A few years ago, I worked in a co-working space called Silicon Beach House - it was our play on Silicon Valley - and everyone there was either a developer, a web designer, or running a web start-up. It was a little harem of geeks. And then there was me.

My original MySpace page (yes!) is evidence that I really had no idea what I was doing back then. I still use it in presentations to show people what NOT to do on the web. I am also yet to live down the day I replaced the batteries on my mouse with rechargeable ones and had everyone in the office spend a good 20 minutes giving me tech support, before I sheepishly made the discovery.

It may have happened two years ago, but when I asked my Twitter followers the other day if they had any idea why my second screen wasn’t working, someone still suggested I check the batteries.

Three years on, I think I’ve earned my geek stripes. And just in time, because thanks to our Google forefathers Sergey Brin and Larry Page, it seems EVERYONE wants to jump on the proverbial bandwagon. While JayJays churns out mass-produced nerd-shirts, school mums accesorise with iPhones and Oprah extols the virtue of Twitter; Geekdom remains one of the hardest areas to access. Calling yourself a geek just doesn’t cut it.

Revenge is sweet.

That’s not to say that it can’t be done and everyone need not feel the humiliation I did. So here are my tips for n00bs (or beginners) that will hopefully lessen the road to ridicule that I had to endure and see you earning top geek credentials in no time. May I present you with the (beta-tested) Geek Chic Cheat Sheet.

#1 You can ask stupid questions
Despite the slightly over-stereo-typed image of geeks as idiot-savantes, most do not hold a deeper general knowledge than your average citizen. They appear to know a lot courtesy of Google. Most questions can be answered by a simple Google search - and if it is, be prepared to at least be offered this sort of help. Twitter is a great place to get answers quickly, but don’t stretch the patience of your followers and be sure to disclaim it with #lazyweb. And as XKCD pointed out to the delight of most geeks the other day, there is usually no magic trick to fixing computer problems. Print this and stick it in your cubicle before you ask dumb questions (and lose geek cred):

Credit: XKCD. Licensed under Creative Commons.

#2 You’re in the Windows or Mac camp
There’s no room for indifference when it comes to being a Mac fan or a Windows defendant. To be less biased about it, you need to be in one camp or the other. And this isn’t a battle waged only by die-hard Mac fanbois and girls - both Apple and Microsoft have run million-dollar campaigns based around the meme. (See the YouTube clip above.) It is still possible to be a Windows fan and own an iPhone, just make sure you bitch about its poor battery life. And often.

#3 You are the least dressed-up person at any function or event
It doesn’t matter how low-key the event is you always want to look like you put in the least effort. This doesn’t mean thongs and shorts, that’s just bogan. Geek attire has a certain savyness about it that should not be overlooked. I attended a corporate event a few years back where all the “geeks” were emailed reminding them that there were dress standards for these events. Those that listened to the memo, and there were a few that didn’t, made sure they wore their sneakers with their suits. If you are unsure what to wear, safe bets are wearing a black T-shirt (American Apparel is a good choice), black jeans and sneakers - this applies to both sexes and black tie functions too. WARNING: Be sure not to look like a hipster. We don’t like them or their shallow fashion imitations.

#4 You get South Park and Star Wars quotes
Make reference to popular cult movies and TV shows.  South Park, Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama are full of geek quotable material. And, not wanting to overwhelm you with too much homework, Star Wars, Star Trek and Fight Club are essential geek viewing. You also win geek cred for spotting references that others make. Be the first, and you win a special place in that geek’s heart.

#5 You don’t call yourself a Social Media Expert (SME)
So you’ve just discovered Twitter and it’s blown your mind. You feel its power and you want to tell the world. You may know a few buzzwords like “social graph” “hyper-connectivity” and you even know how to use a Wiki, but calling yourself a social media expert is the quickest way to lose geek credibility. Don’t put it on your Twitter profile and definitely don’t use one of those glossy corporate shots to make you look all professional-like. We’ll spot you from a mile away. In Geekdom there are no social media experts, only social media douchebags. You have been warned.

#6 You don’t “open” your new iPhone - you “unbox” it
You’ve just got home with a new iPhone/computer/any-gadget-of-the-moment, you don’t simply open it, you “unbox” it. This requires you to photograph or video the meticulous opening of the box from lid removal to placing the gadget in your hand. If you are videoing it, make sure to provide excitable commentary; for photographs, detailed captions are necessary. Do not feel you need to hide the passion you have for said gadget.  Next step is to upload it to all your social networks - or else it never happened.

#7 You understand LOLcats
Essentially, LOLcats are pictures of cats with funny captions, often in LOLspeak. There’s simply no way to truly describe them, but if you visit Icanhazcheeseburger.com often enough you’ll get the idea.

If you find this funny, you’re on to a good start.

Basic LOLcat. From Icanhascheezburger.com

If you understand this, welcome to Geekdom.

The Creation. From Icanhascheezburger.com

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Most commented


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    • Liz says:

      07:27am | 09/09/09

      Hmm! get a life perhaps?

    • Caz says:

      08:32am | 09/09/09

      Hmm, grow a brain perhaps?

    • JD says:

      08:53am | 09/09/09

      I think the difference you’re trying to describe between bogan and geek is practicality. Bogan dress says I can’t be bothered. Geek attire says everything I wear has been selected to fulfill a practical purpose. Aesthetics is not a good enough reason to wear something that serves no practical purpose and I don’t care what people think of me for wearing it.

    • Rowena says:

      09:54am | 09/09/09


    • benough says:

      09:56am | 09/09/09

      Who said “The Geek shall inherit the earth”?

      If you show a “geek” a bit of respect it will go a long way.

      Just remember that these people probably help you with all the stupid little problems you encounter daily.

      If only they had the balls to use this as collateral to earn respect and hold out on helping you, hahah

    • Rob says:

      10:53am | 09/09/09

      How to stereotype and pigeonhole geeks:
      A seven-point guide

    • Jake the Muss says:

      11:06am | 09/09/09

      Why can’t you put rechargeable batteries in a mouse?

    • Peter Renshaw says:

      11:12am | 09/09/09


      “... #1 You can ask stupid questions ...”

      Nothing will generate more heat in geek culture than non-geeks, newbies or other geeks asking a *stupid* question, then requiring an instant answer. What geeks really mean by *stupid* is a) “have you looked for the answer in the FAQ, read the HOWTO or searched google, *before* asking me?” [1] then b) “the answer is obvious”.  But the geeks leave out the bit where you need a degree in CS/EE or easy for someone who’s been using computers before they could walk.

      ” #1 ‘... most do not hold a deeper general knowledge than your average citizen. They appear to know a lot courtesy of Google. Most questions can be answered by a simple Google search’ ...”

      Distractions suck. If your geek mates/co-worker appear to be giving you canned responses from Google, they probably are. Maybe because they think the asker of the question should have done some homework in the first place. The statement also mis-represents geeks strengths in knowledge. A Geeks strengths are technical depth not pop-culture breadth.

      Try searching Google for the finer points of “language compiler optimisations” or solutions to problems “debugging objectiveJ” to understand what I mean. Geeks know this stuff. It’s in their heads through hard earned experience, trial and error rather than reading about it. There should be a bit of give and take here though. You get to understand things by learning. Learning takes hard work. The mental equivalent of doing push-ups or lifting weights. No pain, no gain. But what happens if you don’t have enough knowledge? Where do you start?


      Ordinary users are probably not used to the mental gymnastics required to absorb the volume and frequency of technical information thrown at them. So stupid questions for geeks and ordinary users is and will always be a potential flash point. Are the nerds and geeks, bullied in High School replaying what happened to them at school?

      A change in geek culture is needed here. It’s happening, but slowly. The “social software” movement is sort-of changing this as geeks liberated from their cubicles get together with ordinary users to build companies. Ordinary users shouldn’t be intimidated by geeks when asking these kinds of questions. It’s bullying in another form and shouldn’t be tolerated.

      “... #4 You get South Park and Star Wars quotes ...”

      Everyone knows geeks hang out on alt.nerd.obsessive. [3] [4]

      [1] A FAQ [Frequently Asked Question], HOWTO [How-to] are all forms of gentle introductions to a particular technical subject. If you don’t know where to start, try reading a FAQ or HOWTO first.

      [2] Wikipedia, “A picture of ‘Comic book guy’ checking alt.nerd.obsessive”

      [3] Wikipedia, “Alt.tv.simpons”, “Created in 1990 on Usenet by Gary D. Duzan to discuss the simpsons on the Internet, pre-web [text].”

      First published at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootload/3901603087/

    • Rob says:

      11:15am | 09/09/09

      the bluetooth mouse I’m using right now has rechargeable batteries in it- not by choice, the old throwaways were dead and I only had rechargeables lying around, but it’s working fine, so what’s the problem with putting rechargeables in a mouse?  Unless of course they’re not charged…

    • bella starkey says:

      11:45am | 09/09/09

      I love that flow chart. I am going to print it out and give it to every fool who rings me/makes me get off the couch to find out why the printer isn’t working (it isnt plugged into the computer).

      I have an iphone because it was free but it is indeed at bit shit at being a phone, it is very good at being a gameboy however. Macs are totally aidz though, i have to use one for work sometimes at it pisses me off so much.

    • Bronwen says:

      12:10pm | 09/09/09

      Hi Rob, to clarify they were not charged hmmm

    • Sarah says:

      12:39pm | 09/09/09

      As a psuedo Social Media tryhard who trys not to say she’s a SME or SMN (Social Media Nut), I loved the article. But I loved Peter Renshaw’s meticulous response with footnotes even more… The true mark of a geek.

    • stephen says:

      12:40pm | 09/09/09

      Jug-handle ears, a lisp, and a sunken chest don’t make for good conversation. (Geeks used to fix typewriters. They still do.)

    • NN says:

      05:34pm | 09/09/09

      You know you’re a geek when you had seen every link/video/meme in this post before.

    • sam says:

      06:16pm | 09/09/09

      9/9/9 is no lol cat day

    • h says:

      08:43pm | 09/09/09

      I think the most important thing is this: if you have never shown geeks any respect, why the @!#^ would you expect them to respect you?

      I think geeks are still the punchbags of the mainstream media though. I don’t think the mainstream wants to be in with the geeks, they just want geeks to fix their iphone when it’s broken (and they don’t understand that flowchart… wink).

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