#define geek – what qualifies a person to be a geek?

I notice the term GEEK is used a lot these days, every man and his dogs flea refers to themselves as a geek. I’m talking computer geek here today, no other kind 🙂

15 years ago it was a different story completely. In my book and having talked to several other people online, a geek is somebody who is into technology and understands it and is doing stuff beyond the average user.

But to clarify, can you please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments. What is a GEEK and what is not a GEEK?

My thoughts are that you need at least one or two of the following criteria (not all!)

  • You can program in more at least one language, probably 2 or 3 (html/css NOT included)
  • You can use a command line easily without having to google commands in at least one of the following Windows, Linux, or OS X
  • You know the difference between a Domain Registrar, Domain Name Server, and types of DNS records.
  • You know what Linux is, have installed it, and used it regularly (using a friends/boyfriends/family PC not counted, and done without help)
  • You can name all the following parts of a PC, AND what they do. CPU, RAM, HDD, BUS, PSU.
  • You can create a full network, including DHCP, DNS, Gateway/firewall and know what IP ranges are reserved for private networks
  • Do all of the above WITHOUT having to google!

You are NOT a geek if you ONLY do

  • You are on Helpdesk
  • you helped somebody fix their email
  • You use IRC, Twitter, Forums, Other chat forums
  • You Game lots (Some gamers are geek, but most are not)

Note: if you do the “you are not a geek if” and still qualify the above ones you are still a geek.

10 Replies to “#define geek – what qualifies a person to be a geek?”

  1. Good list – I'd rather be a geek than a nerd anyday!
    Does having a .geek.nz domain qualify?
    I think the .nz registry should use your list to determine if someone should own a .geek.nz to be honest.. 🙂

  2. Your talking about a “tech geek”, or “computer geek” but the term geek is more general, an well documented here:


    I think that is the interesting thing about the word, is that it can be prefixed to define a certain subset of a society. There are math geeks, which may have overlapping spheres of influence with computer geeks, and your regular tech geeks. There are hardware geeks, and software geeks, apple geeks, and Linux geeks. There are all kinds of geeks, another example is, there are art geeks, film geeks, audio geeks and literature geeks, who share a sphere of influence w/ comic book geeks. These are just people who have accumulated a specialized and somewhat technical knowledge of some topic. I think the kicker is, they did it out of their own enjoyment, they pursued that knowledge of their own volition. Nobody teaches you to bite the head off a chicken, it's just some crazy thing you start doing because your bent that way. There are even cultural anthropology geeks, who start thinking about spheres of influence.

  3. Im talking more about urban terminiology rather than people biting heads off chickens 😀

  4. I think you're being a bit narrow. I know people who are very much geeks, who understand HTML/CSS deeply and broadly, who can make pixels dance across the screen like you wouldn't believe, and who can talk about dpi, serifs, kerning and gamut until your eyes glaze over. All without being able to program, understand DNS, IP or a gateway, but I still think that person can be a geek.

    I've had my ear bent backwards by one woman, telling me why she spends her life knowing and maintaining the standard unit of measurement of length for the country, and I thought at the time that seemed pretty damn geeky too. Major league, in fact.

    Sure, having a couple of the above qualifies you as a computer geek (and yep: I can personally nail all of them, as I'm sure you'd expect from someone at the domain http://ipv6.geek.nz/ who drives around with the number plate 'ubuntu' 🙂 but there are undoubtedly other sorts of geeks who deserve recognition too.

    Computer geeks were not the first class to whom the appellation has been applied, and they won't be the last.

    I hope you come to LCA 2010 next year where I can introduce you to Gabriella Coleman, a really world-class sociology geek we've got coming along to give us a keynote. On her studies of the society of, you guessed it: computer geeks 🙂

    Andrew McMillan.

  5. Ahh indeed, those were general guidelines more than anything, not actual 'rules' as such. I've already edited the post like 3 times to clarify things, including to specify im talking about 'computer geek' and that there are no real hard and fast rules.

    My point was more than every man and his dog who chats online and knows nothing at all really about computers other than to fix their mums email when it breaks, calls themselves a geek.

    Perhaps 10 years ago that may have been an achievement, but now pretty much everyone knows that, its what I would term general knowledge and basic computer skills.

  6. To be perfectly honest, I strongly suspect my geek-cred is reduced almost to the point of non-existence these days.

    Apart from stepping up the programming level recently (now have over 2 years formal experience in a “modern” (read – currently in use for other than legacy software) language (PHP, Java, javascript – with smatterings of XML, XHTML, CSS and SQL) my gaming has reduced, my online presence is slim to non-existence and my CLI familiarity has reduced.

    Although I'm self-teaching Ruby-on-Rails atm – does that beef up the geek-cred a little or am I just a wannabe/n00b?


  7. Hi , agree with you up to a point
    I think people need to clarify what type of geek , its almost like saying your a person without saying your a kiwi , an Australian etc , No i'm not a computer geek ( wouldn't know HTML , from my cobol from my c++, but when it comes to banking I'm a geek I can talk LVR and EFL , cross collateralization till the proverbial cows come home or when we talk sci fi , so not that simple :o)

  8. Yeah, i did clarify i meant computer geek. I accept that there are geeks of all sorts. And not all computer geeks are into sci-fi (though to be fair, ive just finished re-watching stargate from season 1)

  9. Oh yeah, and you are totally a banking geek! who do i put my kiwisaver in? AXA don't look so competent and i wanna move 😀

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