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Are you a "Nerd", a "Geek", or an "Artist"?

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It seems that there is this stereotype floating around that "Computer Guys" are these socially awkward, introverted, live in their parents basement types. We've all seen it. You go to the code camps and hear people call themselves "nerds" or "geeks", you see the websites out there that incorporate the name (like thinkgeek.com and geek.com), but you almost never hear them speak of themselves as creative artists. Why?!

I often think about how I act and how other people see me when they don't know what I do for a living. Most commonly, people say I look like a "biker". In my personal life, I am a biker, so that makes sense. If i tell people I am a Software Engineer, however, their views of me completely change. Regardless of what our mother's taught us about not judging books by their covers, we still do it. We can't help it. Computer people are no different.

Each group with which I choose to associate has their own characteristics and stereotypes. Some are good and some are not so good. Computer people tend to be very self-deprecating, but they are also some of the most self-sacrificing. I have not been exposed to another group with such willingness to help out other people they don't even know since I left the Army in 1998. The programming community's giving includes programming help forums (such as dreamincode and stackoverflow) to free code camps. There is such a strong sense of community among this group that I really wonder why it is that we (as a whole) tend to be such a self-loathing lot. I was listening to an episode on thisdeveloperslife.com a couple weeks ago and the episode was about feeling like an "impostor". This was very close to my heart as I have struggled with feeling like I don't belong because "everyone else knows more than I do". I thought that this was because of my extremely competitive nature and that I would not feel accomplished unless I was better than everyone else. When I found out other people feel the same way it blew me away. That discovery, combined with my community experience, was the inspiration for this blog. i wonder why it is that we, as Software Engineers or Programmers, tend to think so little of ourselves? It probably stems from that stereotype of us being socially awkward and introverted, but it took the larger programming community to embrace the stereotype. In reality, we tread that line between science and art...scitists? scirtists? scartists? New word (dibs!).

Think about the problems we solve on a daily basis. There is a lot of creativity that goes into GUI design, layout, color palette, and control proximity (Mark Miller has an awesome presentation about "The Science Of A Great UI"). Some of you may have the benefit of separate teams for programming and GUI design, but where I work, it lies squarely on the Software Engineer's shoulders. What about the program logic itself? Sure, there may be a bunch of math and some straight forward stuff, but there is a reason that giving two people the same programming problem to solve can end up looking significantly different. Computer Science may be just that, a science, but I believe that there is an artistic side no one seems to acknowledge.

It is a new day, my friends! No longer are we in the infancy of computer programming! No longer are we sending our output to the command line where visual style doesn't play a major part! We are in the age of artistic creations! We are artists, the IDE is our brush, the programming language is our paint, and the screen is our canvas. Next time someone asks you what you do for a living, try telling them you work in "Artistic Solutions". Believe in yourself and your ability to do your job, contribute to the larger community, and for the love of God, dump the geek/nerd stereotype!

2 Comments On This Entry

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AVReidy Icon

01 September 2011 - 09:45 AM
I get the impression that most software engineers think highly of themselves, actually. I'm sure a lot of programmers (secretly) think of their profession as a display of their intellectual ability. I guess it may not necessarily make you feel confident socially, but it can make you feel more confident about yourself in other ways.

For me, the word "programmer" makes me think of a socially awkward workaholic guy. In certain situations, though, it makes me think of a brilliant intellectual.

Nothing wrong with nerds unless they're only calling themselves nerds to cover up the fact that they're just sloppy, socially awkward underachievers.
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Psyguy Icon

08 September 2011 - 02:07 PM
Good point. The words "geek" and "nerd" usually conjure up images of that SNL skit with Jimmy Fallon, "Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy."
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