The new state of geek chic?

Would you date this man?
Would you date a 36 year old divorcee who is a left-leaning feminist and self confessed geek? If so you should contact me

I subscribe to being a geek and not a nerd or a dork. I’ve written about nerd values in the past (which I obviously say is geek values now)

In work I’ve been having this ongoing discussion about not wanting to be rich and famous just making the world a little bit better a place to live. Its easy to be singled minded and follow the money where it leads, but the harder thing is to live in your means and try and make the world a little better.

Some have boiled this down to, Do what you love, love what you do. Which is a nice but feels a little generic?

So rethinking this… I’ve started to add to this by describing the geek chic/lifestyle as…

Always living life, always learning and always on the go.

This seems to fit well no matter your siltation.

  • Always living life, can be anything from climbing a mountain, soaking up the atmosphere around you, helping others, what ever; as long as you are living life and pushing yourself, living in the moment and enjoying it.
  • Always learning, is a hat tip, full head nod (or heck a dab if your into that) for lifelong learning. Never too old to learn and if you are not learning then what are you doing? That is unless you are educating/helping others, although the act of helping others is a learning experience too.
  • Always on the go, doesn’t necessarily mean going physical places. It can mean other types of progress like reaching out to more people with works, getting ahead in your career, etc. Getting mentally ahead and never settling unless you are ready for it.

Do you have humility, a sense of craft and can you hustle?

http://radar.oreilly.com/2015/12/katie-dill-on-heading-up-experience-design-at-airbnb.html

I was listening to the Oreilly Radar podcast with Katie Dill from Airbnb. Half way through the interview she talks about what she looks for in people joining their user experience team.

Humility, Craft and Hustle

Humility is certainly hot on my radar, so no real need to go back over that, except to say the user experiences we craft/create/enable need a human/ethical dimension.

Craft goes without saying really. But I would say a level of attention, care and slight obsession fits in here. Dare I say a level of geekiness?

Hustle, is essential and without the hustle, the opportunities go missing or never happen. From dictionary.com

An enterprising person determined to succeed; go-getter.

A hustler can make opportunities happen by working hard but never forgetting their goal. They are entrepreneurial in nature.

People have asked me, how on earth Visual Perceptive Media and Perceptive Media generally got the pick up it did? Well thats the hustler side of me. It sounds slightly seedy but in actual fact its the ability to create opportunities and capitalise on them; to the best of your ability. Its hard work but super rewarding when things work out.

Katie Dill has some good points and talking to others, these are characteristics which make up most of the User Experience team in BBC R&D.

Dope: Its hard out here being a geek

Dope

I watched Dope on Sunday afternoon only a few hours before I gave a talk about the lack of black people in the technology sector at Afrofutures.

Malcolm is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.

There is much I can say I loved about the film which currently has a rating of 7.5 on IMDB (stick that in your IMDB party game)

Warning mild spoilers ahead

Malcolm and his friends are teenagers growing up in LA, they are geeks, play in a rock band, get picked on at school, etc. You would be forgiven for thinking – “this is the start of a typical hollywood coming of age film..
The big difference is they are black americans and living in a culture which doesn’t encourage geekness.

The film starts with the excellent point of, looking at the definition of Dope.

  • Slang for an illegal drug (you got any dope?)
  • A stupid person (you are such a dope!)
  • Affirmation of something’s greatness (that is so dope!)

These themes run through the whole film and connect everything. Malcolm attempts to try and avoid being pulled into the society which surrounds him. There is no doubt this is a coming of age film but the class discrimination and racism really lifts it way above the rest. Even when Malcolm is forced into the world of drug dealing, he uses his brain to get out ahead of the crooked society.

I won’t lie, dope reminds me of some of the dilemmas I faced while growing up (of course to a far lesser degree). I use to think everybody faces these things but it seems not.  The conflict of being geeky and not wanting to make the mistakes others fall into featured in my mind a lot. I came out on top but like Malcolm, there are things which I won’t forget and certainly shaped my personality.

The presentation I did for Afrofutures is here., the link with Dope comes in about slide 18. I certainly feel its not good enough to blame the tech sector alone. No, we got to look at the the way things shake out in the culture too. Yes there is a big lack of black people in tech, especially in higher positions but also the culture doesn’t exactly encourage people to embrace our geeky side. Its almost discouraged I feel.

This has lines or connections I believe with the fact their are amazingly senior black people in many other professions including law,  financial services, pharmaceuticals, etc. But very few in the tech sector, especially at CEO level.

I know this is all a massive generalisation but from what I have seen growing up, it was a fight to be openly curious, interested and switched on or as I prefer, geeky. I imagine lots of black people bury it and ignore it. Or it gets beaten out of you at some point verbally or even physically. You literally have to fight. Some give up fighting and forever regret doing so for the rest of their lives…

When looking at the diversity figures, in every case I found. White people were followed by Asians people.  You only have to look at the CEO of Microsoft and Google to see this in full effect. From a outsider view, their culture encourages geeky people. However in black popular culture (generalising again) I am almost embarrassed by the negativity to being geeky and different.

Its was depressing to research but it was worth it because its out there now and its a start of a important conversation for me.

I can only hope the next generation will see right through all this all and make positive strides ending up with a diverse workforce. Originally I was going to submit this to Singleblackmale but I didn’t feel it was the right place to host this at this stage. Maybe I’ll do a more critical blog for them in the near future.

As the tagline to Dope says: Its hard out here being a geek…

BarCampManchester5, you missed out sorry…

BarCampManchester number 5 happened last weekend and I’m still feeling a little tired following a hectic weekend.

I have always said BarCamp is a special thing and recently I have seen less and less of them. I mentioned this in justification for why it must happen. BarCampManchester2 was the last one I was involved in and since then, its gone back to the 9am-5pm events. I have always said its a real shame for a great city like Manchester.

My hope was always to bring back some of the life and joy into BarCampManchester. And I believe we did this… Extremely well. BarCampManchester5 was arranged by myself with a small team of organisers. Those organisers were Claire Dodd and Dave Mee. I felt both would have the network and drive to continue the event onwards and upwards afterwards.

BarCampManchester5

Theres all the usual difficulties with picking dates for the BarCamp weekend but in the end we settled upon the weekend before Mozilla Festival, something I kind of wished wasn’t.  Regardless, it came together nicely thanks to our wonderful sponsors and the hard work Claire put into organising most of it.

Don’t get me wrong, we all played our part but Claire reminded me of myself at BarCampLondon1 and 2. Running around trying to manage most things. I learned pretty soon, to relax and embrace the chaos (somewhat)

BarCampManchester5

My only regret was the amount of food and drink wasted, we had a large drop out of people. Larger than I’ve ever had before. So the food orders came through and unfortunately we had to chuck quite a bit of it. We did our best to give away as much as possible to a homeless charity but in the end quite a bit went into the bins. At least no body was upset about the food, as we had food for every dietary type including strict vegans.

BarCampManchester5

Through out the weekend we had talks about a number of subjects, and there was lots of rooms to suit everybody. We had 6 session/spaces in parallel and although they weren’t always in use, there was plenty of room to chill and chat away along side the sessions.

BarCampManchester5

There were some great talks and the spaces really worked as a whole. For example the boardroom or as we were calling it the captains quarters, ten forward and observation lab encouraged intimate discussions about identity, sexuality, sleep tracking, dating, etc. While the engineer lab, bridge and holadeck encouraged less discussion and more presentations. All except the captains quarters had a projector and “ten forward” was even in the same space as the kitchen!

BarCampManchester5

After the evening feast, the traditional of werewolf started with 2 parallel games. Quite a few games past before we were down to 1. Some fun games and before long it was late and there was not quite enough people to play on. We had about 10-15 people stay over and sleep but the feeling of no pressure to go home or push off did stay with people. The last person pushed off about 2:30am.

2014-10-18 20.31.02

Sunday was quieter as usual and the bacon/sausage/egg butties did go down well but once again too many. We were able to change the order for lunch a bit so the amount of food wasn’t as bad. The sessions started to fill up the board and before long the board was full. Obviously people had decided now was the time.

BarCampManchester5

I did a number of sessions mainly on Saturday, and my favorite one has to be the paxman style interview with Tim Dobson about love and dating. Somewhere in the interview I suggested I would date anybody (I’m sure I said something different) and that got taken and twisted into a prize for the ending raffle? Go figure? Why and how I have no idea but Claire was very keen to send me off with one of the barcampers. In the end Chris picked up the star prize.

BarCampManchester5

Other talks worth mentioning included…

Journey to the centre of the gender sphere, Sleep session, Interactive Fiction, Create your first Bitcoin wallet, Can video games be a force for social good and my favorite How to sell without selling out. Especially liked Tim and Josh’s journey of discovery into a more ethical way to sell serverhosting.

Thanks to the sponsors who came through for the event… We even got a special cake for the platinum sponsors – Autotrader. Something to think about if you are thinking about sponsoring next year. Damm the cake was sweet!

BarCampManchester5

Talking about next year… I have said again that I’m hanging up my organising boots. But my hope is Claire, Dave or somebody else is inspired enough to run the next one with their own team. Hopefully BarCampManchester6 in a similar vein as this one. My thoughts is with time, a community of barcampers can/will grow and the demand will call for a new methods to insure the drop out is never as bad again.

BarCampManchester5

Something James suggested to me when I mentioned the problem of drop out in barcamp. Is a pledge to donate to a charity if you fail to show up or cancel you’re ticket in time. Using social pressure is something I don’t really like but actually in this case, it can be explicit on the website and ticket site. Those who don’t do so would have to live with the guilt or could be named and shamed? This seems to abide by BarCamp rules and shouldn’t be off putting for those who really want to come. Heck if you cancel the night before thats better than not at all (we were releasing tickets to the waiting list right up to the last few hours).

I always said it, Manchester deserves a decent barcamp and hopefully this is the start of wonderful things to come….

Am I sapiosexual?

At 4:35am in a trendy loft style office in Manchester’s fashionable Northern Quarter. While waiting for one of the other BarCampManchester organisers to come and take over from my late night stint keeping an eye on things. After the werewolf games are done and most people have gone home. I find some time to do some blogging.
During the welcome talk I made the point BarCamp is a place to indulge your passion and share with others. I then show a quote from Simon Pegg. Then later in the barcamp, Tim Dobson interviews me about my views on dating. He asks a question which leads me to talk  about values and breakers.
I mention intelligence but add the caveat that its not necessarily IQ but rather smart and being thoughtful about things. I was going to mention something I heard the other day which I just couldn’t remember at the time. Sapiosexual
One who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature.

“I want an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay. I want someone who sometimes makes me go ouch due to their wit and evil sense of humor. I want someone that I can reach out and touch randomly. I want someone I can cuddle with.I decided all that means that I am sapiosexual.”

I like this description and it seems to fit very well with  my geeky personality. Even reading it sends little shivers down my spine. Now thats something I certainly could subscribe to and look for…  maybe one to add to my profile? Who knows…

Over loaded at the moment…

Cubicgarden

You may have noticed the lack of blogging coming from me recently? I’m currently going through 2 major events. First one being BarCampManchester5 and a week later Mozilla Festival.

Don’t worry I’ve checked my heart rate and its normal… Never want a repeat of mybrushwithdeath. However I’m trying to avoid getting ill with the horrible bugs that are going around with the change of weather/temperature and people generally getting ill around me.

Whose idea was it to have a BarCamp before Mozfest? Oh yes it was kind of mine, whoops! Its a little self inflicted but deep down I kind of love it too… Sure in some book that makes me slightly sadomasochistic or something…

Quite looking forward to November where I have little planned or scheduled except the flirty weekender…  Although I’ve already had somebody ask if I could help with something like Social Media Cafe Manchester? Although I hear rumblings that it might be coming back anyway.

My hope is somebody (I got thoughts) will take on BarCampManchester as a regular thing and do it better than myself. Like what happened in London with the Geeks of London.

Expect normal service to return in a few weeks time… (smile)

Geek history worth keeping

Early in the evening

While talking to Martin, Sam, Chris and others over the last few weeks. I have been thinking how things have been forgotten.

The history of geek culture seems to get forgotten too often. Recently a discussion about the tech community in Manchester with Martin raised a bunch of questions in my mind.

How much of geek history is still available now? What do I mean?

Great people have said….

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

And to be honest I’m seeing the same thing over and over again in the limited time I’ve been around the geek scene. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this… But no one seems to be documenting the past… Which seems crazy with the amount of social media or in the past user generated content created. But the issue seems to be putting it all together. For example if you search geekdinners on my blog, theres quite a few posts. But its a mishmash of stuff. Look for the same on Flickr (assuming you knew flickr was where most geeks uploaded stuff in the past and flickr had not gone dark) and you get a mishmash again. If your smart you might try the clusters and find the London geekdinners.

Geekdinners.com is actual up for sale at $2.5k. But this isn’t so much my point. In the past we would write blog posts about events (don’t get me started on the blogging) but this is a bit like throwing a pound in a tip jar. Whats need is something to aggregate the blogs, tweets, photos, videos, etc together. Tell the whole story in long form. This is what me and Martin were discussing, and the natural place seems to be wikipedia and archive.org.

I had a discussion recently with Tom Morris who is very knowledgeable about wikipedia. I was discussing the recent addition of a page about myself. But it got me thinking Wikipedia is a great place for the type of thing I was hinting at before.

So I’m going to start filling in pages on Geekdinner, LondonGeekdinners, BarCampLondon, BarCampManchester, Geekup and Over the Air. Hopefully people who go on to write pages about Technights, Social Media Cafe, Tuttleclub, etc will link and reference. Then we can start to trace back events and community efforts. Give attribution where its well deserved and encourage more people to get more involved in shaping the future of geek culture.

Being a geek has always been cool

Reading my RSS again and Den of Geeks hit me with the post titled When did geekdom become ‘cool’?

You can’t walk down a busy street without seeing a T-shirt with the word ‘Geek’ on it, it seems. So: is this a good thing or bad?
It can’t just be me that does a double take walking down the high street now. After all, more and more people seem to be wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘Geek’ or ‘Nerd’ on them, as if geekdom has accidentally come into fashion. Lots of people who – at face value – would never be seen dead with such clothing on just a few years ago are now embracing it as a fashion choice. I’d be lying if I said I’ve got used to it.

The whole thing then goes on to slam people who jump on the bandwagon of geek culture. I get it but it seems too simplistic…

I’ve learned that being interested in quality films, shows, comics and books has far more advantages than not. Not since my younger days have I looked at something hurling out the word geek in a derogatory manner and wished I could change places with them. I think my life improved once I worked that out. That notwithstanding, it’s an interesting cultural change that’s taking place. Because not only is geekdom less frowned on, apparently, I’m informed by far more fashionable people than me, it’s ‘cool’ to be a geek or a nerd now. Who’d have ever thought that ten years ago?

I understand the instant feeling of bitter distaste of those people gatecrashing our party. I mean its our party and all those other people use to take the mick out of us, so screw them right?

The problem is with this all, is its too simple!

Through out the whole post, theres references to the most typical of geeky and nerdy stuff. Board games, Comics, role playing, etc. These are but a scratch on the surface of what a geek is. I’m sure I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again.

Geek is anyone with a passion boarding into obsession.

There are geeky designers, geeky writers, geeky motorbikers, magicians who are geeky, geeky chef’s, geeky fashion models, people who do up cars who are geeks, knitting and crafty geeks, etc, etc… You don’t think DJs are one of the most geeky people you know? Or heck how geeky are professional photographers!

The post is so badly leading towards the technical realm, it hurts to even read more. We should be encouraging people to look a little deeper within themselves and find what really makes them tick, not pointing the finger back on them and laughing. We’re better than that (I hope).

Luckily theres a bit of what I suggest in the final paragraph…

as a result of cultural shifts going on, I can but hope three things.

One, more people get to enjoy said films, comics, games and shows.
Two, it opens a door for people to enjoy stuff they’ve never thought about trying – and that, in turn, they’re welcomed for doing so (as opposed to being criticised for not being ‘true geeks’, as I’ve seen over the past weeks).
And finally, that those who choose to bully and criticise those for liking something ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ just think twice about it. If that last wish comes true especially , then Next can sell all the ‘Geek’ T-shirts it likes as far as I’m concerned

Fashion and brands pick up on whats in the zeitgiest, but thats not a good enough reason to get our own back, take the higher road!

The drinking society of the geeks

Moët Dom (DOM?) Perignon

Who could forget the night during the end of the @media social in 2006. To cover the bar minimum we had to drink £1300 of champagne in 90mins! That night was messy and will go down in geek history forever

 

In the blog “how to be a right old plonker”. I put the hammer down on the notion that being a man, should be defined by the drinking your doing.

Be a regular at more than one bar and A glass of wine or two with lunch will not ruin your day

So I wrote…

Please! Come on, being a man shouldn’t centre around drinking

Then @jmurphyuk wrote in reply to me…

“Please! Come on, being a man shouldn’t centre around drinking” unfortunately for MOST in this country… It does

Slightly chilling thoughts from Jmurphyuk i think. You only have to watch a episode of 24hours in A&E to get a glimpse of the problem at large. But most of those people are drinking for escapism, its sometimes what they look forward to (not my words some once said that on 24hours in A&E)

So whats the modern geek’s excuse for the drinking? This is something which hasn’t been missed by others. Does Our Industry Have a Drinking Problem? by Rachel Andrew on alistapart really brings home the problem in our industry and geek culture.

At a conference recently, I had to leave for part of the afternoon to take care of some technical support for our product. When I returned to the venue, at about half-past five in the afternoon, everyone was holding plastic glasses of whiskey and cups of wine or beer.

At an event where I spoke earlier this year, some wondered whether one of the other speakers would be able to make their talk after having drunk so much the night before.

Almost every conference’s second day opens with attendees being asked how their hangovers are. Second day early-slot speakers joke that no one will turn up anyway, or they’ll all just be staring into their coffee. It has become normal, in fact expected, that drinking and staying out late is what we do while at conferences.

And Rachel is right… it is slightly worrying how this is the norm of the conferences.

I originally thought it was just the UK and maybe parts of western Europe but that certainly seems untrue.

The alcohol-fueled nature of our industry events therefore raises an issue. As a speaker, I want to be available to people who have bought tickets and attended the event I’m speaking at, and if the parties are the place to do so, then I need to be at the parties. For me this doesn’t raise any moral or personal quandary, although I’d sometimes rather be in bed so I can go for an early run before day two begins. Some speakers or participants, however, may find it hard to attend social events where alcohol is the main theme. Of course it’s possible to attend these events and not drink, but being the sober person at a party gets tiresome.

Yes its a dilemma because you do want to socialize and also be fresh for your talk on the next day. There have been a couple of times when not so much the drink has caused me to wake up slightly unprepared, but rather being up chatting over late drinks in the hotel bar. The Mal in Newcastle, Encore in Gateshead, Holiday Inn and in Greenwich, London are included in my list of late night minimum sleep. Great times but boy oh boy could I have done with some sleep instead of debating the ins and outs of Perceptive Media.

Drinking is part of our culture/society like it or not. But I got to say the last paragraph does sum it up.

Meeting up in pubs and attending conference parties will always be part of our industry, and an enjoyable part for many of us at one time or another. If the conference you attend is your only one that year, then having the chance to let your hair down with peers you rarely meet in person is not a bad thing at all. However, I’d like for drinking not to be what defines these events and those of us who attend them. We become more inclusive the less we look like only a certain type of person is part of “us.”
Well said Rachel

Top 10 tech hangouts in Manchester

Madlab

Inspired by The next web and Martin’s Tweet for the Top 20 tech hangouts in new york city. I thought well I’ve not really done one for Manchester’s geek/tech scene. I’ve done some posts for top first dating locations which seems to get a lot of search engine referrals. Heck I’ve even talked about coffee shop clashes.

So here’s my list of the top tech hangouts in Manchester…

  1. Madlab
    Go there anyday almost anytime and it will be full of geeky/tech interested people. Its amazing the diversity of people and interests.
  2. North Tea Power
    Although a coffee shop, its usually full of people on laptops working away on startup ideas and new types of projects. Excellent coffee with plentyful types of tea. Owners are lovely people and take their coffee seriously.
  3. TechHub Manchester
    You heard of Techhub, well its the same formula just in the north of England. Of course this is where serious tech startups go to be taken seriously by investers of all kind. Its not the kind of place you can just rock up but they do have social events including Silicon drinkabout every Friday evening. There is also a Northstar Cafe (thanks Angie) below which you can sometimes find tech people and its only 5mins from Piccadilly Station.
  4. Takk
    New on the scene, and forms part of the new Northern Quarter or new Piccadilly Basin area. Putting the old Drip coffee to shame and taking a clues from North Tea Power. This rapidly is becoming the coffee shop work and be seen at. Now if only they can sort out the opening hours, like NTP.
  5. The Classroom
    The coworking space which is along side bakerie’s pie and ale store. This coworking space is membership only but pretty cheap if you want somewhere more social to work but not have the hassle of ordering coffee every hour or so.
  6. Common/Home sweet home
    When Edge street wasn’t so cool and didn’t have street lighting (I still think it doesn’t?), there was a bar with the full title, a place called common. Common has been around for years and hosted many social events in the past. Right next door is home sweet home which has established its self as a great place for the more chilled nights out. Of course both face Madlab, so its easy to go from Madlab to Home sweet home to Common in one evening/night.
  7. Castle hotel
    I am not a fan of the castle, but if you want to find techies, hipsters and digital folk, the castle hotel is a must. People seem to like it a lot while I always wonder where the cocktails are. But I’ll give it something, it certainly attracts tech people in the know. Oh and I have no idea if it really is a hotel or not.
  8. Cornerhouse
    The cornerhouse cinema is one of those places which is full of art people but you sometimes find an event which attracts tech people. Its generally a very cool place and one of those places which really attracted me to live in Manchester all those years ago.
  9. Kim by the Sea
    Just around the corner from Manchester’s Technology park, I’ve been there a few times and each time theres a mix of hippies, artists and technology people. Nice big portions and earthy feel which makes a difference.
  10. Terrace
    I haven’t seen it yet, but Madlab and terrace have come together to do a co-working space of there own. Meant to be a nice space, a little better than the classroom I hear. Terrace is of course another cool bar, usually quite loud not ideal for a chat

 

Top 10 Good Tech Habits

don't feel blue


Lifehacker
has a list of 10 good tech habits to have… Luckily I seems to have most of them, however its good to share them because lots of my friends have fallen fowl of some of them.

  1. Search Google Like a Pro
    Absolutely! You got to know how to use search engines fully…
  2. Back Up Your Computer
    The amount of friends who don’t do this is terrible. I don’t backup everything but the essential stuff I have backed up on Spideroak. The less important stuff I have backed up on Dropbox.
  3. Use Secure Passwords
    If I got a pound for everytime I’ve shouted Keepass!
  4. Know What Maintenance Your Computer Needs (and Doesn’t Need)
    Of course building PC’s in the past and still doing bits here and there, I certainly feel like I know my stuff, although since I moved to Ubuntu I’ve kind of lost touch with my Windows background.
  5. Be Smart About Hoaxes, Scams, and Internet Myths
    Oh I’m across this, snopes and wikipedia is your friend. Generally if you think its all makes sense
  6. Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi
    I’m aware of the risks and never do anything serious on a non-SSL connection. I’m aware of the sniffers and have been known to throw open wireshark every once in a while.
  7. Avoid Getting Malware (and Spreading It to Others)
    Running Ubuntu over Windows means the chances of Malware is less but I’m also very aware of the risks. I usually avoid passing stuff on by just deleting them but I’ve sometimes I report them. Specially banking phishing.
  8. Keep Your Desktop and Hard Drive Free of Clutter
    Check, all good…
  9. Know When You’re Paying Too Much for a Product
    Yes although I won’t go totally out of my way for a deal, as I put a price on my time and effort
  10. Regularly Audit Your Privacy Settings on Social Networks
    My general rule applies… If its private, it shouldn’t be online. No matter what privacy settings you have check the End user licence agreement! That will tell you everything you need to know…

Difference between Nerd, Dork, and Geek

A friend of mine from Bristol (Amy) seems to get very confused about the differences between a geek, nerd and dork.

She calls me a nerd and I usually have to remind her that I’m actually a self described geek.

Finally someones drawn up a diagram highlighting the differences…

To all of you nerds and geeks who–like me–have been unfairly and inaccurately labeled “dorks,” only to then exhaustively explain the differences among the three to a more-than-skeptical offender, I say:

You’re welcome. This nerd/dork/geek/dweeb Venn diagram should save you a lot of time and frustration in the future.

Venn Diagram for the differences

To those of you who have been called “dweebs,” I say:

Stop hanging out with people from the 1950s.

Via Matthew at Sed Contra, who will see you at the intersection of Blogging and Things that Have Latin Names.

Should we teach people how to code in school?

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

I’ve seen quite a lot of blogs, notes, and even papers on the question of shouldn’t we teach the next generation how to code? Somewhere in the mix, there’s lots of thoughts that the problem we’re having keeping up with our american friends is because we’ve gone soft on teaching the next generation the essential skills needed to not just become workers but to think for themselves and ultimately take control and drive their own destiny.

And finally there’s a lot of thought that the BBC should be a large part of what ever happens, after the success of the BBC Micro ecosystem back in the 80’s. There is no way I could go on without mentioning the fantastic work which is going on in these areas from Ant Miller, Michael Sparks, Mo McRoberts, Alan O’DonohoeKeri Facer, Adrian Woolard, etc, etc…

My own thoughts are quite complex on this issue but I wanted to talk about one aspect of it… teaching people to code.

Lots of people have said code is law, code is power, code is freedom, code is a way of life. They may even be right but I have a problem with this…

…I’ve never had any formal programming/computer science training. So obviously I would say, its not as biscuit critical as some people are making out. Don’t get me wrong its powerful and the ability to be able to manipulative the landscape around yourself and others is a fantastic thing to have. However there’s more to it than just this.

I have the power to manipulate and bend the landscape to suit myself, its not so elegant but it kind of works because I understand the systems and services around us. I would conclude this is the hacker mindset (although others would disagree or think I’m being a little broad with the definition.

So what is the hacker mindset? And ultimately what is a hacker and what does this have to do with the next generation? Bruce Schneier explains what a hacker is…

What is a Hacker?
A hacker is someone who thinks outside the box. It’s someone who discards conventional wisdom, and does something else instead. It’s someone who looks at the edge and wonders what’s beyond. It’s someone who sees a set of rules and wonders what happens if you don’t follow them. A hacker is someone who experiments with the limitations of systems for intellectual curiosity.

There’s some keywords in that statement which stimulate my thoughts… But the big one is the Curiosity.

From Secret & Lies, the famous Schneier book which I actually own, but I think I lent to someone? (Glyn?)

Hackers are as old as curiosity, although the term itself is modern. Galileo was a hacker. Mme. Curie was one, too. Aristotle wasn’t. (Aristotle had some theoretical proof that women had fewer teeth than men. A hacker would have simply counted his wife’s teeth. A good hacker would have counted his wife’s teeth without her knowing about it, while she was asleep. A good bad hacker might remove some of them, just to prove a point.)

How do we entourage young people to keep there natural sense of curiosity? Somewhere in the process of growing up its kind of knocked out of young people and I don’t know where it exactly happens. I also feel this fits well with my thoughts about the need for young people to explore their inner geek or passion if you prefer.

I would also suggest curiosity + passion is a killer combination and something a lot more people could do with (imho). This combination seems to be great (although not all of them appear in the 8 great traits) ironically.

Inspiring the next generation is the game and aim here, not teaching young people to code. Being smart, curious and passionate is what I wish for all the young people of this and every nation. How the BBC and BBC Micro Redux project (I totally made that up!) fit into this frame I don’t honestly know, but I know many people are chipping away at this in many different ways. I just hope there ultimate aim isn’t to just create a whole bunch of coders because that would be very dull and a crying shame…

Geek talk sexy part 3: LGBT stand proud

Plastic love

photocredit : bresc

After the overwhelming success of the last geeks talk sexy part 2, we planned to cover LGBT. But there was a certain amount of worry that we were not going to be able to give it the justice that it deserves, simply because neither me, Samantha or Hwayoung were lgbt. Even Simon who joined the team after part 1, was neither. So this was really shooting in the dark for a lot of us.

The fear grew over the coming weeks as the geeks talk sexy got retweeted around. Technicalfault gets a mention here for his crazy amount of retweeting. At some point the event ended up attached as the pre-bollox club event and on the official canal street facebook page. The fear was more about people overrun by people who were expecting a discussion about LGBT generally rather that in the context of geek culture, but we neither have feared it all worked out great and we had our most successful geeks talk sexy to date.

Geeks talk sexy part 3

We started late but setup quickly while quite eager people turned up and started to chat. After a weird rearrangement of the tables (blame Samantha for her double rainbow idea) and a series of questions on the projector. We kicked off with me showing the BBC Three documentary from Dawn Porter goes Lesbian a while ago. While we put the finishing touches to everything you couldn’t help but laugh at some of the things Dawn was saying on the documentary. Its really interesting how attitudes have changed.

We started when our special guest for the evening Ben Light turned up.

At the start the crowd of almost 40 people (best turn out to date by a bit) were a little quiet as we explained like the last one, we want to frame the discussions around geek culture oppose to the wider society. So after the recap we kicked started everything by reading out what peoples answers were to the questions we asked at the very start. Unfortunately I put up a earlier presentation and so the questions weren’t exactly what I was thinking, but we did get a general answer to how do/have you meet partners? Generally it was the same as the male and female answers from part 2, which makes total sense. I was hoping for some slightly different answers but everyone was very sensible with the answers.

Then started a conversation about the term LGBT after admitting I had never heard the term before till a volleyball player told me the Manchester Jump team was LGBT. The debate is pretty much the same one that is on the wikipedia page for LGBT. Some said Gay was a better term and some said Queer was even better still.

After this we got on to the debate over Bisexual relationships. I stuck up a post from the Savage love which was pointed to by quite a few blogs I had seen while doing research. The notion that Bi-sexual people were confused or greedy was quickly crushed by many and the similarities between straight, gay, lesbian, bi, etc relationships were discussed in some detail. I threw in a couple of bombs here and there in the way of the Kinsley scale and Bisexual erasure but everyone was pretty much agreed on most subjects except dating profiles with spelling mistakes.

This cause quite a bit of heated discussion and I would have loved to let it continue but we were already running late and the break was rapidly approaching. Hey and who couldn’t resist the lovely cocktails which were available for a generous donation to madlab.

Geeks talk sexy part 3

Pina Gaylada, L33t Lesbian, Manchester Trans tea and Bigrasm were the order of the day at the cocktail bar. While people tucked into there cocktails, we setup the 1 minute rants section. To be fair we didn’t have many of them but the lies and lack of english on profiles came up again. I had a good old rant back about people getting far too touchy about spelling. Before you knew it we were on to our special guest Ben Light.

Geeks talk sexy part 3

Unforgeable we had some nasty technical problem. Ben used Apple keynote to do is presentation and so we had to use Samanaths MacBook to do the presentation. What followed were a ton of different problems related to the lack of Video memory (who ever says it just works with Apple devices is seriously deluded and should have witnessed the systematic errors Ben and Samantha had to deal with). Anyway in the end, we got it working by reducing the screen resolution down to 800×600 and bouncing back and forth on the PDF instead of the keynote.

Ben focused on LGBT characters in video gaming and it was a fascinating talk (don’t think I’ve ever seen him give a average talk!) Even with the technical difficulties, he was able to show some interesting examples of LGBT characters in popular video games. (I will link to the presentation once Ben posts it to me). The presentation spurred a ton of interesting questions but we had to cut them short because we were running about 40mins late by that point.

After Ben and the Q&A it was a matter of pointing people to common bar as usual. Where conversations continued deep into the night.

I’d like to publicly thank everyone who made it to the event and made it our most popular event to date. Special thanks to Ben Light for the look at the questionable role of LGBT characters in mainstream video games.

Geeks talk sexy part 3

Part 4 is still being resolved but we’re certainly going to delve into the world of Poly relationships in geeks talk sexy part 4: the dynamics of relationships.

Geeks Talk Sexy2: The Other Half of the Population

People in circles

We said geeks talk sexy would be back bigger and better… and it certainly did.

This time we focused on the other half of the population (woman) and the focus paid off greatly.

So to start with, we took on most of the feedback from the first one. One of the critical points was shifting from one subject to another too quickly and losing the crowd as we transitioned around the world of geeks and sex. This time it was much easier to stick to one subject as we digged deeply into the world of what its like to be a geek woman and a geek man in 2011.

The event started like the last one. Cocktails were served as people turned up and chatted in little circles. We played a documentary from Channel4 titled Love Virtually to get people in the mood, while myself and Samantha got setup. The choice of cocktails included the Geek Girl and the Geek Guy.

Geek talk sexy drinks

By the time we got started, the room was nice and full with people sat around a massive communal table. We hadn’t quite got through to our special guest yet but it was on with the show. This time we had a lovely presentation which gave people an idea of where we were going and roughly how far we had gotten through everything.

While Samantha kicked off proceeding with a discussion around peoples experiences with the opposite sex, I was contacting our special guest – the ever transparent Tara Hunt.

We compiled a list of things from the audience of things not do when trying to have a romantic relationship with the other sex.

  • Wear Clothes
  • Don’t Google people (unless you need there contact details)
  • Don’t try living your life by the game
  • Don’t post pictures of you with your ex on a dating site
  • Don’t post old photos (its just creepy seeing people as children)
  • Don’t lie
  • Don’t use text speak
  • Don’t be rude
  • Be Pleasant and polite
  • Don’t be a tool
  • Be polite

We also asked everyone to write down where they have met previous or current boy/girlfriends. We got some, well lets say interesting answers back. (worth noting there all done in secret)

  • When out farming (really?)
  • Online dating (Ok cupid got a mention)
  • By joining clubs and societies
  • Through mutual friends and acquaintances
  • In Bars/Pubs
  • Through work
  • Round the back of Piccadilly station
  • At LARP events
  • At Festivals
  • While drunk
  • Via the Vax mainframe email system at the Polytechnic
  • Cafes (but that person made it clear its not working as they have been single for 4 years)
  • Via Partners (interesting one this one)
  • At Events
  • At Parties including the Christmas Party

Interestingly someone wrote on there piece of paper, “did you want to know about same sex partners too?” This will be picked up in the next month.

By the time we got to the book the game. Things had turned very heated in the room. From memory it seems most the woman had never heard of the game or of the idea of a pickup artist. This of course much debate. One woman declared anyone who has used the game to pickup woman must be some what sad. But at the same time, her partner also raised his hand to say he was aware and may have rustled through the pages of the Game at one point. You can imagine that would be a difficult discussion to have later.

But there was no time for that, it was time for a breather and a refill on the cocktails. While everyone got more drinks, I got everything setup with Tara Hunt on skype. I’m actually surprised it all went really well and she could hear us perfectly well. The only issue was the bandwidth didn’t seem to be there for video but audio was great. As the break ended, it was time for the 60 second rants. And boy we had some juicy ones.

One of the most interesting rants came from Ara who talked about the serious lack of porn for women, something I have to be honest I’ve never really thought about. But she was right, beyond the usual stereotypes there seemed to be not much. Em gave a rant about online dating in general which got me for one going. Chris also added a different perspective covering online dating from a poly perspective. Another one of those things which I’d never really considered. There were of course more, but I never got the chance to give mine which is maybe a good thing.

geek talk sexy2

Listening in to the rants was Tara Hunt on skype and it was time to un-mute her and ask her to explain her story. As she told her story, there were gasps and looks of horror how someone could be so open it hurts when she talked about her relationship and showed the site. It really set in when Tara asked me to show her post titled “5 reasons why I don’t date muggles.” People were able to ask Tara afterwards about her love life and how she copes. I actually wished I’d recorded the whole thing using Skype Recorder because there was some great questions and some even better answers from Tara.

After thanking Tara, it was time for the wrap up and a brief mention about the 3rd part of the series.

Yes in the next one, we’ll be going deep into the LGBT geek scene. Luckily we have help from others who are much more knowledgeable that myself, Samantha or Hwayoung. After the 3rd one, we’re unsure if we should do one more on Poly relationships (which seem quite common in geek culture it seems) and other types of relationships or what. At some point we’re looking to bring London flirt club to Manchester and do some geek speed dating but all will be revealed in the near future.

Generally this event was much better than the last one simply because we had all the elements to keep us focused. Having a Tara as the guest also really helped everyone think about this matter in a much deeper level. Ultimately the discussions continued very into the night at Common Bar afterwards. Everyone had a great time and we look forward to part 3…

What is that stuck in his pint?

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