 / 4) (#31)
by theR on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 08:57:32 PM EST

furthering the previous comment: "proof", when combined with a noun, is an indication of imperviability to or resistance of said noun. "waterproof" watches, "fireproof" doors. it would pleasantly fuzzy to interpert the ads as being marketed towards geeks, but it's not probable - or linguistically defensible - that such was the intended meaning.

Why could that not be the meaning? If, by your definition, something is geekproof, then it is impervious or resistant to geeks. I took that to mean that even a geek couldn't screw it up, and by screw it up that means make it perform other than in its intended way or function. To this point, I think we agree. But then you have to decide, are they talking about a geek using the card as his own or a geek trying to steal the cardnumber for nefarious purposes? I think it is the former. You are free to disagree, and it really is a matter of interpretation.

I don't think that is unreasonable, and that is how I saw it. It seems odd to me that an ad agencey would try to promote something by bashing a large portion of its audience that is seen as increasingly "hip" and "in". A lot of people want to jump on the geek bandwagon these days, and I think this ad is an example of that, not an attempt to bash geeks.



[ Parent ]
a why, perhaps (4.00 / 2) (#66)
by ellF on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:45:23 PM EST

perhaps. question raised: why would a card be such that "even a geek couldn't screw it up"? more specifically, why would it be marketed as such? there seems to be a tacit implication that geeks are thus prone to "screwing things up", as you put it.

the central point here, then, seems to lie in how one defines that phrase. i personally read it to mean that the card is not "made to perform other than in its intended way or function" - after all, all a card does is access an account - but to perform its intended function in circumstances which were not forseen. that is, if WilyGeek were to grab VictimX's number whilst he bought patio furniture, and then used it to purchase something else, this card would be somehow "more impervious" to such an action - GeekProof.

that's how I read the probability argument.

linguistically, I interpert "proof", when connected to a noun and used in relation to another noun (a "geekproof card", a "childproof" bottle), as being an indication that the second noun is defended against any and all efforts on the behalf of the first. a childproof bottle does not imply that "even a child couldn't screw it up", it implies that the bottle is capable of resisting any effort that the child put forth to openning it. similarily, a "geekproof" card means that the card is protected from geeks, not that geeks are protected from their own "screwability" (hmm...).

anyways, it *is* a matter of interpertation. i disagree with your reading of the phrase, but that's ok - we're entitled, no? ultimately, i think that American Express wanted to project an perception of safety to the population who shops online, but is nervous about having their credit card number stolen and used against them. realizing that "hacker" was both a bit trendy and carried excessive weight with it, they decided to use "geek" - and the only ones who are really upset are those of us pedantic (geeky?) enough to care.

cheers,
~ellF~

[ Parent ]
Geekproof (4.00 / 1) (#84)
by FunkyChild on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 12:04:31 AM EST

DISCLAIMER: I haven't seen the ad, just educated guesses.

I think it's more like 'foolproof'. Usually when people say something's foolproof, its implying that the object is so sturdy that even if you goof up and do something stupid, it will be ok.

I think it could be the same for this - they could be saying 'geekproof', using 'geek' with a kind of enthusiastic, quirky and slightly naive connotation. It could mean "If you are geeky and buy things on the internet all the time, you won't have to worry about fraud problems with this card. Our card will protect you from yourself and your over-enthusiastic geeky ways - it's geekproof"


-- Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday. And now, you know why.
[ Parent ]
geek proof? (3.60 / 5) (#15)
by Funakoshi on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 05:31:21 PM EST

I have seen this commercial and it bothered me for another reason. The thing that stuck out at me was that they seem to imply that your are safe when purchasing things in the store. That's safe? The fricking people in that case are standing right in front of you. Should you trust these people for some reason? Giving you're cc out for any purchase is a potential risk. There are people everywhere. Stupid commercial

My safety. (5.00 / 2) (#41)
by mindstrm_2 on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:14:38 AM EST

I don't get it. Where's the big deal? If the merchant's peon steals my cc# and racks up a bill, it doesn't cost me a *dime*. I don't even have to cancel my card if it hasnt' been physically stolen (if I still have it). IT's absolutely, 100%, not my problem beyond simply reporting it to the polite visa representative on the other end of the phone.
Same with online fraud. IT's very very simple.... my contract says the only time I may be liable for up to $50 is if my *card* is stolen. And that's just not what we're talking about here.

Amex and whoever else just wants people to not be afraid to buy things online.


[ Parent ]
This is horrendously stupid. (2.70 / 20) (#16)
by xmutex on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 05:41:03 PM EST

So what if they said "more geek proof." This really disturbed you? Silly, stupid ad lingo disturbs you.. hrmm. Man, there have been a rash of horrible i'm-a-geek-oh-i'm-so-oppressed stories on K5 lately. You all need to get over yourselves.

bullet the blue sky

if this continues (2.33 / 12) (#17)
by maketo on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 06:02:02 PM EST

I refuse to call myself geek. With all this "I am a geek and I am proud of it" crap there is nothing else left to do.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
dotdot (none / 0) (#78)
by ameoba on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 04:34:12 AM EST

This, I think, is the distinction that eskimo was trying to make. For other types of 'persecution', be they ethnic/racial/religious/political/ideological, you can't just drop it and move on.

Just think, if the Japanese-Americans had been able to dissociate themselves from Japan during WWII...

[ Parent ]
New poll option required (1.07 / 14) (#18)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 06:21:30 PM EST

I'm not an American.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
Your Choice (4.20 / 5) (#23)
by Malicose on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 07:04:05 PM EST

If you're not American, then I'd guess the correct answer for you on this pull is "No," as you haven't seen the commercial. What's the problem with that?

[ Parent ]
AE markets worldwide (2.50 / 2) (#44)
by TuxNugget on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:47:59 AM EST

Umm, thats no excuse. I've seen signs for AE in asia and europe.

[ Parent ]
The add makers (4.00 / 8) (#19)
by aprentic on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 06:37:40 PM EST

Wouldn't it have been better to simply say something to the effect of "more secure than ever before"?
Probably not.
During college I took a bunch of writing courses as part of my credit distribution requirement. One thing which was alays brought up was that it's better to show than to tell.
Saying "X is so." doesn't leave much of an impression. It's much more effective to show why X is so and make the reader decide on their own that it is.
For instance, if I say, "She is angry." you will probably forget about it. But if I say "She spat in his eye." you can figure out on you're own that she's angry.
The same goes for adds "more secure than ever" is what everyone says. But if you present an image of a person who nonchalantly, hints that he has broken into some company database, then you can point to something specific as what you are protecting against.


Pointless Labelling??? (3.75 / 12) (#20)
by eskimo on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 06:50:11 PM EST

How can you decry American Express labelling you when just a few paragraphs before you label yourself (and me)? Seems sort of silly to me. I don't understand how you can even be angry if they mis-labelled and/or misinterpretted your label, because by labelling even a group of people you are committing the same offense.

Furthermore, more and more posts here talk about how people are intimidated by their knowledge. Well guess what? This is a plot twist Bill Gibson probably figured he ought to avoid when he was about nine years old. There is no technocracy. There is no data-ocracy. People here often talk about the power they have, because some of them control the transmission of ones and zeroes.

They foster resentment with these claims. They invite persecution and mistrust because they place themselves above others. My problem with the 'geek' community when I read stories like this is that it seems more and more like the Catholic Church trying to piss on the Renaissance, issuing edicts, making proclamations, and more importantly, claiming to control the privilege of one box to talk to another box.

But it's true!!! I AM ROOOOOOOOOT!!!

That may be, but it seems to me that in a lot of circumstances, religion is just a tool to divide people and hinder the progress of knowledge. Jettison your labels or you risk doing the same thing.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto

Re: Pointless Labelling (3.33 / 3) (#26)
by vaguely_aware on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 07:47:08 PM EST

Point taken.

Don't fail to notice however that I was (futilely) attemptimg to avoid the "we are geeks/we are not geeks" war by merely setting the stage for the argument by assuming we could be considered geeks in many contexts. The label I apply to myself and others like me is based on nothing more than an assumption for the sake of that argument. If I am considered a geek, am I going to be unable to operate this credit card, since it's "geek proof"? If not, why advertise it as such? What, then, was the meaning of the statement?

Personally, I call myself a geek IRL rarely, and only in self-depreciating jest. I'm just me, I can't be wrapped up in a tidy label like that. Some might consider me as falling under such a label, which is dumb but excuseable to a point. What I don't like is when that label gets tossed around publicly with negative connotation.

That's akin to a saloon advertising that "We're not very Christian around here." The obvious meaning is that you should come to the saloon because you'll like it (positive) due to the fact that they're not like Christians (negative).

The point is, don't cry for me because I'm a geek, but don't go around telling everyone that I'm evil because of that fact.



"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
Honestly (3.20 / 5) (#32)
by eskimo on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 09:13:01 PM EST

I have seen the commercial several times, and I didn't notice the slogan, or even what it was for. If is was directed at me, or my demographic, they definitely need more bicycle stunts.

I have sent stories to people from CNN just because anytime there is a hacker story, they have that generic picture next to it with the green skull on the computer screen. I find that sort of thing funny. That green skull is a caricature of this whole world.

Try and help people understand. If they can't or won't, then it is safe to laugh at them and their glowing green skulls.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

OT.. (2.00 / 2) (#40)
by mindstrm_2 on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:11:53 AM EST

Eskimo.. on a longshot here, is your name Chris?

[ Parent ]
nope (2.00 / 2) (#43)
by eskimo on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:40:36 AM EST

Sorry, no Chris here.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Thanks. (2.00 / 2) (#49)
by mindstrm_2 on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 02:20:54 AM EST

Just you're the only other person I've heard who calls him 'Bill Gibson'.

Cheers.


[ Parent ]
hrm...labels and their reprocussions. (none / 0) (#83)
by fluxrad on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 08:47:32 PM EST

i don't think i spelled that correctly.

anyway. i don't think the original poster was offended at the idea that amex was calling certain people geeks. The same could be said for myself (i've seen the commercial). I call myself a geek. I am into computers. I play on them when i am at work, i play on them when i am at home. I find myself at home, socially, when i am with fellow geeks. One can argue that i am not, entirely, a geek. I would agree - most people have very dynamic personalities and wear many different "masks" - but this is the mask i am most comfortable with. However, geek may define a subset that an individual identifies/is identified most closely with....but that hardly identifies their total self. Much as i listen to radically different music than most geeks i know. I watch different television programs, and i have different interests (case in point: i am not really a fan of sci-fi, and i have never read tolkein - one of the major stereotypes associated with "geekdom")

anyway, back to the amex argument. The most damaging aspect of this commercial is not an implication that anyone is a geek. The damage is done to the self-identified "geek" community. I am a member of that community (albeit somewhat of a fringe member). and i'm sure that most people with accounts at sites like K5 and /. are self-identified geeks as well. (geek, of course, meaning one who maintains a heavy interest in all that is computers/electronics). That being said, amex has begun to play another dangerous game. If their marketing campain works, then all of the sudden, you could see emulation of this same technique elsewhere. All of the sudden, thanks to a snowball effect, your grandmother is afraid to talk to you because she heard you were a "geek" - and we all know that geeks steal credit card numbers over the internet (those nefarious bastards!).

I think the sentiment that was being expressed was one of sincere concern over the possibility of the term geek becoming synonymous with terms like "hacker" or "cracker." These terms have already been grossly mangled by the media, and thusly, have become household synonyms for a techno-villain. As soon as a word like "hacker" is uttered, we can immediately envision a 20-30 year old trixter named Silas Snideville (or something along those lines) massaging his waxed moustache while he waits for the codes to NORAD to be broken on his k-r4d s00pUh 1337 P-4. I know you and i don't think that, but you can see it in the eyes of people when you even utter said term. Hell, i've seen people take a step back when i told them i was a hacker (like i had some techno super-button i could press to bankrupt them and force them to watch me have sex with their wife or their daughter.)

hacker has already become a completely derogatory term in the main-stream TV watching public's eyes. Do we want geek to have those same connotations? I would assume amex does, so long as it boosts sales.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Then Why... (none / 0) (#87)
by eskimo on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 01:24:52 PM EST

Why do you choose to embrace the label if you know that people with infinitely more power will twist it to suit their needs? If you let them label you, you have something you can fight against. If you let them twist your label, you are basically screwed, all because you need a sense of community and likeness.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

a label is a label, regardless (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by fluxrad on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:45:32 AM EST

we, as humans, must use labels for implied understanding. that car is blue. the hamburger is warm, i am a geek. these are all the same, whether you choose to accept it or not is irrelevant.

most often now-a-days, the term geek is used to define someone who is in to computers. I cannot change the fact that i am a geek any more than i can change the fact that i am irish, or that i have blond hair, or that i am 5'9" tall (another arbitrary standard, accepted for universal discourse).

however, the problem one such as myself has to have with a comment like "more geek proof" is that it insults who i am. I'm not advocating action against said comment, well, not any more action than trying to promote awareness wherever i go (i'm wearing my "geek" t-shirt right now). But what if the commercial had said "more black-people proof." - would the NAACP just sit by and say "well, don't worry, 'black people' is just a label"??? Of course not.

as i said, i am a geek. i can't change that. yes, it is an arbitrarily created term...but the implicit meaning behind the arbitrary definition of the word describes me pretty well. if that means that i am treated as a miscreant, or an iconoclast, so be it. despite your assertion, i don't feel the need to belong to any community. especially one that defines a "geek" as a techno-criminal.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Stupid commercial (3.77 / 9) (#21)
by bjrubble on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 06:54:43 PM EST

There are a bunch of ads in the series, and all of them exploit this vague fear of online purchasing, without offering any concrete solution that I could discern (although they're among the ads I'll change the channel to avoid, so I haven't seen the whole thing much). Limiting liability is the only feature I think is worth the promotional brochures it's printed on, and that's pretty common.

So my conclusion is that this is another cheesy buzzword product, designed to fleece the technically clueless, and it shouldn't be surprising that their commercials are both inane and suffused with a Luddite air. The mere existence of such products and business strategies offends me far more than any particular spot of ridiculousness that may pop up in the execution.

security (3.50 / 4) (#36)
by radar bunny on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 09:58:41 PM EST

There are a bunch of ads in the series, and all of them exploit this vague fear of online purchasing, without offering any concrete solution that I could discern

True. Everyone seems to be advertising things like "zero liability" or "guranteed secure" which instanly raises a red flag in my mind. And, the problem is that no one really wants to explain how they are able to make such promises. However, a lot of people find comfort in these vague promises as long as it will protect them from all the evil geeks and hackers out there.

Personally, I have a bigger problem with their promises of security than i do with their use of the word geek.

[ Parent ]
yeah.. but.. (3.66 / 3) (#48)
by wolfie on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 02:04:46 AM EST

Fair enough, all these claims they make.. "guaranteed secure"..that's right next to (in my mind) "We use RSA", or "Scalable High Availability VPN E-Commerce" or whatever stupid buzzword/phrase you wish to invent.

As far as them guaranteeing security, if they're willing to back that legally and say "We will not hold you responsible for any charges if your credit card is compromised online" or something like that (I'm certainly no lawyer) - Then the customer is *effectively* getting his security "guaranteed", assuming of course that, the only thing that can result from compromise of said credit card is charges to your account.

So.. basically. at the end of the day... to the average cluebie, that's good enough - and even to me, being geekish at best, if I'm promised that I won't have to pay illegal charges - why should I care even if their technology does fail and my card gets compromised/abused - going forth with the expectation that it will not cause any serious denial of service (not being able to use the card) or just general stress on my part - which is going to be the case most likely anyway otherwise the company is not going to have many customers..

- brian

[ Parent ]
One flaw (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by theR on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 03:45:04 PM EST

What you say is mostly true. For them, all that matters is that they back their claims. But if goods are obtained through fraudulent use, even if the consumer is not liable for the charges, we all still pay in the end. The cost of fraud and theft is transferred to the consumer through annual fees, interest rates, and higher prices on merchandise. Thus I would argue that we are not effectively getting our guaranteed security, while the credit card company would argue the opposite because we are not directly charged.



[ Parent ]
true (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by wolfie on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 05:16:41 PM EST

That's quite true, I was only thinking in terms of direct impact of the end-consumer, and not overall. To some extent, there's always going to be fraud/theft, that's clearly unavoidable, the only hope is that if it becomes intolerably high then the companies whose fault it is will make greater effort to stamp it out.


[ Parent ]
musings - relevance, direction (1.66 / 6) (#24)
by ellF on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 07:15:19 PM EST

"Of course, it might be easy to laugh this one off. Who cares, anyway?" at the time when one allows judgements of relevance to stand before judgements of ethicality, there is an allowance made (and an unspoken message projected) for a certain level of prejudice and ignorance, so long as it is kept quiet. nonetheless, the question of the overall impact of such a point *is* important. "geek" is a label, not a group - despite the efforts by some who would care to create a community under the banner of such a label. those of us who care enough about what we're doing - be it technologically or personally - would do so regardless of what we were called. currently, there seems to be a perception that computers (especially as they become increasingly complex) are somehow mysterious, and those who entirely understand them are both respected and feared. a company seeking to market their advertisments to the greatest number of people will, of course, play upon the emotions of that majority - and the image of the "hacker" - or "geek", in this case - is a recognized and popular one. is it wrong? perhaps. "If it's acceptable to imply that geeks are going to steal your credit card information, how far of a stretch is it to envision a campaign where the implication is "Your geeky next door nieghbor probably already has your personal information. Maybe you should call the cops!"?" current situation firmly in mind, i believe that there is a long distance (yet) between a commercial that recognizes that so-called "geeks" are often interested in security, and can - based upon their understanding that is grounded in such an interest - bypass most forms of it, and an advertisment that attempts to raise suspicion of anyone who fits the mold of the "geek" as we have currently cast it. there would be neither a marketing angle nor a basis - even a tenuous one - in fact. as important as it may make some people feel, "geeks" are not currently being persecuated. individuals are - and it most generally is the actions (often illegal, at least as the laws currently are interperted) of specific people that bring about consequences; rarely do the possesion of technical skills make one suspect. ~ellF~

musings - relevance, direction (1.60 / 5) (#25)
by ellF on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 07:17:28 PM EST

"Of course, it might be easy to laugh this one off. Who cares, anyway?" in my opinion, at the time when one allows judgements of relevance to stand before judgements of ethicality, there is an allowance made (and an unspoken message projected) for a certain level of prejudice and ignorance, so long as it is kept quiet. nonetheless, the question of the overall impact of such a point as the AmEx commecial makes *is* important to consider. "geek" is a label, not a group - despite the efforts by some who would care to create a community under the banner of such a label. those of us who care enough about what we're doing - be it technologically or personally - would do so regardless of what we were called. currently, there seems to be a perception that computers (especially as they become increasingly complex) are somehow mysterious, and those who entirely understand them are both respected and feared. a company seeking to market their advertisments to the greatest number of people will, of course, play upon the emotions of that majority - and the image of the "hacker" - or "geek", in this case - is a recognized and popular one. is it wrong? perhaps. "If it's acceptable to imply that geeks are going to steal your credit card information, how far of a stretch is it to envision a campaign where the implication is "Your geeky next door nieghbor probably already has your personal information. Maybe you should call the cops!"?" current situation firmly in mind, i believe that there is a long distance (yet) between a commercial that recognizes that so-called "geeks" are often interested in security, and can - based upon their understanding that is grounded in such an interest - bypass most forms of it, and an advertisment that attempts to raise suspicion of anyone who fits the mold of the "geek" as we have currently cast it. there would be neither a marketing angle nor a basis - even a tenuous one - in fact. as important as it may make some people feel, "geeks" are not currently being persecuated. individuals are - and it most generally is the actions (often illegal, at least as the laws currently are interperted) of specific people that bring about consequences; rarely do the possesion of technical skills make one suspect. ~ellF~

Discriminatory (3.38 / 13) (#27)
by SbooX on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 07:53:23 PM EST

I've been reading throught the comments posted in relation to the story and I realized that a point hasnt been brought up yet. Consider the following:

The term "geek" is clearly used in a derogatory fashion in this commercial. It implies that all geeks are terrible, evil people who will steal your credit cards and possibly your first born if given the chance. Now, what if a (traditional) bank used the same type of generalizations? Its possible that such a bank would develop a similar slogan. Its possible that the bank would develop a slogan such as "More nigger proof." After all, black people rob banks, right?

Now I realize that the above is a bit of a stretch but there are similarities. Clearly if such a slogan were used today there would be massive public outcry. I realize that most people do not use the term geek in a negative way, however that was clearly the intention here. AMEX has essentially defined all highly computer literate people as theifs and we should not allow them to get away with it.

---

god is silly. MGL 272:36

Uh-oh (4.00 / 4) (#29)
by vaguely_aware on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 07:58:43 PM EST

Be careful going there with this. I did it earlier today and it wasn't taken very lightly.

Upon further reflection I believe it is more like an educational course being promoted as "blonde-proof." Blonde, in it's derogatorry sense, can be hurtful but let's face it, that's a stereotype and not an ethnic judgement. Ultimately the intent of the promotion is arguably flawed, but not so severe as to perpetuate years of mindless hate and suffering.



"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
I suppose... (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by SbooX on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 08:03:59 PM EST

that "blonde-proof" would be an more accurate comparison, but I still stand by what I said. There are people in America that attempt to make anyone who uses computers to appear evil <cough>George W. Bush</cough>. Although AMEX may not have consciously done this it is still what essentially happened IMO.

---

god is silly. MGL 272:36
[ Parent ]

If This is Where This Leads Then We All Lose (2.50 / 12) (#35)
by eskimo on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 09:57:55 PM EST

It's a big world out there, corky. Feel free to live in it. This is what I have been waiting for. This is the absurdity I knew we needed to avoid. I tried everybody, I really did, but here we are.

I'm not going to use all caps, but I am yelling. Black people don't choose to be black. Many blondes don't choose to be blonde. You choose to call yourself a 'geek.' You choose it. You choose it because you are a joiner and it feels more secure, or it is convenient, and everybody with that LINUX fish thing on their car is your instant friend, and you are pissed because American Express has misinterpretted your own label. But EVERY label is a misinterpretation of a person. That is the inherent flaw in labelling.

This comment makes how most people feel about religion seem logical and fun. Normally, I have a pretty low opinion of religion. It is just another label, after all, but you are born into a faith. And furthermore, if a person needs to think there is a heaven and a god to get through the day, who am I to piss on that.

What aspect of being a 'geek' is that important. Is LINUX as important as an immense cultural difference like ethnicicity, or heaven or hell or god? It is hard for the close minded to accept, but differences are really just an opportunity to learn.

As a third party observer of almost every religious dispute, I find it remarkable that both sides so readily disregard each others culture and history. There are things that these people should be able to teach each other. They all love god, after all. My problem with comments like this are the fact that the 'geek' collective has no nemisis, except 'them.' Is there anbody out there who can teach the 'geek' collective anything? I suspect the answer is 'no' for a lot of you, and that's why I avoid the label. There are plenty of people out there who have something to teach me. Even you, if you are willing to stoop to my level.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

wtf??? (4.20 / 5) (#38)
by SbooX on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 12:02:24 AM EST

Did you even read my post or did you just feel like ranting? You did not even remotely touch on anything that I mentioned. At no point in your incoherent rambling did you even come close to addressing the issue. I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul. (from Billy Madison)

Who says that being a geek is a choice? A person who is gifted in the computer field arguably has no choice but to follow their natural inclination. A blonde has more choice in being blonde. She can simply dye her hair and escape the stigma of being blonde. For a computer literate person to escape the stigma of being a geek they must deny a part of their being.

You choose to call yourself a 'geek.' You choose it.

Who says I do? I am at best a quasi-geek. I am a college student majoring in History who happens to know quite a bit about computers, and enjoys reading and posting to sites like K5. I have tried Linux and found that I do not like it. Its too damn complicated for me (I'm not geeky enough).

I have been labled a geek not by myself, but by those around me. They see that I am more knowledgable than they are, and that frightens them. Therefore "they" attach a label to me and partially ostricize me. I have no problem with this label, it seems to inspire fear in dumb jocks. I like that power. The problem is with the perception of the label as shown by the AMEX commercial. Geeks (an applied label, not one chosen) are horrible human beings and their deaths should be prayed for.

I'm not even going to address your comments on religion as you are quite far off base on that. (For the record, I'm an Atheist"

---

god is silly. MGL 272:36
[ Parent ]

re: wtf? (3.40 / 5) (#42)
by eskimo on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:37:02 AM EST

First of all, you didn't respond to the point about African Americans choosing their ethnicicity. So I guess I'll pull that to my side. Second of all, what does a person being computer literate have to do with their being a geek? That is a stereotype. That is a trap. If you can be computer literate without being a geek, then you don't have to worry about this commercial. If not, Katie bar the door. I don't understand how so many people here jump to that conclusion. I also don't understand all the drama surtrounding being a geek. Dramatic language like 'stigma' or 'inspires fear in dumb jocks' doesn't really help. It actually seems kind of funny. You are not an alchemist. Turning ones and zeroes into pictures and words isn't magic. Sorry.

I want to take a step back and look at the logic here. Don't you see that in one sentence you claim that you like to inspire fear in the uninformed, and then you complain that American Express apparently wants you dead. I got news for you. If you portray yourself as having more of anything than somebody else, they are going to look for a way to take it from you. Entropy leaves not one stone stacked upon another. Also, the writer points out that there are different kinds of geeks. I wonder why the physics geeks aren't as threatened as you are? The problem here is that many 'geeks' apparently choose to treat knowledge as a commodity. I guess the mantra 'information wants to be free' only applies to people in the club. The fact is, my comments on religion were dead on. For the most part, Latin, the language of the Church, was only taught to the clergy. It was their way of keeping information out of the hands of people. The printing press came before Luther.

Lastly, in response to your first question, whether or not I chose to respond to your post at all, I think I did, but at the same time, I found your assumption that being ethnically different was in any way equitable with your experiences as a geek was more than rant-worthy. Furthermore, if you want to have a rational discussion, perhaps you should try using rational language. 'Nigger' is hardly appropriate considering this topic. When they string up the geeks, call me.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

just as bad (3.66 / 3) (#46)
by wolfie on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:51:31 AM EST

>>First of all, you didn't respond to the point about African Americans choosing their ethnicicity. So I guess I'll pull that to my side.

And you completely evaded his point about blondes and dying hair

Pot calling the kettle black.


[ Parent ]
Funny... (3.25 / 4) (#56)
by eskimo on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 06:37:20 AM EST

Okay, fine. Ready? It is different for narrow minded people to discount your opinion, as opposed to dragging you behind their pickup truck until you are dead. And if you want, you can try to make this into a women's rights issue, but then you are trivializing this whole 'geek persecution' thing even more. When they start raping the geeks, call me.

If it is any consolation, we are rapidly approaching 'the eskimo's last stand.' I can't believe the lack of perspective people here have.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

hmm, please read this (none / 0) (#73)
by wolfie on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 07:40:53 PM EST

ok :)

Maybe you need to relax a bit.. I'm not making this into a women's rights issue, or a geek persecution issue, or anything like that..

For the record, I tend to 'not care' about AMEX 'insulting' geeks, because even though I have some group identity with 'geeks', there's more to me than that - I don't take (this particular example) personally.

Aside, where is the 'lack of perspective' that I seemingly exhibit? All I did in my comment was point out your mild hypocrisy in saying that he ignored your examples, while you did the same to him, hence the pot calling the kettle black.

Of course it's possible that you simply did not notice his comment regarding blonde women, and thus did not retort, but I should hope (perhaps I'm too naive) that people take a bit more care when writing/responding to a comment.

>>I can't believe the lack of perspective people here have.

Last, since i "lack perspective", I'll tell you a bit about myself, and I'm not portraying myself as a "victim" or anything like that - I tire of "victim identity syndrome", but am just responding to your claim that I (being one of the people "here") lack perspective.

I am a young white male, but I grew up (age 5-17) in third world countries (no my parents are NOT missionaries), where I have been a minority, not of my own choice, and I've endured a fair bit of abuse and prejudice, and such. I'm not complaing, I'm glad I've endured and seen these things, it's helped to (hopefully) make me a better and stronger person, I like to think I have "perspective" although admittedly that is not the case always - I get bigoted just like anyone. I'm after all, only human.

One final note - incidentally I have been dragged behind a pickup truck, obviously not until I was dead - it's not as bad as it sounds, I was riding in the back and fell off, kinda got caught - dirt road, ugh.. anyway, I lack perspective :)

- brian

[ Parent ]
Stereotypes vs prejudice. (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by Chakotay on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 05:19:08 AM EST

Second of all, what does a person being computer literate have to do with their being a geek? That is a stereotype. That is a trap. If you can be computer literate without being a geek, then you don't have to worry about this commercial.

Thing is, in this commercial a stereotype and a prejudice are combined. First the stereotype that geeks are computer literate, second the prejudice that those who are computer literate will crack your card. My problem is not with the former assumption, it's with the latter. And that is aggravated by combining it with a stereotype.

For example, lets take some other stereotype and a prejudice. Stereotype: Jews have big noses. Prejudice: Jews are untrustworthy. AmEx ad: People with big noses are untrustworthy. See the difference?

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]

What Thaey Think (4.00 / 2) (#55)
by eskimo on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 06:31:31 AM EST

We can't control what other people think. On the other hand, it seems pretty common here to associate computer literacy with 'geek-ness.' They don't say anything about what a 'geek' is. They just say they are more 'geek'' proof. The irony of this discussion is that many here think that knowing about computers is geeky, therefore American Express wants them dead. Somebody fire off a nasty email. They'll apologize. They don't care.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

And what the hell does choice have to do with it? (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by Chakotay on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 05:14:58 AM EST

Maybe, just maybe you choose to be a geek - though generally the fact that somebody is a geek is decided by those surrounding him during adolescence, and not by the person in question him/herself.

Another example. I chose to be Pagan. Does that mean it's okay for me to be discriminated against? Is it okay for shops to display signs "Jews not served", because, after all, it's your own choice to be Jewish?

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]

Faith (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by eskimo on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 06:52:50 AM EST

I already talked about matters of faith. Nothing about being a 'geek' is as important as heaven or hell or god, whatever anybody calls it. Linus did a cool thing, but does anybody rely on Linus to get through the day? Does anybody thank him when they do? Don't you kind of feel like you are trivializing your religion when you say things like this? I mean the Holocaust was real, and Jews still chose to be Jewish. Jews choose to be Jewish because they have faith in a higher power. It is not something I understand, but it is also not something I am willing to take away.

According to most arguements here, geeks choose to be geeks because they like computers and want to be associated with other people who like computers. To be bonded together by an INTEREST, or even a passion, is different than being bonded together by faith. When the Geeks are FORCED to have those LINUX fish on their cars so they can be singled out and killed, call me.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Ok.... (3.66 / 3) (#60)
by Matrix on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 08:35:23 AM EST

Then what about those persecuted because they're members of a political party, like the communists in America or Nazi Germany? After all, they choose to be communists, and choose to go to communist meetings... So what was done to them is perfectly fine. After all, they were bonded together by an interest (or a passion), and they identified themselves and singled themselves out by meeting with others who shared the same interests...


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Still Different (3.00 / 3) (#62)
by eskimo on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 09:34:52 AM EST

You are still pretty far off base here. While political affiliation is not the same as faith, one's decision to try and dictate how their government runs is still a matter of philosophical and ideological difference. I can continue to reply to these comments if you want. I just don't think that being a 'geek' is the same as being a communist or a Jew. You are forcing me to refine my arguement, which I appreciate, but eventually this discussion will end.

So now, officially, the eskimo believes that computer literacy, which many k5 participants equate with 'geekhood,' is different from ideology, philosophy or religion. It is VERY different from ethnicicity. Hence, I find it kind of absurd that people equate an American Express commercial designed to entice their parents to buy things online with with the multitude of sexist, cultural and ethnic injustices in the world.

This is my position. I give up. Let me know when you all want to talk about movies and stuff.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

So... (none / 0) (#82)
by Matrix on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 05:56:11 PM EST

Discriminating against the "geek culture" (whatever that may be) isn't a cultural injustice?


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Yes, but... (1.00 / 1) (#85)
by eskimo on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 01:16:08 PM EST

What descrimination?

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Flawed anaolgy (none / 0) (#80)
by davidduncanscott on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 01:49:29 PM EST

I agree that a blanket indictment of the computer literate is wrong, but the analogy with blacks is flawed as well. Not only are most blacks not thieves, but obviously many thieves are not black.

The situation with computer crime is a bit different. The fact is that while most computer-literate people do not commit crimes, pretty much all computer crime is committed by the computer literate. In other words, and speaking very loosely, "Not all geeks are computer criminals, but all computer criminals are geeks".

How about a rape-prevention course that promises to teach women to protect themselves from men? I'm not going to fuss too much, because while I think most of us men are not rapists, clearly most rapists are in fact men.

As to the meat of the ad, isn't it AmEx that has developed the one-time pad of card numbers, the disposable number that is useful for one transaction only and therefore senseless to steal?

[ Parent ]

We didn't make the term 'geek' (3.90 / 10) (#28)
by weirdling on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 07:57:11 PM EST

It's not like the 'geek' community has a trademark on the word, as we didn't even coin it. I call myself a geek in order to be left alone by precisely the types who are scared of geeks, and yes, they are. It's odd that AmEx would market to luddites when they also market a card that generates a new number for *every* purchase, which pretty much makes fraud impossible as well as making it devilishly hard to track your purchasing profile. This card is aimed squarely at geeks.
Fact is that we live in a different world from the rest of the world, a world in which things make sense and we know exactly why a computer does what it does and what hackers can and can't do and the odds of them doing it. To your average person, anyone in that world is a potential threat because they don't understand the world at all; hence the attempts to regulate what can and can't be done in that world. It's all misunderstanding pretty much, but I have relatives who believe that people can hack into their computer even when its off if its still plugged into the wall, and there were plenty of people expecting their refrigerator to fail because of Y2K. I knew people who thought strictly mechanical devices such as an ancient Chevy would fail, simply because it has technology in it.
And, of course, the laws of physics would be suspended so that aircraft could fall straight down...
Go see the movie 'Charlie's Angels'. The portrayal of the geek type in that movie is sinful if we are to attempt to change our percieved image. Geeks are cows that a domineering woman can control. Geeks are evil with mastermind plots. Geeks are annoying. I came away very much convinced that that was an accurate portrayal of what the rest of the world thinks and that it is seriously more disturbing of a situation than I originally thought.
The funniest part was the ease with which the domineering woman gained control. In the societies I hang out with, someone would have given her an earful and sent her packing for being entirely too full of herself, but I guess society doesn't view us that way, which explains in part the behaviour of my last girlfriend...
However, there isn't anything we can do about it because we didn't make the title; we didn't make the distinction; and we can't control a public image of a mental type that cannot be understood by your average person. Therein lies the problem.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Ummmm... bad example (3.00 / 3) (#47)
by Dacta on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:58:16 AM EST

In Charlies Angels, if you are talking about the scene where Drew Barrymore is with the computer guy "protecting" him back at his house, I think you are very mistaken in your view. Firstly, he seduces her, then he turns out to be a bad guy, then he shoots her and she falls out the window.

If that is an example of cows that a domineering woman can control then let me be a cow, I say.

Sure, he loses in the end, but that's because he is a bad guy and this is a movie. It's nothing to do with his geekiness - infact, after the scene outlined above he turns out not to be very geekish at all.



[ Parent ]
No (3.66 / 3) (#50)
by kubalaa on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 02:54:48 AM EST

He's talking about Lucy-"efficiency expert"-Wu. Make sense now?

Personally, I thought that scene was delicious fun, but *shrugs* I see his point.

[ Parent ]

Hillarious (2.75 / 4) (#52)
by CAIMLAS on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 04:38:16 AM EST

I find it incredibly hillarious how people classify me as being someone that's easily manipulated. What generally happens is, I let them think they're having their way, and gradually, (or maybe quite suddenly, actually) the tables turn, and they're more or less either doing my service or listening to me. I refuse to take crap from anyone. Most geeks I've met are the same way.
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Disservice to the Jedi Label (1.00 / 1) (#68)
by eskimo on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 04:21:35 PM EST

That's the joke. Couldn't resist. The wheels are about to come off soon anyway. At least I'm not like the alien guy.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Distraction tactic (3.92 / 14) (#33)
by SIGFPE on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 09:17:24 PM EST

This is a distraction tactic designed to make people think that only special evil people can commit credit card fraud and shift the blame away from the credit card companies themselves. Of course the reason why credit card fraud gets committed is that (up to now) credit card companies have used a brainless security system that consists of using a card number which ever vendor you deal with gets to read.
SIGFPE
Credit card fraud and it's real causes... (4.63 / 11) (#39)
by Miniluv on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 12:31:58 AM EST

Credit card fraud is an intricate and complex system, one with many many causes, and many effective prevention systems. First of all, there are two distinct categories of credit card purchase: Card present and card not present. Every single form of transaction using a card falls into one of thse, for obvious reasons. These two transaction types are handled entirely different for fraud prevention. They also handle known fraud differently from the liability standpoint.
Card present transactions are protected by several measures of security. First off the credit card number itself contains one of many check digit schemes to prevent people from just guessing random numbers and printing cards with them. After the card is swiped on most standard systems the last four digits must be manually keyed in by the attendant, though I've yet to find out exactly what this is intended on preventing. After the credit card company verifies the existence, continued validity, and expiration on the card the merchant receives the confirmation number and prints a slip for the customer to sign. The protocol calls for the merchant to compare the signature on the receipt with the signature on the card, or compare a photo ID if the signature box indicates such. Cards with no signature are to be refused at most, or at least demanded photo ID accompaniment. This is where most fraud is allowed to occur in card present transactions, the merchant failing to ensure proper security. Yes, most professional criminals can easily fake a signature, but many people are defrauded who have "see id" written on their cards.
The burden of fraud liability for card present transactions, at least in the US, rests on credit card companies after the first $50 as long as you follow your contractual requirements as a card holder to report the stolen card. Obviously the credit card companies feel one of two things, either their security is enough to stop the bulk of card present fraud, or they make so damn much that shrinkage just isn't an issue. I suspect it's a combination of the two.

Card not present transactions are things like catalogues where you phone your order in, ticketmaster phone orders, online purchasing, etc. These are protected by the method of communication, i.e. from eavesdropping through ssl, and the rest is all based on the combination of information required to effectively defraud on a purchase. The standard info required is card number, expiration date, type of card, complete name as it appears on the card and billing address. If you can get one of those pieces of information and you're clever you can get the rest, except expiration date which gains you nothing about the other pieces. All of this data should be used by the merchant for a live verification of the card, and it's honestly a fairly secure method, unless your wallet gets stolen including your drivers license.
Card not present fraud is the burden of the merchant, because the credit card companies are unwilling to take the loss it would incur. This is because getting all of that information, as opposed to sucessfully masquerading with a card, is really pretty easy.
The other thing to bear in mind is that the credit card companies use limited "AI" to scan transactions to look for suspicious activity in transactions and then require phone authorizations on those transactions. The rules loosen up some during the holidays due to the high volume of transactions, but they also do more random spot checks as well.

My point here is that overall the credit card system is pretty secure against the threats they are attempting to counter, which is amatuer fraud. Professional frauds are always a step ahead of the curve, because it's their job to be, and the card companies know this. They attempt to mitigate the damage as much as possible of course, but don't expect professional fraud to ever be fully stopped.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

The freaks with your number. (4.40 / 10) (#45)
by driph on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 01:50:10 AM EST

Ya know what annoys me, is all this hullaboo about using credit cards online period, the whole "You don't know who you are giving your credit card number to, so ya better beware, or even better, use our card 'cause it has cyberprotection!"

Come on, it's not like anyone else ever has access to your card information. The waiter who takes it and disappears for a few minutes, the catalog operator that you give it to over the phone..

It's already illegal to do nefarious things with someone else's credit card. All this focus on "the hooligans who work behind the web site you just ordered from" is unjustified. Just another way to take advantage of those who don't know any better.


Heh, interesting coincidence. Hadn't seen the Amercian Express commercial mentioned until it came on as I was writing this.

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
hehe (none / 0) (#97)
by Wah on Sat Dec 23, 2000 at 12:57:17 AM EST

Come on, it's not like anyone else ever has access to your card information. The waiter who takes it and disappears for a few minutes, the catalog operator that you give it to over the phone..

please don't take offense at my laughter

It's not just the actual transaction that people are worried about, but the nature of the medium (ya'know all cyber and stuff) that scares them.

/me stops wandering through old posts, bringing them up to date.
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

Smart Cards (3.00 / 3) (#59)
by Aztech on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 08:11:28 AM EST

Sounds like they're promoting the new credit card with the smart chip on them, they've been used on the continent for a while, basically it doesn't rely on a magnetic swipe strip that could be easily read and copied, you also have a PIN number with the card so somebody cannot simply go a spending spree if they happen to find your card (yes I know ATM's have always had pin's, but this is different).

They've started to introduce them in the UK over the last year or so (we had the US swipe system before)... I can't really see how it will help with Internet shopping though, if somebody has captured your CC number then they have also captured your pin number, however I guess they simply can't copy your details over to a blank card and use it in the "real world" or at a cash point.

The cards are basically the same as SIM's used in GSM phones... before the phones became smaller than credit cards and they had to start cutting them up that is (very easy to loose now).

As for the advert... pointless labelling, marketing people are usually pretty clueless about the product they're marketing, but I guess that goes without saying.

Az.

Re: Smart Cards (2.50 / 2) (#61)
by jemal on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 09:22:07 AM EST

I can't really see how it will help with Internet shopping though, if somebody has captured your CC number then they have also captured your pin number
I haven't seen the commercial, so I can't say for sure, but American Express recently started making available cards with one-time-use numbers. The way that it works is that you go to AmEx and get a number that only works for one purchase, that way if your number gets swiped, it's useless.

Not a bad idea, but with the geek label being bandied about this way, I don't plan on sending my business their way.

[ Parent ]

Get one from Visa then (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by ZanThrax on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 04:53:09 PM EST

Visa's the only card I've seen offering one-time numbers.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

how smart cards work (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by sreilly on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 01:21:18 PM EST

I believe that smart cards work by responding to a challenge that is generated by the web site (or maybe by AMEX themselves). With a challenge/response system the card# is never actually sent across the wire, but the authentication is sufficient because only someone with that card (and PIN) could have generated the correct response to the given challenge.

As for the commercial, when they say "geek proof" I think that they are talking about the "geek" who is saying "I wouldn't do that" to the guy who is about to send his credit card # over the net. Using Amex is secure so you don't have to listen to smug computer geeks telling you "I wouldn't do that if I were you" all of the time. Unfortunately, that is more of a valid stereotype (smug computer experts talking condescendingly to non-experts... ever see the Saturday Night Live "Annoying Computer Guy" skits?).



[ Parent ]
[OT] Re: Smart Cards (3.00 / 1) (#90)
by transcend on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 05:02:57 PM EST

Sounds like they're promoting the new credit card with the smart chip on them
No, IIRC they promoting not smart cards but a kind of approach, when they generates separate CC number valid for one transaction. This sounds like reasonable protection. I have no idea how smart cards could protect your CC number from being stolen from internet shop database, where they are stored with no real reason.

[ Parent ]
More Info (none / 0) (#96)
by Aztech on Fri Dec 15, 2000 at 01:24:24 PM EST

Here some more information about the cards I'm talking about, apparently they give you a reader for your PC to secure online transactions.

The "SmartCard" is a standard apparently, I first seen these things used in satellite decoder boxes and in CC's in France, then GSM phones, then phone boxes, and my new CC arrived with one, also I saw a Sony WEGA tv with a PCMCIA and SmartCard slot built into it earlier this week, so they're making inroads. Even people on the MS campus have one... oh dear :/

[ Parent ]
Don't Call Me Geek (1.83 / 12) (#63)
by the Epopt on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 11:50:13 AM EST

Geeks are shallow and unreliable mongers of dirty pictures, inaccurate rumors, bad spelling and worse grammar, with no demonstrable social skills. Vide Slashdot.
-- 
Most people who need to be shot need to be shot soon and a lot.
Very few people need to be shot later or just a little.

K5_Arguing_HOWTO
Subject: probably a little bit of a rant. (4.00 / 9) (#70)
by theR on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 04:54:13 PM EST

Before I begin, let me say that I have already posted my opinion on this commercial as well as a follow-up to a response to said opinion. Before reading this, to know where I am coming from, I think it would be prudent to read the original opinion I wrote, as well as all the responses, because the following is probably going to be a little bit of a rant. Also, if I end up linking to anybody's comments, please do not take it as an attack on that comment. I am just trying to make a point. If it is a poor example of the point I am trying to make, I'm sure I will hear about it.

I'd like to start off by saying, how many of you who have posted to this story have actually seen the commercial? If you have, wonderful, you have based your opinion on first hand knowledge. If you have not, you are basing your opinion mostly on what other people have wrote, especially vaguely_aware, who wrote the story. I think it should be clear by a question at the end of the story that vaguely_aware posted how s/he interpreted the commercial. The question asks, "Is there an alternate explanation?" This clearly implies that vaguely_aware is posting a personal interpretation of what the commercial is trying to say.

If you have not seen the commercial, please do not attack it or say the meaning of the commercial is clear. (Only one thing is clear, they are trying to sell a product.) I understand that there are probably quite a few people that have not seen the commercial or can not because they do not live in the US (or wherever else it airs). If you have not seen it, you can still voice an opinion, but it as an opinion that should be qualified first, such as, "If x actually did or said y, then z." I have no desire to defend American Express, but when I first saw the commercial, it did not strike me that they were trying to use the term "geek" in a derogatory way.

Some may argue that the term "geek" is always derogatory, especially when used by people who are not considered to be geeks (considered by who, I have no idea). To me, that is a ridiculous argument. Do you know if the commercial was made by geeks or not? Do you know what the creators of the commercial intended? Does it matter what the creators of the commercial intended? If it is always derogatory, why can some people use it without fear of repercussions but some can not?

I have also seen comments trying to compare persecution of geeks to persecution of racial, religious or ethnic groups. Again, to me, a ridiculous comparison. Geek itself is a word that can have many interpretations. Except for a few gray areas and perhaps legal definitions, there is little interpretation involved in whether someone is black, white, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Chinese, Hispanic, etc. You can not compare geeks being persecuted to a race, relegion, sexual orientation, or ethnic group being persecuted.

What, you say? But I was most definitely persecuted in school because of my geekdom!

Get over it. Everybody had bad experiences in school, no matter what social group they belonged to. Some more than others, sure, but this is really starting to piss me off. Some people use the term geek with a negative connotation, some positive. One person called a geek by some people would not be considered a geek by others. I think there are a whole lot of complaints and accusations going on about this commercial and everything "geek" even though much of it is open to interpretation.

I do not use the term geek except in a couple of situations. My wife might walk by while I'm sitting here typing a rant on the computer and say, "You're such a geek." In this case it is most definitely an endearing term. The only time I might term myself a geek is by calling myself a computer geek. To some, who knows, that may be negative. But to me, in two words, it says, "I use computers a lot, I know and understand computers, and I am smart."

To those that might call me a geek for purposes of insulting me, frankly, I could care less. I have been and will be called worse. In high school, I remember a senior holding me off the ground against a brick wall when I was a freshman and trying to make me sing "Happy Birthday" to his friend. Was it because he thought I was a geek? To me, it doesn't really matter unless he was doing it because I was white, black, gay, straight, Jewish, or Catholic. Things like that happen all the time. If I had been a freshman jock, he still probably would have found a reason (actual reason=insecurity?) to do it.

Everybody who's bent out of shape over this commercial, especially certain people whose comments I have seen, give it a rest. If it bothers you that much, write to American Express and complain. I understand everyone's opinion, but there's no need to take it over the top and act like popular culture will soon have geeks in internment camps running their computers and eating gruel. Just submit a comment, make your arguments, tell us why you interpreted the commercial the way you did, and think before trying to compare geeks, whoever they may be, to some other group. In my opinion, the commercial was not trying to depict geeks in a bad way. Even if it was, I don't really care, because their definition of geek does not equal my definition of geek.

End rant. If you made it this far, thanks.



hmm.. (3.75 / 4) (#74)
by talks_to_birds on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 07:43:48 PM EST

OK: first, let me state my credentials, since that is apparently of some importance here..

First of all, yes, I have seen the commercial in question, several times, both with the sound down (my usual mode when *any* commercials are on) and with the sound up, after the visuals intrigued me enough to want to hear what was being said.

Second of all, again yes, I have read your first post and its follow-up, and yes, I did read your post above, in its entirety...

Having said that, I find your interpretation of the AmEx ad flawed at best, and disingenuous at worst.

Here's why:

With the sound down, I saw a sleek, moneyed, competent, with-it young urban professional, typing away at a keyboard, with an overweight (*gasp* now I've done it..), balding, middle-aged conservative old person standing over our young person's shoulder, watching disapprovingly.

(A quick parenthetical statement before the Political-Correctness Police® go off on me for stereotyping, particulariy the old bald guy: I'm 53 myself, and not overweight in the least, although with shoulder-length hair (no gray, thank you..) a beard and a mustache and what has been specifically refered to as "...an awesome soul-patch, dude..." by people thirty years younger than I. I point to AmEx, or at least its ad agency, for creating the stereotypes I identify here...)

But I digress..

Anyway, with the sound up, I saw a sleek, moneyed, competent, with-it young urban professional, typing away at a keyboard, with an overweight, balding, middle-aged conservative old person standing over our young person's shoulder, watching disapprovingly, and speaking to him paternalistically.

I *did not* see the young urban professional as a geek, and I can't for any moment think that AmEx thought they were portraying our young protagonist as a geek.

Geeks do *not* have AmEx cards, at least that AmEx knows.

AmEx would *never* imply that one of its card-holders was somehow some sort of idiot, a *geek* for god's sake, who had to be protected from himself by the features available through AmEx..

The usage of the term "geek" was entirely negative: an ad hominem attack intended to ride on the coat-tails of the current demonization of hackers and those other mysterious young punks who have the audacity to actually understand how computers *work* for chrissakes..

The only really laughable part is the spiraling sequence of semantic errors: wanting to be innovative enough to insert a new demon into our lexicon, AmEx didn't even use the hackneyed (and flat wrong..) "hacker" -- but instead leaped boldly forward and brought us the "geek" as the one true threat.

Thus the fat old guy's message could be distilled down to: "Look out, you silly frivolous young person, there's geeks in that computer there (!) who're just waiting to steal your credit card number *and* your good name, and leave you much the poorer for it!"

That's a simple attack on an amorphous group of people, a group certainly unable to rise up and defend itself, but a group apparently in the eyes of AmEx which can be readily identified in the minds of consumers and be given the role of villain in support of AmEx's advertising its cards.

The demonization of any group is flat wrong, and particularily a group which in fact is probably at least as noted for its diversity as any other true characteristic.

Personally, I was offended by the ad, geek or not...

t_t_b
--
I think not; therefore I ain't
When source code is outlawed, only outlaws will have source code.
[ Parent ]

Your interpretation is fair. (none / 0) (#77)
by theR on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 11:06:35 PM EST

I believe your interpretation is a fair one. That doesn't mean I agree with it, though.

Anyway, with the sound up, I saw a sleek, moneyed, competent, with-it young urban professional, typing away at a keyboard, with an overweight, balding, middle-aged conservative old person standing over our young person's shoulder, watching disapprovingly, and speaking to him paternalistically.

This is not quite what I saw, at least in regard to the person sitting at the computer. I saw someone about my age (28), not quite sleek, possibly moneyed, competent, with-it young urban professional, typing away at a keyboard, with tousled, unbrushed hair, a loose tie, wearing glasses (I'm pretty sure about the glasses, but not positive). He might have been in nice clothes, wearing a tie, and looked like he was moneyed, but this guy could almost be me! I don't dress like that for work, or wear glasses, but this guy has the look of what I think a lot of people might consider a grown up geek. (Maybe it's just me.)

I don't agree with your assessment that geek connotes some sort of idiot, either. While many people might think of geeks as nerdy, socially awkward, even weird, I don't think they are thought of as idiotic.

Anyhow, I have no problem with people interpreting the commercial differently. I rated your comment a four because you represent your point well, even though I still don't agree. I stand by my rant, though. A lot of people are making this a much bigger issue than it is. You have the right to be offended by the commercial, but it bothers me when people start trying to bring persecution of geeks into it, as if American Express is trying to whip people into a furor and get them to "out" geeks or something.



[ Parent ]
high school (4.50 / 2) (#76)
by radar bunny on Sat Dec 09, 2000 at 10:09:30 PM EST

Get over it. Everybody had bad experiences in school, no matter what social group they belonged to

Reminds me of the movie pump up the volume. There was the one scene where christian slater's character went off on a simliar rant, "being a teenager sucks, but thats the whole point."

they called us geeks, we called them them dumb jocks and so on.....

i think highschool is simply the place where all the habits of grouping and sterotyping people either start or are learned. Everybody wants to be excepted, but first they just have to decide which group they are willing to accept. The sterotype of the "persecuted" (jon katz) geek comes from the beleife that geeks were just the left overs--- the ones who werent allowed into the other groups.
Problem is, some of us just didnt give a damned either way--- some of us still dont.

[ Parent ]
hells yeah (none / 0) (#92)
by monkeyfish on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 10:59:41 PM EST

if you'd have been a freshman jock, you would have gotten a swirly (head in the toilet -> flush) as a initiation ritual. and i agree w/ you wholeheartedly. get over it. or when someone treats you badly deal w/ it right then, directly. too many people seem to be nursing wounds that should have healed long ago.

[ Parent ]
Labels. (2.50 / 4) (#79)
by flex_fc on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 08:26:26 AM EST

From what I can gather by reading the previous comments it looks like you cannot define a group of individuals in one label very easily. If you look at one person in the "Geek" group then you will find that they probably also do lots of other things that are probably not geeky at all. Does that remove them from that goup? No, I think it is just another aspect of their lives. By looking at wide diversity of people I think it is difficult and impractical to label people under generalisations or at least to take them(the generalisations) seriously.
-- You are not the contents of your wallet - Tyler Durden
Where did all this OVERsensitivity come from? (2.77 / 9) (#81)
by tetsuo on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 04:16:21 PM EST

I guess I should qualify this by saying that I have not seen the commercial. There.

That said, I would really like to know where all this oversensitivity comes from. One can look at the main page and see a lot of "stories" in a similar vein.

I am a geek. I would not be offended by this commercial. I would not be offended if the commercial said "Geeks are 40 year old, still-acne-riddled, overweight, balding virgins living at home with their parents eating pizza rolls and watching star trek every night. Use our product or risk becoming one."

Why would I not be offended? Because as a typical geek I posess what I consider above average abilities of logic and reason(Ed Note -- But thankfully not the overinflated ego, Mr. Modest).

When the tagline "More Geek Proof" appears, it doesn't offend me. The commercial states(according to you) that there are " ... in there, some good, some bad". To me the line "More Geek Proof" implies that SOME geeks are bad people. You can't possibly think that the prevailing public opinion is that all geeks are bad people. Even the jocks that wail on us in middle/high school know we aren't "bad", just easy targets. Once you get out of that sordid hellhole and enter college, the term "geek" is no longer applicable anywhere, as most people there are mature (not always intelligent) enough to know that such tags are chilidish and stupid.

There are very few interpretations I can find behind the phrase "More Geek Proof" besides this: If you use our product, the (malevolent) computer enthusiasts will be kept at bay while if you use a competitor's product you might be victimized. The underlying assumption is pretty clear: Geeks cannot be trusted.
... and ...
So in this context, I, as a K5 reader and therefore geek, have been more or less told I cannot be trusted.

No. No, no no no no! A thousand times no.(print "no" x 1000;) You have NOT been TOLD that. Joe Sixpack has NOT been TOLD that. NO ONE HAS BEEN TOLD THAT. What you have done is INTERPRETED that. But,but I didn't have any choice when x y and z are said in a commercial. And neither will non-geeksSorry, you did have a choice. You chose to be offended by it. You chose to interpret their words as saying "all geeks are bad people who cannot be trusted." If I were a normal person, I would actually be offended by your interpretation. To me it would say "this person thinks that I am so stupid as to believe a commercial that portrays some geeks in a bad light will cause me to mistrust all geeks." And let's not mince words; that is what you're saying.

But to me, when AMEX says "geek", I think it's with a clear conscience. I know they're not out to say "all people who are smarter than you are evil evil bad people who mutilate puppies and drink their own urine! kill 'em all!!!RARRRR!!!". No. No one's saying that("that" being that geeks are bad people, not the whole urine drinking debacle). Not in the slightest. Not even remotely. Geeks in general, wether through the social engineering they recieved in school or through genetics, seem to have a persecution complex and/or paranoia.

AMEX is just saying that there are intelligent people online(check!), who are assholes(check! myself at least) , and who want to steal your financial information and use it for illegal gains(does not apply). All of these people are intelligent naer-do-wells. They ARE geeks. Geeks who use their powers for evil, instead of good. So when they say "more geek proof", I can't think of it being possible for me to extend that to mean all geeks. The commercial doesn't talk about "all geeks", just the bad ones.

Let's face it, snagging a CC# online isn't something you do with a minimal of technical knowledge. But (allegedly) creating such a swanky, consumer-protecting card would require technical knowledge too. People know this, wether or not it's always at the forefront of their thought process. People know that it's geeks who make their pretty Office Apps; that it's geeks who supply Bond with the coolest shit; that it's geeks who, in general, come up with the innovations that make their lives easier. Do you honestly think one commercial, or even 5000 is going to turn them against all 'geeks'?I pray to the deity of your choice that you don't.

But (to quote dennis miller) that's just my opinion, I could be wrong ...

Re: Oversensitivity (none / 0) (#89)
by vaguely_aware on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 03:49:42 PM EST

I think you make several valid points, but you're missing the overall message.

NO ONE HAS BEEN TOLD THAT. What you have done is INTERPRETED that...you did have a choice. You chose to be offended by it.

Please don't assume you know what my internal reaction is to the message conveyed by the ad. I was most definitely not offended by a silly television commercial. I was concerned and disturbed by it, mildly perhaps; enough to write a story about it on K5 but not enough to actually think I wouldn't be wasting my time writing AmEx and demanding an apology on behalf of all my brethren.

But you are correct, I wasn't blatantly told (regardless of whether I identify with the geeks or the non-geeks) what to feel about a card being "geek proof." I did interpret the message to be that geeks as a whole need to have measures taken against them to ensure they don't interfere with people's credit cards. How else was I supposed to interpret that? I even posed that very question.

You supply your own interpretation as being (I'm paraphrasing heavily here, correct me if I'm wrong) "Not all geeks are bad, but we're here to protect you against the ones that are." Which is an acceptable interpretation but once again I have to ask, why villianize a specific group in the first place? We know there are bad people out there who may attempt to steal your CC information, do we have to try to list them by name?

What if the ad had implied that the card was more "tetsuo proof?" Of course, not all people named tetsuo are bad, but AmEx can protect you against the ones that are! Sure you can change your username just as I can (as others have suggested) stop being geeky, but we'd be annoyed. Why should we have to change because someone is making false assumptions about the type and legality of activities we're involved with?

I don't disagree that geeks have been portrayed as both heroes and "cool guys" before, but so have serial killers. That doesn't mean anything. In this case geeks are being portrayed in, if nothing else, a shady light (heh).

Of course I don't think people are going to start geek lynch mobs anytime soon, and I don't think people should start feeling sorry for their geeky images. Choosing to be a geek right now involves maybe getting laughed at or being picked on at the worst. But there's no sense in adding suspicious and criminal behavior to the geek archetype.



"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
Misunderstanding leads to fear... (2.66 / 3) (#88)
by mandomania on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 03:11:05 PM EST

I have a long history of whoring out my "technical" abilities to individuals for low, low prices (usually beer and pizza), so I've seen my fair share of fscked up computers and well-meaning but clueless computer users. Almost to a one, they were all concerned that I could do something that I shouldn't, as evidenced by their half-joking, half-serious remarks ("Don't steal my credit card number" or "Don't 'hack' my computer, etc.).

I didn't take their comments seriously, nor was I offended by them. It's a simple lack of understanding. They meant nothing by it (just like AmEX).

These folks were, for the most part, nice and decent people who knew me well enough to let me in their house, yet at the same time, there was still a piece of them that was scared about what I could do with their computer. Maybe it was because I kept talking in binary...

--
Mando
The Code is Sound.
much ado about nothing (1.66 / 3) (#91)
by monkeyfish on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 10:50:15 PM EST

before we go getting all reactionary -- oops, too late! -- i'd say the most likely interpretation of this ad was that the two guys sitting in front of the computer were the "geeks" in this ad, living their lives online, including shopping for patio furniture. they probably meant geekproof in the way that medicine bottles are childproof; protecting geeks against their own behavior (i.e., getting busy w/ the credit card online). the credit card companies aren't run by idiots. the people that fit in the usual definition of geek are the same people that make great customers. i think you're wasting your energy here.

it's all good (2.33 / 3) (#94)
by jeanlucpikachu on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 03:46:50 PM EST

because if they want to make it geek proof, then as a geek, i'm not interested in using it =)

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
This is obviously a challenge... (3.00 / 4) (#95)
by d-fens on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 09:15:19 PM EST

Ok you enterprising geeks, make AMEX eat their words and prove to them that it isn't geek-proof. -dan

More Geek Proof? | 97 comments (87 topical, 10 editorial, 2 hidden)
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