Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Geeks at Play

By Devil Ducky in Op-Ed
Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 08:34:17 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

What is it that makes us geeks rather that just "techies", "nerds", or heaven-forbid "regular people"? I use this term under the assumption that you like it as a description of yourself.

We all are techies here, in that we like technology and are at the very least fluent in it's ways. Most of us are fairly normal, nevermind the pale skin, the carpal tunnel syndrome, and our knowledge of every line in movies ranging from The Princess Bride to Spaceballs.

I suggest that our entire geek/hacker culture is defined as it's ability to play, as a community, as a group of friends, and as a person.


While by definition we work with computers/technology, I believe that we play our way to a solution. I often sit at my computer for hours at a time "working". This work is only defined as such because I get paid while doing it. I spend many hours of the day reading K5, /., freshmeat, and several other sites I may mention later; I know I am not the only one who does this. ;-) I am willing to admit that I do this on company time because my employer is already aware of it. My boss is acutely aware of something that most employers of geeks don't seem to know: we play, surf, waste time, and generally have the attention spans of small children and this is a Good Thing.

Working with technology, as many of us do, requires a lot of creativity to find innovative new ways to solve a problem. Our attitudes and work/play not only result from this excess creativity, they spring anew. If our actions seem, to the outside world, to be childish, then that makes sense; answer this: who has more creativity? A Microsoft programmer or a two-year old? The two-year old, obviously; why do think Microsoft uses them to design software? (Remember the commercials -- I'm not making this up)

Though our bosses may or may not understand this, the e-stores do. The average e-store knows that the majority of its business, especially its early business, is going to come from the people that spend the most time/money/trust online (namely: us), and they will try to temp us with goods only a geek would love. Shops such as ThinkGeek.com even specialize in the market. Someone who has never been to ThinkGeek may assume that it sells lots of gadgets, computer equipment, and other things we need to do our jobs/hobbies, and they do, but what the outsider doesn't know about is the Toys section. What logical use could an office have for a nerf gun?

If I still haven't convinced you, then why do we insist in spending so much time theming? This is certainly not an essential part of work. In the closed-source world, tools to theme are generally not available on OSes that are meant for business work, only for the home user who is just wasting cycles on the new version of Mech Warrior anyway. Speaking of video games, why do you suppose those were brought about? It wasn't always on the whim of corporate giants who wouldn't even know of the possibilities of gaming on a computer if not for early geeks. These are the guys who were playing games before any of our Operating Systems were invented (about 15 B.U. [before Unix]).

Within the community we spend many hours, not working, but talking on community sites. No other class of professionals that I can think of does anything like this. You never hear about how all of the accountants are hanging out in one place discussing the possibilities of a Accountants' Cabal. These other professions certainly don't spend as much time nor gather in as large groups as ours does. (How many K5 members and /. members?) Some may say that while we are gathering we are discussing work related issues. Are you? I rarely do; I discuss everything from algorithims for calculating pi to Linus's future with Transmeta if AMD buys them out.

It is while at play that I get anything done. If it weren't for toying with Perl and PHP (I just liked the names) then that important website would still be in development. If it were not for "playing" with Linux, as a hobby, I never would have suggested it for that project that was slated to use another OS. Not to mention we would be paying extra for someone to maintain our web server. I still want to play with MacOS X, developing a Palm application, wireless networking, and many other things; who knows what results it will lead to?

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
What technology do you most want to toy with?
o Linux 14%
o *BSD 10%
o Palm Pilot 7%
o Windows 2000 2%
o Mac OSX 14%
o Nuclear Weapons 38%
o The Accountant's Cabal 11%

Votes: 144
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Freshmeat
o The Princess Bride
o Spaceballs
o ThinkGeek. com
o Toys
o theming
o algorithim s for calculating pi
o Transmeta if AMD buys them out
o MacOS X
o Also by Devil Ducky


Display: Sort:
Geeks at Play | 32 comments (20 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Same but Different (4.42 / 7) (#1)
by eskimo on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 09:44:03 PM EST

People in the film industry have film festivals, unions, parties, premieres, a thousand different award ceremonies. They have haunts. Seems like they do everything we do, excpect maybe slower. Funny that I read this. It sounds exactly like what you were talking about, except it is a restaurant in Hollywood.

And other groups do the same things. How about sports fans? Not only are there television broadcasts, and the actual stadium, but there are thousands of outlets for news, and even bars with specific associations to a sports franchise. I guarantee you there are more registered users participating in forums at ESPN than there are at /. and k5 combined.

Or labor unions? I guess Hollywood is still the best example, but people often find solace in groups. And everybody likes to play. And yes, accountants do gather and talk about an accountant cabal. They are called conventions, and the cabal is the IRS. Many professional organizations have conventions. That is why cities have convention centers. I bet there is a convention center managers convention.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto

Not just geeks need to play (3.33 / 6) (#2)
by Saxifrage on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 09:48:26 PM EST

I think this has to be said, in the context of your posting. I think of myself as a nerd, certainly, but I'm not working in software or hardware, web development or anything like that.

Oh, no! When I'm not in my acting capacity as a high school student, I'm being a journalist-in-training. I love it. So I like technology -- and I like other things. Is that so horrible?

Down to the point. Everyone gets the urge, eventually, to stop working, to put down their keyboard, their pen, whatever, and get some relaxation. Do you know what I've discovered? In almost any situation my best work is what I come up with when I'm away from my desk. I mean, sure, I might write a story just fine while I'm sitting in front of the computer, but I keep a tape recorder in my backpack at all times. You know what? My best stories are the ones I come up with while I'm in the process of doing something else.

Not just geeks need to play. Sure, that's what this community largely serves to, but it doesn't mean there are atypical "nerds" and "geeks" and what-have-you who do exactly that.


"I may disagree vehemently with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it." - Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire
"Play" (4.60 / 5) (#3)
by slick willie on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 10:16:29 PM EST

What's unfortunate is when your boss expects you to be "nose to the grindstone" every hour at work (and some after). His logic is that your on his time, so you better be working your tail off. Some bosses definitely don't understand that diverting your brain from a task at hand can often accelerate your arriving at a solution. So, count yourself extremely lucky in that regard!!

Plus it doubly ticks you off, because when you wake up in the middle of the night after it comes to you what the solution is, log on from home and spend 45 minutes fixing it, and know you can't bill for it, lest he explode for you "coming in and working in the middle of the night."

I've just learned to better hide the "play time," since he doesn't really understand what my job is! I just tail the Apache access_log in a window, and switch to that and say that I'm doing a "visual analysis of the access and traffic patterns on the website." :)

"...there is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."
--Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address

Why nuclear weapons really aren't such a joke (3.00 / 5) (#6)
by Miniluv on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 11:36:32 PM EST

When ya think about it, nuclear physics is very cool. It's cutting edge, still, and maintains a lot of mystique. Sure, everything being done today is standing on the shoulders of giants, but there's still a lot of pioneering to be done.

IND's are the way of the future when it comes to indirect terrorist action by one nation-state against another. Small quantities of fissionable materials are relatively easy to obtain for even small nations, and smuggling them off into the shadowy world of organised terrorism is childs play when you already sponsor those groups.

I don't have such a strong political agenda I'd nuke anyone for it, but give me the chance to play mad scientist and I'd be happy to help build your H-bomb. Who amongst us that read Sum of All Fears didn't want to be Ghosn, getting to study nuclear weapons construction first hand at the side of a skilled teacher? I'm sure some of us here might even enjoy getting to detone a bomb within the lands of the Great Satan.

Honestly though, having built small bombs to learn about chemistry, and enjoying the experience thoroughly, I'd sure love to build me a working nuclear device, especially if I did get to detonate and see the results played back later on film. Perhaps this is a chance for a new webcam first?

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

Joke levels (3.00 / 2) (#9)
by Devil Ducky on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 12:08:39 AM EST

It wasn't entierly a joke. I've always been fascinated by nuclear weapons.

I don't know what it is about them, probably the power, but they're also very pretty in the sky. Radiation is bad, but everything has it's drawbacks.

As to seeing explosions on camera, I have a DVD of unclassified footage. Very cool, it seems to be like an internal film about one of the series of tests they/we did back in the cold war. A lot of good footage, not to mention the details the narrator gives. He even explains the physics of a blastwave.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Blast footage == cool shit (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by Miniluv on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 02:42:36 AM EST

Is the source of that DVD by chance something you'd be willing to share? I'd love to get my hands on a good source of blast footage and killer narrator soundtrack.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Suncoast (none / 0) (#27)
by Devil Ducky on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 05:43:07 PM EST

I got it at suncoast. I don't know where else to buy one, but I am sure there are other copies out there. This might be it, but it's not very helpful.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Found them at buy.com (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by Miniluv on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 08:43:21 PM EST

There are actually three DVDs in the series called "Americas Atomic Bomb Tests" and all three are under $20USD each. I'm buying all three today, the first "episode" is here, this is the second, and here is episode three. They all show a status of "on order" so I don't know that they're all that readily available, but good nuclear detonations are worth waiting for.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Cool (none / 0) (#31)
by Devil Ducky on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 09:46:07 PM EST

I'll remember that and get the rest of the series. The actual name of the one I own is:
"America's Atomic Bomb Tests: Operation Tumbler Snapper"

But I am sure you will make do with the ones you found.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Communication complications (4.00 / 6) (#12)
by Moneo on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 12:25:32 AM EST

I often tell people I spend lots of time 'playing around' on my computer. I'm using the term the same way it is used in this article -- "play" with Perl/PHP/Linux/etc (as well as playing games). However, interlocuters often seem to interpret that to mean 'play games' and I end up having to explain what I meant. Is this because other people don't really play/tinker (or, at least, not as much as we do)?

I also use the noun 'toy' more than other people (I use it for just about anything that can be tinkered with, from physical objects to programming languages to window managers), which often earns me funny looks. Do other k5ers do this?
Propaganda plays the same role in a democracy as violence does in a dictatorship. -- Noam Chomsky

Toy (none / 0) (#28)
by Devil Ducky on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 05:45:48 PM EST

I often use, and di in the article, use toy as a verb as well. I meant both forms of play rolled into one, as long as when you are toying with php/perl/linux/etc. you are not doing it with a real purpose in mind.

This type of play is quite common for many people, it's the whole idea of letting your mind wander to your goal, in action.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Creativity and "geeks" (4.90 / 10) (#14)
by cameldrv on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 12:54:12 AM EST

Your thesis seems to be that "geeks" are more creative than the general population because working with technology requires it. Then you say that as a result of this creativity, "geeks" buy "geek" toys and surf slashdot. I really don't see how buying crap from thinkgeek, surfing slashdot and shooting nerf arrows at each other makes you any more creative. What is considered to be "geek" culture by you just involves buying certain toys and espousing prepackaged ideas. What makes you any more creative than someone who parrots what they read in "People", and buys their clothes at Abercrombie and Fitch?

I've noticed that the same thing goes on in other subcultures, for example you have books being written about "cultural creatives", which talk about how people who are into environmental issues, third-world issues, spiritualism, etc, are more creative than others. Joining a group and giving yourself a label does not make you creative. It may make you different from the mainstream, but almost everyone who is in the "mainstream" is different in some way.

Most people have some kind of hobby or interest that makes them different, but they don't go trumpeting that around as some kind of badge of honor. If you want to be truly creative, make something new. Write a paper on a new idea. Build a new device. Paint. Write a song. Calling yourself a "geek", and buying into the ideology doesn't make you creative, it just makes you a joiner.

You were saying? (4.50 / 6) (#15)
by kraant on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 01:05:23 AM EST

Within the community we spend many hours, not working, but talking on community sites. No other class of professionals that I can think of does anything like this. You never hear about how all of the accountants are hanging out in one place discussing the possibilities of a Accountants' Cabal. These other professions certainly don't spend as much time nor gather in as large groups as ours does. (How many K5 members and /. members?)

*Cough* You were saying?


--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
poll (1.00 / 4) (#17)
by daevt on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 02:30:24 AM EST

well that one didn't take much thought, um, nuclear weapons....
yo
Helping you out. (none / 0) (#29)
by Devil Ducky on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 05:49:31 PM EST

In this day and age do you really want to spend your freetime deciding which answer is the right one? I thought I would make it easier on you, and me, and make this poll an easy test.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Boids paper acknolwedgement (3.33 / 3) (#19)
by Paul Johnson on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 04:29:54 AM EST

In this paper on "Boids" (entities with simulated flocking and herding behaviours), Craig Reynolds ends his Acknowledgements with:

[Thanks] to the field of computer graphics, for giving professional respectability to advanced forms of play such as reported in this paper.

I've always wanted to write a paper with such a cool acknowledgement in it.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

YAGA (Yet another geek article), -1 (3.88 / 9) (#21)
by mith on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 05:55:53 AM EST

What is it with geeks and navel gazing?

> What is it that makes us geeks rather that just "techies", "nerds", or heaven-forbid "regular people"? I use this term under the assumption that you like it as a description of yourself.

Uh nothing.

If you want to talk about yourself, do that.

But don't tar everyone else with your brush.

I've had enough of these 'We are geeks, we are so misunderstood' rants. This state of geekdom is just an excuse for people to be antisocial and spend all their time on computers instead of socializing.

To the dump bin with you.

Ummmm (3.60 / 5) (#22)
by finkployd on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 06:12:12 AM EST

'We are geeks, we are so misunderstood' rants

Kind of a knee jerk, can't be bothered to actually READ the submission moderation wasn't that? Nowhere was this a "we are misunderstood" story.

Finkployd
Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]
Why Geeks Play (Or at least, Why this one does) (4.40 / 5) (#26)
by JazzManJim on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 11:01:58 AM EST

I'm sure that geeks weren't the ones to invent "Play", and we're not the only ones who revel in it either. But we are among the first groups of people who openly acknowledged that work and play are inextricably linked, and, more importantly, that the linkage was publicly recognized and encouraged by employers. Now, certainly, not every employer embraced this, but a whole lot of them did, to their benefit. An argument could well be made that many of the innovations in corporate offices today, such as casual dress, "play time", and such, were the direct result of "geek companies" (like Microsoft and Apple, for starters) giving geeks the play time they require.

I don't know if that kind of arrangement is for everyone, but it works for me. I'm not a very linear thinker, and being able to divert my attention from a task helps, paradoxically, to bring it into sharper focus. Call it my childhood ADHD or whatever else, but that's how it works. My current job doesn't afford me that opportunity very often (though there are times when it does), but when I'm home, I freely take breaks from things I'm working on (be it designing my Web page, or writing music, or learning C) to let another part of my mind hash out the problem. That's the way I'm wired.

-Jimmie
-Jimmie
"Hostility toward America is a religious duty, and we hope to be rewarded for it by God...I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America."
(Osama bin Laden - 10 Jan 1999)
Oops (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by Sinter on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 03:16:14 PM EST

I was going to write a considered reply, but then I saw that PI algorithms link and now it's 45 minutes later....

Geeks at Play | 32 comments (20 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!