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Salon: Don't tweak the geeks!

Jun 29, 2000, 00:59 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eric Raymond)

"If you were a geek, it was hard to miss. Laid out with all the pomp and circumstance of a major cultural pronouncment, New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani's lambasting of geek society sprawled across the front page of the Arts & Leisure section. In the article, "When the Geeks Get Snide," Kakutani tried to paint the geek culture as a cold, unfeeling place populated by geeks who, whatever their technical accomplishments, remain failures as human beings. What's even worse, she attempted to prove her point by quoting liberally from my own work as an editor and writer."

"The article stumbles on its factual errors; "sheeple" is not geek slang, for example, nor is "content provider" -- the former was coined 80 years ago by H. L. Mencken (whose intuitive grasp of today's language and pop culture would probably far surpass Kakutani's if he were still alive) and the latter is marketroid-speak used mainly by suits. Not only have I never heard any of my friends or New Hacker's Dictionary correspondents refer to sex as "client-server action," I can't even imagine them being so crass."

"To some extent these problems are down to bad sources; Gareth Branwyn's "Jargon Watch" Wired column is insubstantial entertainment, not lexicography, and Paulina Borsook in "Cyberselfish" was seriously blinkered by her political agenda. But the real problem is that Kakutani (like Borsook before her) has distorted the geek culture into a mirror of her own fears and prejudices."

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