This Friday I am returning briefly to my favorite city, Copenhagen, only to shoot off again and go on vacation for the first time in years (that’s a whole post in and of itself). On Saturday it turns out that there will be a event called Geek Girl Meetup Copenhagen (in Danish). There was such a huge response that the organizers had to close registration until they could find a larger venue. Hell yeah!
I signed up out of reflex even though it will be largely in Danish (um, jeg taler ikke Dansk?). I mean, I’m a geek. And I’m a girl. And all of the geek girls I know in Copenhagen are going too (and apparently a ton who I don’t know). Even if I can’t understand many of the sessions, I’ll be spending my time chatting up with other girls who identify as geeks. Then today, one of those friends, Mary, went ahead and posted something thoughtful about it all, passing on Henriette Weber’s blog baton. I do indeed have some thoughts on geekiness. (Jeez, Mary, making me blog and all.)
I’d have to say that I’ve identified as a geek from very early on, though most of life has been more “nerd” really. I grew up in a household of misfits and played games like “random encyclopedia word” and “spin the globe” as a kid. We had debates at the Sunday dinner table, I was taught formal logic and the basics of Greek as a child. One of my shining memories is the moment that I put together, all on my own at eight years old, that the word alphabet is composed of the first two Greek letters, Alpha and Beta. I did well in math, but my nerdy passion was for language and history.
I was introduced to computers at a fairly young age, and I had quite a bit of fun playing around, but I was never taken by them. Just another toy like my Lone Ranger doll or my Death Star. Hm, OK, so there was also the sci-fi geek from fairly early. Oh, and there is also the D & D geek. Classic I guess, but the computer part never really stuck. My tech geekery didn’t start until I was 30 years old. That’s a long story, but somehow I went from stamping paper to working for an Open Source development and consulting company, Lullabot. I’m now a full-time tech geek.
Given all of that, what does “geek” mean to me and why do I identify that way? Just from reviewing how I map my geek history, it is apparent that I feel a strong distinction between general geekery and “tech geekery.” Geeks are people who love to dig into the details of things, find connections, and see problem-solving as a fun exercise in and of itself, regardless of the subject. I love that stuff and I find I am nourished when around others like me. I think it extends through all sorts of topics: business, language, sports, religion, food, you name it.
I’ve embraced technology and enjoy playing with it, but in terms of my passion, the only reason I’ve stayed in tech was because of something else entirely: people. Early in my tech phase, I became engaged in the Open Source world through the Drupal community. That rich environment not only gave me learning and a place to challenge myself, but it introduced me to wonderful people who have many of non-tech geekiness that I do. I thrived. I ended up getting a job at the awesomest company I could imagine. It is awesome, not just because I can geek all day long and travel where I please, but because of the people. I work with funny, generous, wicked smart people, and they feed my inner geek in a way that no piece of software can.
I am drawn to geeks, not tech. I think too many people tie geekiness to technology, and if we didn’t let that paradigm rule so much, we’d find even more geeks who want to come out to play, which would enrich us all.
Thanks to Mary for challenging me to think about geekiness, and I’ll pass that on because I am very curious what Liza, Katherine and Amelia have to say on this.