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Bring The Whole Geek!

 6. March 2019

I’ve made mention here and there of “the whole geek”. I’d like to take a little time and lay out the idea.

(There’s a video coming, too, expect it to be strange.)

In our conversations about geek culture, I’ve tried to make my sense of its thinness as clear as I can. One of the key aspects of that thinness is the way in which it decides what belongs in our discourse and what doesn’t. In particular, the trade today seems to provide very narrow definitions, of what a geek is, what a geek does, and how a geek does it.

I know some folks regard that narrowness as some kind of aggressive conspiracy. I don’t, but see it as a defensive reaction – thin cultures are desperate ones, and tho a healthy culture shapes and is shaped by outliers, a sick one fears & reacts.

(Note: persistent use of the word geek is a geepawism. By “geek”, I mean one who is highly creative, highly technical, and highly desirous of being both. In particular, “geek” is not a synonym for “coder”, but for “maker”. I will re-visit this soon to keep it clear.)

Every trade has a stuff it deals with. In our trade, the stuff is ideas. We move ideas. We take human ideas and we move them near, around, and into computers. And there’s the thing, maybe, in a single sentence: restricting our discourse and our definitions restricts our ideas. It actively prevents us from doing the stuff, which is frustrating not only to us personally but to the organizations we do the stuff for.

None of the people I know are just one thing. All of them are many things. When I say “bring the whole geek”, what I am saying is that makers make best when they can bring to bear many of the things they are, not just one.

Some of you are longtime followers. (I’m grateful for you, friends.) You know how I am in this stream. Programming. The day job. Music. Politics. Books. Art. Comedy oh comedy. And, yes, of course, this movement we find ourselves in. In fact, these tweets represent a substantial portion of my interests, ideas, loves, history, family, politics, emotion.

Let me ask a question: How do you think I am at work?

Now let me answer it: Almost exactly the same.

This is bringing the whole geek.

Is this some kind of weird love-everybody hippie-dippie butterfly-rainbow motivational poster crap? I am in fact some kind of weird hippie, so there ya go. But that’s not why this is so important.

Bringing the whole geek is important to me, to us, because the tools of our trade are our minds and our collaborations, and bringing the whole geek keeps them tuned for optimal performance.

Look at it this way: Everything I am a dork about provides me with three things: metaphors/ideas, energy, and courage. Do those things seem like they’d be useful to have with me at work? Wouldn’t you want me to have them there?

Everything I am a dork about that you also have connection to is a new room full of ways we can talk about the stuff of the job. Yet one more way in which the whole geek is valuable to us in the day job.

Finally, when I am talking about everything I’m a dork about, I am also always revealing aspects of myself outside either the day job or the dork topic that will bring us to be better collaborators.

(A weird hippie aside we can argue about some other time: it also makes us happier, which happiness is one of the things late capitalism values the least about its workers, and one of the reasons I seek to dismantle it.)

So, bring the whole geek. Open up as many of the parts of you to the day job as you can. It’s one of the most important (and most underplayed) routes to becoming the best maker you can be.

Have a pleasantly de-centering Friday night!