Monday, November 12, 2007

The allegory of the cave

"The nerd has based his career, maybe his life, on the computer, and as we’ll see, this intimate relationship has altered his view of the world. He sees the world as a system which, given enough time and effort, is completely knowable. This is a fragile illusion that your nerd has adopted, but it’s a pleasant one that gets your nerd through the day."

The Nerd Handbook is a brief essay on how to be with a nerd. It's one of the most astute and insightful character analyses I've read...all the more impressive because the author Rands (a.k.a. Michael Lopp) is the very guy he's talking about, but has managed to step outside himself to describe what he looks like from outside while also explaining how that person works from the inside.

This is an essay thousands of self-identified nerds will send to their significant others, because it describes things they might never have had the words to explain before; people in relationships with nerds will send it to their very own nerds, by way of saying "I understand you a little better now." It definitely scored a bullseye with that audience. The essay got 74 comments within the first day it was posted, virtually all the replies being variations on "I'm scared by how well you know me" and "Have you been spying on me?" The remainder of comments so far have been arguments over the respective definitions of "nerd" and "geek" and whether or not these words should be used interchangeably. (And yes, the difference matters a lot to nerds and/or geeks.)

Some of the terminology used by the author is specific to the computer-obsessed variety, but his description applies equally well to the comics and science fiction crowd; he's also careful to note at the start that, despite his choice of male pronouns for the sake of simplicity, it applies equally well to female nerds.

As for me, there are a couple of items I didn't relate to...but yeah, this is at least 80% me, probably a bit higher. I shivered with recognition a few times. If you're reading my blog -- and you almost certainly are -- you'll either recognize yourself or a few people you know.

(Via John Gruber at the always useful Daring Fireball.)

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