Working as a person of the female persuasion in the world of tech, I mostly do pretty well being surrounded by a lot of guys a lot of the time. My Women’s Studies degree may not have fully prepared me for my day-to-day life, but I’ve found that I enjoy the energy of being around guys, especially geeky guys, and especially tech geeks.
But my Kryponite remains: geek certainty. You know, the thing where a guy tells you exactly why this platform is superior to that platform, or how this web app suffers from a technical flaw that dooms it to failure, or why such-and-such new tech trend represents what will become the inevitable industry standard. I’m sure folks will want to tell me that there are women who possess this quality of tech geek certainty too, but all I can say is I’ve totally failed to master it myself, for reasons that somehow feel related to my inability to pee standing up.
As a result, I am liable to listen to anyone who says anything in the commanding key of geek. (“Would you listen if they told you jump off a cliff?” asks my inner mom. If they told me that was the only way to be standards-compliant, then yes.) As I’ve gotten a lot older and a little bit wiser I have sometimes been able to subsequently identify the deflating questions I should have asked that oh-so-certain geek at the time — the experience of l’esprit d’escalier, as Rob has taught me to call it — but damned if I can think of those questions in the moment.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from these tech geeks, however, it’s that every problem has a technical solution. And I’ve got mine: GeekOff. Forget CubeDuel (please, please, please let me forget CubeDuel), which is merely bitchy without actually being informative. I want my geeks to face off where they can be useful to me, namely, in tackling each other.
Here’s how GeekOff works: Let’s say you’re trying to figure out the best approach to a technical challenge, or choose a platform for your new web site, or the best application for your task management needs. You talk to Geek #1, who tells you all the reasons it’s gotta be Option A. A few days later, you’re talking to Geek #2, who tells you that Option A is pure idiocy, you’ve got to go with Option B. Your solution: invite them to a GeekOff.
You set up your GeekOff by entering the question that you’ve asked each of your geeks. (If you’re short a geek or two, the system will invite a pair geeks to take the challenge.) Each geek weighs in with his argument, and can respond to the other geek’s comebacks in up to three rounds of debate. Then the rest of the GeekOff community gets to vote on who is right. Ideally, you agree to treat this vote like a binding arbitration: you will accept the Rule of Geek.
It’s better for you than looking at a web forum or a blog comment thread (the environments in which these arguments naturally occur) because you’re hearing from the geeks you know and respect. And it’s better for the geeks because there is a winner. As we all know, geekery does run on a point system, even if we have yet to establish a reliable mechanism for converting points to app store credits.
There is one small problem: GeekOff doesn’t actually exist. Yet.
Oh, it would be trivially easy to build, you say? It’s just so, so obvious which platform you’d use to build it? Any programmer worth his salt could pull that together in a weekend?
C’mon, geeks. I’m waiting.
I like it. The point system could be an implementation of Cory Doctorow’s “Whuffie” currency, from Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom.
Unfortunately though, I foresee many of the GeekOffs degenerating into flamewars – coherent arguments often fly out the window when it comes to a geek’s preferred technical solution. I’d hope the rest of the geeks would moderate that kind of content out – but things could backfire and GeekOff could turn into Geek Fight Club – the ultimate Geek spectator sport! (Rule #1 of GeekOff: Nobody talks about GeekOff)
Then again, that’s actually kind of appealing now that I think about it…
Oh, and as an aside: it’s not *just* male geeks who possess and flaunt “geek certainty”. I know a few female geeks who will argue the superiority of Perl over all over languages (why is it always Perl?), not to mention a certain Drupal aficionado I know… 😉