A Treatise on Geekdom: What does it mean to be a Geek?

According to Wikipedia, the definition of Geek is:

The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, especially] one who is perceived to be overly intellectual

I’m not entirely sure that perception is correct, nor would I agree with the dislikable part, but I do think that obsessed enthusiast is most accurate.

In my profession, many of us gladly wear the mantle of Geek. Our IT friends tend toward a focus on the tech we’ve chosen for our profession. A storage geek may argue about IOps, or the benefits of File based versus Block based, or whether object file systems will eventually win out. A virtualization geek would want to discuss the value of the the orchestration elements of VMware and its associated costs, versus the lack of support on a KVM deployment. We would have so very many degrees of conversation regarding the nuance of our industries that we happily jargon-on ad-infinitum.

One thing that I’ve noticed in my time in this rarified world of IT Geekdom is that our members tend to geek out on many other things as well. The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Big Lebowski, Sean of the Dead, and other comedies can be quoted verbatim by an inordinately large percentage of us. Many of my peers are into high performance cars, and know the variables regarding Nitrous powered vehicles, and torque ratios.

In my case, the geekiness extends most deeply into music. While I tend toward obsession about certain bands, and I find many who share these tastes, they aren’t the most popular, and can often be a bit more obscure.

Few things satisfy me as much as sharing those musical gems with my friends, turning them on to the music that enriches my life, and hopefully finding a kindred joy in my friend’s appreciation of the same.

Do you think that Genesis was better when Peter Gabriel was the lead vocalist, and did the leaving of Steve Hackett from the band send them on the downward spiral as do I? I will argue to the point of annoyance that Phil Collins, while an amazing drummer, was not the front man that helped to define the greatness of this ensemble.

In the Grateful Dead, who was your favorite keyboard player? Was it Brent? He certainly was mine, but there is merit for Tom Constantin, Keith Godchaux, Pigpen, and even Vince Welnick.

One of my all-time favorite musicians, songwriters, and even producers is Todd Rundgren. His many incarnations, bands, and styles all hold my interest consistently. Do any of my peers dig deeply into his catalogue? This core group of Todd fans is small but incredibly loyal. I’ve seen many of the same faces throughout the years at his shows. Not a whole lot of people share this particular taste.

Another thing that really moves me is the guitar. Not only the player of the instrument, but the instrument itself. I find myself looking at pictures, learning about the unique elements of various pickups, strings, tuning pegs, bridges, nuts, etc. Even to the point, where recently I began building them myself. I’ve put together two guitars from parts. I suppose that since I’m a truly mediocre player, that the instrument itself gives me so much joy. Yeah, I have too many of them. Is that a crime?

So, what’s your particular geek obsession? I’d love to hear, and learn about it. These great distinctions between us are one of the most interesting differentiations within our group. The intelligence is not necessarily the key detail, but really the desire to know everything we can about our unique foci.

So tell me, what’s your geek focus?


2 thoughts on “A Treatise on Geekdom: What does it mean to be a Geek?

  1. I geek out on mid century modern dinnerware (and the Dead. Keith was very percussive and a hot potato. Brent could be percussive, but was generally not so much and was really great at riffing with Jerry. I only saw Keith a few times, but those shows were powerful generally start to finish. With Brent, and maybe because it was the peak touring time (the 80’s) and the dead were settling into a standard template (not that the music was ever templatized, but that the structure of the show was), they could run hot and cold, (or really hot and lukewarm bc they were never quite cold). But when they were hot the roof would come off the venue. (See Hampton, 3-24-87, Terrapin Station for an example. Best Terrapin ever I think. So I don’t think I can say keith was better or brent was better. They were different).

    For mid century dinnerware, look at Franciscan Starburst, Casual Ceram Galaxy or (my favorite) Echo, Fransiscan Del Mar, Metlox Poppytrail Aztec (especially the serving pieces – they’re works of art), or anything by Eva Zeisel or Russel Wright, just to name a few.


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