Opinion: Ignorance of the Geek

Geek is defined by Dictionary.com as ‘A person who is single-minded or accomplished in a scientific or technical pursuit’. Many of us either acknowledge ourselves as computer geeks or are labeled by Friends, Family, and/or Colleagues as the such. This is not a condescending statement and should not be taken in a negative connotative way. It is in fact an admiration of our technical skills and abilities.This is where Ignorance of the Geek shows itself as a Monster Demon. The everyday aspects of computing come so easy to the computer aficionado. However many fine Citizens have trouble just saving files. How many times have you been asked “How do I save this?” To the so called Geek this is a very simple question. One almost to mundane to even solicit a reply. I know because I’ve been witness to the endless questions.

If tried in a court of law I too would be found guilty of trying to avoid giving a reply to these sorts of conversations, but inevitably you reply “click save!!” (in a demeaning undertone). The response is often “ Where’s that at?” or “Where does it go when I save it?” and finally “How will I find it again?” It’s at this time you find yourself wondering Why does this person even use a computer?, and how did they get this job? This is a very simple example but a true representation of real world experience.

In the Geek mind this kind of information is common knowledge and is thought to be instinctive, known at our inception.

I have skimmed through message boards to check the replies to questions such as “ I can’t get my USB external hard drive to work under Linux. Please help” Many times I’ve seen replies back that say something in the order of “Just edit the fstab and then simply mount the drive” There is seemingly no consideration that the person may have no idea what the fstab is, or where it may be located. Theres no reference to any of the other information that is needed to edit the fstab such as Device location, Mount point, File system, Permissions and a host of other fields. Fortuitously thanks to Project Utopia editing the fstab may become a thing of the past. If your coming from the Microsoft world, you may be thinking “this guy is a Geek” but if your a Linux user this is common knowledge. Sometimes when were asked a question we reply “RTFM” and then must explain what those four letters stand for. This is ignorance of the Geek at it’s most prolific point.

There is an assumption among Geeks that computers are easy to use. I subscribe to this belief. However to the mass of the population this thought is outrageous. To many the possibility of having to use a computer is akin to getting pulled over by the Highway Patrol, a serious nervousness ensues at just the thought.

I am not talking about the Old Man down the street or your five year old Daughter. People such as Surgeons, Lawyers, Financial advisors. These are people with Master degrees and Ph.D’s. They are very educated Men and Women, They simply don’t have the time or the inclination to take a basic computer class or read a manual. I believe this is how it should be, to a point. I would rather prefer if my surgeon knew all the details of a particular medical procedure As opposed to knowing if he/she can repartition his/her hdb drive to make room for Suse 9.2

I recently had the horror of working on a Dell laptop loaded with Windows 98 for a very small company. It contracted the virus that was making the computers shut down unexpectedly. I installed a virus scanner, spyware detection software and ran Windows Update. To my absolute shock I found out that the computer had not been updated since it was purchased in 1998. There were over 1000 infected files and over 950 pieces of spyware most of which were malware. The owner of the Company had no idea that things had to be updated. He said he heard of virus’s but really had no idea what they were. I easily got the job to work on the other two computers that the company owned and found them in the same un-updated states,loaded with virus’s and malware.

I for one cannot fathom how a computer can fall into such a state of disorder. I believe it to be my own case if ignorance of the Geek.

I know a top notch programmer that has trouble connecting his WindowsXP box to the Internet through a broadband connection hooked to a router that doubles as a DHCP server. On the flip side of that coin, He has asked me “Why I don’t program?” When it comes to programming I don’t know a if statement from a fi statement.

There are many of us so called Geeks out there. Next time you are asked what you perceive as a simple question. Try to remember that what is seemingly natural to us Geeks can be a incomprehensible source of total confusion and fustration to others. Take a little time to explain in easy terms how to accomplish the given task. It might be easier on all parties in the long run. If the other person understands, they won’t have to ask the same question again, and you will have pushed the learning curve of another a little further. Possibly making computing more fun and safer for all of us. If your really patient you may find you made a new Geek (at something else) Friend.

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