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April 6, 2006

Tired of Geek Talk

I'm tired of geek talk. I'm not talking about conversation that is centered around technology. Geek talk isn't so much about what the subject is as much as it's how the conversation proceeds.

Here's what I mean.

I spent the past few days engaged in a series of technical conversations. Some at work, and others at LinuxWorld. Some of them are formal meetings and others are casual in the hall or on the exhibit floor. All of these conversations are centered around technology, all the way from programming concepts to server configurations to trends in technology.

There were two kinds of conversations. One where there's a feeling of cooperation and mutual interest in exchange of ideas. The second kind of conversation is where people try to "outgeek" the others. The responses are less about exchange of ideas and more about proving that you know more than the next person. Sometimes the comments demonstrate technical superiority by revealing some improvement and other times it's by dismissing an idea by proposing a new idea that makes the original idea appear inferior.

I have to say this most often happens in groups of more than two, but it can happen with just two as well. I also have to say it's sometimes more annoying than others. And there's a spectrum. Sometimes conversations are thick with geek talk and others where it's very subtle.

An example of geek talk:

Geek 1: I've been fiddling with X for some time and really like it but it's missing Y
Geek 2: You're using version 1, last week on Slashdot there was a post saying that version 1 was crap
Geek 3: And using X was advised against by XYZ Security
Geek 2: No, you can use version 1 as long as you patch it with patch 1.1
Geek 3: Yea but then X consumes three times as much CPU and doesn't deallocate memory
Geek 2: Hardware is cheap, grab a few XZ200 boxes and throw in 10 sticks of memory
Geek 3: Even so, if you want to do Y there are 10 solutions better than X
Geek 2: I've been using A, it's much faster and has no disk-performance issues
Geek 3: A is good, but only when you compile it with the --little-known-fact option
Geek 1: Our team has been using X for a long time and it works pretty well except for it's missing Y
Geek 3: X is legacy, you should be off it by now
Geek 2: The predecessor to X, W, was written for DOS (ha ha ha), X inherited all that DOS-based junk
Geek 3: If you want Y you shouldn't be using X, it wasn't designed for that
Geek 2: (to Geek 3) You think there was a design behind X? (both laugh)

The alternative to this conversation might have been something like:

Geek 1: I've been fiddling with X for some time and really like it but it's missing Y
Geek 2: Interesting, what kind of things are you doing with X?

So you get the idea. One conversation is about one-upping the last comment to prove your geekiness, the other is about interest in the other person's experience.

I've been a part of far too much geek talk over the past few days. Am glad to have a break for at least a few days.

Posted by mike at April 6, 2006 9:06 PM