Collaboration

10 geek sins that will get your geek card revoked

Here are 10 of the worst transgressions for any geek. Doing any one of these will put your geek credentials at risk. Do two of them and your geek card immediately gets revoked.

TechRepublic has previously talked about some of the things you can do to increase your geek cred. Naturally, there are also some things that can hurt your geek cred. In fact, we've put together a list of 10 of the worst transgressions for any geek. Doing any one of these will put your geek credentials at risk. Do two of them and your geek card immediately gets revoked.

You can view our list in two forms. You'll find the simple list below, or you can check it out in slideshow format with the accompanying visuals.

10. Admitting that you like iTunes

Sure, it's convenient for buying music and media in one place and syncing it to an iPod or iPhone, but iTunes has a draconian DRM system (still in place for media), makes it difficult to manage your library on multiple systems, and it started out as one of the worst pieces of bloatware ever built. And, it hasn't gotten much better.

9. Not knowing the difference between binary and hexadecimal

Binary is the basis of all computing and is simply composed of zeros and ones. Hexadecimal is a 16-digit numeric system -- based on numbers 0-9 and letters A-F -- that represents binary in a more friendly way. Know the difference.

8. Not knowing what MMORPG stands for

Even if you don't play games (or rarely play) you should know that an MMORPG is a "massively multiplayer online role-playing game," also known as the alternate reality for geeks. The biggest one is World of Warcraft (WoW), a cultural phenomenon with over 12 million subscribers.

7. Loving your cable or telecom company

Geeks built the Internet. Geeks live on the Internet. Geeks love the Internet. However, the companies that bring us the Internet to our homes and offices -- the telecoms and cable companies -- are doing everything they can to wall it off, manipulate it for their own financial gain, and stop geeks from using it so much. For as long as they do that, they will remain at war with the geekosphere.

6. Not knowing the name of the book that Blade Runner was based on

Blade Runner is one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. If you're a true geek, you've seen it multiple times. But, not only that, you also know that it's based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" which is one of the best-titled stories in all of literature and an absolute classic in science fiction.

5. Confusing Star Wars and Star Trek

If someone mentions a Wookie and a Klingon and you're not sure which one was part of the Star Wars universe and which one belongs to the Star Trek milieu, you are definitely not a geek.

4. Believing the "free" in open source refers to price

Repeat after me, "Open source does not mean it doesn't cost anything." Sure, some open source software is freely available to download at no cost. But, that's not a requirement of open source. There is plenty of open source software that requires a fee. When open source talks about "free" software, they are referring to "free" as in "freedom." It is freedom from overreaching licensing agreements. You'll also hear this concept referred to as "Gratis verses Libre."

3. Defending Facebook for its privacy transgressions

Look, Facebook is lucky the entire geekosphere hasn't dropped it like a bad habit after all of the crap they've pulled in changing and violating their own lackluster privacy policies. Leo Laporte nearly led a geek revolt out of Facebook in May 2010. The only thing that prevented it was lack of a viable alternative.

2. Taking something into Geek Squad to get fixed

Best Buy's Geek Squad has a few legitimate geeks on staff; however, too many of their technicians are completely clueless and can do more harm than good to your equipment. Besides, if you're geek, just geek-up, open up the case, and fix it yourself. (Exception: It's acceptable to go to the Geek Squad counter to exchange a DOA device that is still under warranty. Just don't let us catch you asking for advice.)

1. Buying a paper computer book at Barnes & Noble

In 1999, if you wanted to quickly learn more about HTML or Exchange 5.5 or Apache or how to earn CCNA certification, you'd typically make a quick trip to your nearest book superstore like Barnes & Noble or Borders and comb through the huge selection of computer books. However, this is 2010. Any computer book you find at a bookstore is at least six months out of date. Almost everything you need to know is available on the web for free or in ebook format that you can quickly download to your laptop or tablet. Buying a dead-tree tome about a new technology is an immediate tip-off that your geek credentials are in question.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

136 comments
chaosakita
chaosakita

I got everything but number 3 Everyone, judge me now. Wait, when did geeks get the power to be so judgmental?

Ralph124
Ralph124

I'm sorry, but this indicates a failure in your geekdom. MMORPG = Mostly Men Online Role Playing Girls. Bwahaha!

bobinspain
bobinspain

Actually, some Geek Squad locations are good. You need to find the one that is the location where their geeks (lower case intended) are sent to be trained. That location will have better equipment, people, experience. If you do that, sometimes the cash/time tradeoff is worth it.

Goldiethemack
Goldiethemack

I stare at a screen all day, the last thing I want to do while studying is stare at a screen. Viva la paper books!

Charley.McGee
Charley.McGee

with number 1. I happen to LIKE books. I enjoy reading them. And while they are inherently out of date with bleeding edge technology, their discourse is perfectly acceptable for understanding the underpinnings of modern underwater basket weaving or whatever else you need to brush up on. Oh...lest I forget...good luck finding much online support for some of those legacy systems (Can you say Banyan VINES?)

Aglets
Aglets

IMHO, this article focuses too much on the "geek" wannabe class. A real "geek" wouldn't worry about meeting artificial and meaningless standards. In my experience, those who use ebooks tend to grep for snippets while those who read paper books tend to read the details. Love of Sci-Fi movies and role playing games is no indication of computer and/or technical interest or skills. It probably only means that you lack imagination and need to be entertained. At least the author didn't mention anything about pony tails (I'm really glad that fad has passed). Do something creative and worthwhile and we'll let you know if you're a "geek" or not.

ron
ron

This maybe true for some technologies but for coding references I still use paper books. You can have my "Cisco IOS Cookbook" when you pry it from my cold dead fingers. This is the one desktop book I reference daily.

kabirasm
kabirasm

well.. I passed with flying colors

Two Hawks
Two Hawks

If you didn't read, or do not know about, Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash", I question your geekhood. Now what I do not know, is which of the hollywood movies "of this ilk", if any, were actually based on or inspired by it ;^) It without question merits its own movie, but the point is, did you geeks read it?

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

To add to this point: Opensource often has hidden costs, even if the product is free. For instance, outfitting a school with new computers. Windows, or Ubuntu. Windows, they will pay lots for licencing, where as with Ubuntu, they will pay for full time, on-site tech support. Everybody can use Windows, but nobody there is gonna know how to use Linux.

JimInPA
JimInPA

where would you like me to mail my card ;-)

CDtek
CDtek

Phew. Glad I didn't hit any of those. Though, I may be guilty of that last one. What can I say? I was desperate.

techrep1000
techrep1000

For the most part, I do find #1 appropriate. However, there are two conditions where I will run out and buy a dead-tree resource, despite being in IT for 15 years, and having worked intensively with computers and programming languages since 1982. First is as an introductory reference to a new subject. If I were to jump into something totally new, such as a new programming language (say, F#) which I have never used before, it is nice to have a well-designed tome that lays everything out without requiring me to hunt for details that I might not even know about. That way, I can have an accelerated introduction to the subject that doesn't leave gaps in my knowledge. The higher-end stuff will always be available online (and any really nifty methods will invariably be found there), but for me the fundamentals are often most efficiently provided in a dead-tree tome. Second is as a technical reference. I have a horrible head for names and numbers (working *with* them is a different story, which is why I am a pretty good accountant as well as a geek). Because I often know what I need, just not what it is spelled and/or needs as values, it is often a lifesaver to have a technical reference on hand that I can quickly flip through and confirm exactly what I need to do. Yes, Google can do the same, but for every correct answer out there, there are often a dozen unanswered questions and three dozen incorrectly, inadequately or incompletely answered questions. A reference tome allows me to find what I want in just a few seconds to a minute on the outside, because while I might know exactly what needs doing, I sometimes can't quite remember the exact details of how to do it or what the full array of available parameters there are. Hardware is a different story, however. While I might have a problem remembering, I am excellent in recognizing, and by having the hardware in front of me I can do until I recognize that I am doing it correctly.

M in the beach
M in the beach

There are sooo many, many awful programs out there, it's amazing that Itunes so successfully holds down the top spot. For a company that is so wonderful at human factors and design, how can they have an entire division (software) that is so completely clueless?

paul
paul

#1 totally wrong, a geek know well the difference between atoms and bits and when use each one Jason, the Geek hell's are waiting for you, just for this little error

charlasuit
charlasuit

What about liking the "geniuses" at Apple stores?

brad.hofman
brad.hofman

This geek read Latin through college...I think the phrase ?Gratis verses Libre? should be "gratis versus liber"

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

Should be an automatic revocation for this one. EMD

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't have a laptop or tablet. I have access to loaners, but I still prefer dead trees. I just assimilate information easier from paper; I don't know why. I can highlight content, and flag relevant pages with Post-its for later reference. And I find it much easier to carry a book to lunch than to lug a computer, fire it up, get the wireless going, start the browser, and link to the content. Now tell me someone who reads tech manuals over lunch, regardless of the format, isn't a geek. Six months out of date? Yeah, all those XP manuals are worthless now; nobody uses that anymore. I'm sure Linux has changed so much under the hood that any two-year-old intro on the discount rack is a waste of money too.

SKDTech
SKDTech

Geeks come in many forms and flavors. It is not fair to count specific fandom knowledge against them when weighing their geeks cred. Star Wars/Star Trek knowledge? I am a fan of both but there is definitely a lot I don't know about either universe even after numerous wiki-walks. Blade Runner? I have seen the movie and read the book (the book was orders of magnitude better in my opinion) but knowledge of the two has nothing to do with being a geek. My suggestions(just to be contrary with my self): Do they know Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics? Have they ever built their own PC?

apotheon
apotheon

What subculture exempts people from being judgmental? . . . and why would you defend Facebook's privacy transgressions, anyway?

Br.Bill
Br.Bill

'Cause how would we know, unless we knew, y'know?

apotheon
apotheon

Considering that Geek Squad's modus operandi is to charge $150 to wipe and restore a hard drive if it takes more than twenty minutes to fix something software related, or to tell you to buy a new computer if there's a hardware problem, I don't think the training the Geek Squad guys get is any kind of worth the cash/time tradeoff. I can replace a video card in less time than it takes to wait in line at the Geek Squad counter, and restoring from backups takes less time out of my day than driving to Best Buy in the first place.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I love paper books as well, but I have to say the "stare at a screen" point you make is how I justify not wanting to watch tv all evening when I get home. I'd be fine if I never watched another tv show again, via computer OR tv (except maybe CSI and some BBC America offerings like Being Human). I'm perfectly happy staring at the computer screen when it is for other activities I want to do.

apotheon
apotheon

I tend to think that someone who doesn't read technical books is the one who should have his/her geek card revoked.

alfielee
alfielee

No, Blade Runner is just a bad movie & I haven't played games on a computer since Hack, now Nethack. So I guess my cred is completely gone perhaps but I have some recourse here. 1/ I have the absolute cred of believing that games are for non-geeks unless you build them yourself - FAIL! 2/ Anyone who is a Trekkie deserves no geek cred at all on the basis of damningly poor acting - FAIL! 3/ Someone claiming to be a geek on the basis of being a fabulous gamer is virtually on the same level as a basketballer who claims to be Einstein. Duh - FAIL!

apotheon
apotheon

Snow Crash is certainly popular amongst modern geeks of a certain stripe, and it's a very good book. It is not (yet, at least) enough of a cultural icon to challenge Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Blade Runner, though. Of course, Snow Crash is not really the best measure of geekhood amongst Stephenson's books anyway. I'd say that falls to Cryptonomicon or Anathem, depending on what kind of geek you're discussing. I personally love both of them dearly, and think any "true" geek should as well, while reasonable geeks might be able to disagree about Snow Crash or The Diamond Age (another Stephenson novel from about the same period as Snow Crash, and a similarly great read). Then, of course, there's always Stephenson's nonfiction book about the history of computing, In the Beginning was the Command Line. If you haven't read it yet, go find it on the Internet (it's available for free online) and read it as soon as you possibly can. It's a great read, and hilarious. Snow Crash is far from Stephenson's most original work. It draws heavily on the tropes and ideas of older luminaries of the genre, such as Philip K. Dick (author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and William Gibson (seriously, any real computer geek should read every novel the man has written). Back to Stephenson for a moment . . . I haven't read some of his books. I'm gradually making my way through The Baroque Cycle, which is great so far, but taking breaks between volumes to read other books (including technical manuals that Jason Hiner apparently believes are a waste of my time). I haven't read The Big U or Zodiac, neither of which has caught my interest enough based on the back-cover text enough to move it very high up my reading priority list. I also haven't read anything he co-wrote with anyone else. I have not stumbled across any of his short fiction, nor have I read any of his nonfiction other than the aforementioned In the Beginning was the Command Line. Among the Stephenson books I've read, though I found it highly entertaining and somewhat thought-provoking, I find Snow Crash to be either the least notable or tied for least notable -- I haven't really decided whether I think The Diamond Age is definitively more notable.

apotheon
apotheon

There is a big difference between using and supporting an OS. You need full time, on-site tech support for both Ubuntu Linux and MS Windows. You need the Ubuntu Linux support to help complete technical incompetents who cannot transfer their point-and-click skills from one OS to another. You need the MS Windows support to fix systems that break twice a day under normal working load.

apotheon
apotheon

Maybe Apple's software division is so clueless because Apple is a hardware company. Of course, it's worth noting that Apple's software division is more on the ball in many respects than Microsoft. This does not mean that Apple has a clue so much as that Microsoft is just so horrible it often cannot reach the level of Apple's incompetence.

Tommy S.
Tommy S.

Its hard to pick the worst of the two if you ask me.

Br.Bill
Br.Bill

Which is what the article explains.

jfuller05
jfuller05

...I still prefer dead trees. I just assimilate information easier from paper; I don't know why. I can highlight content, and flag relevant pages with Post-its for later reference. And I find it much easier to carry a book to lunch than to lug a computer, fire it up, get the wireless going, start the browser, and link to the content. Now tell me someone who reads tech manuals over lunch, regardless of the format, isn't a geek. That's why I prefer physical books in general (not just tech books)and why I won't be using an eReader anytime soon. I guess if physical books are no longer sold, then I'll have to conform, but it won't be by choice.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Okay, I'll give you that. If someone takes a tech manual to the breakroom to read over lunch, that's a bona fide geek -- a geek who's 6-12 months out of date with the latest information, but a geek nonetheless. ;-)

bvlenci
bvlenci

Too much cultural emphasis: games, movies, and sci-fi. Has Geekdom been reduced to this? In my opinion, you couldn't have got a geek card in the first place if you didn't know the difference between binary and hexadecimal. And what about regular expressions? How the mighty have fallen!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If it came first, the book always is. Major loss of geek cred for thinking otherwise.

gsitton
gsitton

they are Not Evil and.. oh wait, that's Google.. never mind..

jfuller05
jfuller05

book from 2006 helped me with technology at work. Places of business still use Windows XP, regardless of new Windows OS releases. edit: and it's fun to read tech manuals.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

I have no qualm with a geek reading a printed book. In fact I have numerous 'outdated' books in print that are still relevant due to the 'outdated' technology in my environment. :p

Two Hawks
Two Hawks

...new everyday ;^) Enjoyed your post, cheers.

jfuller05
jfuller05

but iTunes has a draconian DRM system (still in place for media) I took media to still mean music, but I guess Jason meant video.

apotheon
apotheon

The article wasn't differentiating between ebooks and dead tree media. It was differentiating between books (e- or hardcopy) and regularly updated Web media. The current usefulness of dozens of tech books on my shelves that are 5+ years old serve as a handy counterargument to the notion that all books are obsolete in six months, though. I have at least one book near at hand that's more than 20 years old, and is still a highly relevant, useful technical book, in fact. I'm considering getting an ebook reader at some point, but even then I'd be reading many of the same texts that the article suggests will be obsolete by the time I get them. Clearly, I don't give a crap about that opinion of the matter: I still find many of these books useful, relevant, and up to date.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I haven't seen one, as far as that goes. It may be superior to using a laptop, tablet, or conventional monitor. I -assume- the content is not presented in the same way it would be on a web page, but I don't know how I would compare it to either a conventional monitor or printed material. I have problems with getting a .PDF page to display a satisfying amount of info without being so big. The problem is .PDFs are usually layed out in a format designed for printing. I can't comfortably navigate MS Technet. All the going up and down the tree breaks my (feeble) chain of thought. Not to mention having to translate out of Microsoftese. Maybe it's that I'm just used to content presented in a Landscape format, as opposed to the Portrait layout of most monitors and laptops. That would probably be a point in an e-reader's favor.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm taking them out to restaurants. One day our QA Manager walked by and commented that it looked like I was working. I asked how he'd know. Just because content is on the web doesn't mean it's up to date. Just because content is 12 months old doesn't mean it's not relevant. If we're rolling out Office 2007, an Office 2010 book doesn't do much for me.

apotheon
apotheon

The novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the film Blade Runner may be "entertainment" rather than a real technical topic, but they are in essence seminal works of geek philosophy. They deal with issues such as the relationship between artificial intelligence and what it means to be human. How can something like that, especially when it is of such masterful quality as these two cultural works, be dismissed as irrelevant to whether one is a geek? I might be persuaded to agree with you on the subject of the MMORPG initialism, though. I was skeptical of the importance of that to geek identity when I first read the article.

apotheon
apotheon

In this case, I must disagree. The novel and the movie are about equally excellent in this case. The problem, I think, is that most who say Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are trying to compare the movie to the book as a film adaptation. The truth of the matter is that it would be more accurate to say it was inspired by the novel, but is a distinct, separate tale told by a very different storyteller. If you take that approach to viewing them, I suspect you'd agree with my take on it: they're both masterworks, equally worthy of including on any geek's shelf, and trying to directly compare them is like trying to compare apples and orange juice.

SKDTech
SKDTech

is always better 99% of the time. Also even though better the books are not always orders of magnitude better as I have seen a couple of good and fairly faithful adaptations in recent years. Happily, technology is reaching a point where the main limitations on a successful adaptation of a book to film are time constraints and budget.

apotheon
apotheon

I'm a pretty big fan of good speculative fiction. I've done a little reading.

apotheon
apotheon

I live in a college town, and two places ago I lived in a college town too, so I have probably had a higher than average incidence of people reading stuff like computer and economics books (as well as other academic subjects geeks tend to like) near me. I guess a lot of them might not have been reading the stuff for pleasure, though.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I never thought of taking technical manuals to restaurants was all that geeky. I regularly read programming texts, economics books, and science fiction, as well as a number of other "geeky" topic books, at restaurants while waiting for food. It seems perfectly natural to me. Compare that response to the medical professionals and students I know (including myself) who "talk shop" about procedures, tumors, surgery, wounds etc. at restaurants and are oblivious to the fact that other patrons around them are turning green (not from envy) and excusing themselves from the tables because the subject matter is just too much for "normals" to take. Look around you the next time you are out - I'd wager most "normals" are not reading tech manuals at lunch. I know I've never seen it around me while I'm reading mine, unless I'm at a convention of like-minded people. Not that this is a bad thing, of course...

apotheon
apotheon

Why change the architecture of something when it works as well as can be expected from that technology? The core architecture of Unix has not changed in a very long time, and it does not need to change. C and Common Lisp are much the same languages they were twenty years ago. In fact, if you're using software that changes every six months, I'd say you're using technology that isn't stable, mature, or trustworthy. One might claim a real geek would know that, and those who think all technology is obsolete every six months should have their geek cards revoked. I never thought of taking technical manuals to restaurants was all that geeky. I regularly read programming texts, economics books, and science fiction, as well as a number of other "geeky" topic books, at restaurants while waiting for food. It seems perfectly natural to me. I guess I must be out of date according to your criteria, though, since I own 20+ year old tech books and still find them useful, though.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

New patches, feature packs, and service packs are released, best practices change, interoperability adapts along with new tech that it has to work with. Taking technical manuals out to restaurants? Now, that is super-geeky.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

Something only a geek would care about.