Tuesday, 25 September 2012

George Takei's geek taxonomy

Last November failblog posted George Takei's description of the hierarchy of geekdom:
  • Geek: Understands, creates, and fixes Really Cool Stuff.
  • Nerd: Understands and collects Really Cool Stuff.
  • Dork: Confused by Really Cool Stuff.
Personally I think he got Geek and Nerd reversed, since most geek websites I visit are primarily about popular culture rather than creating and fixing things -- but lots of people use "geek" and "nerd" nearly interchangeably. But the main thing that occurred to me is that he left out one more category -- one we no longer have a word for:
  • [?]: creates Really Cool Stuff by cleverly combining things nobody else would have thought to put together.
We used to have a word, but in popular parlance it came to have a much narrower and almost entirely negative meaning.

That word is "hacker."

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Programming and Writing: an Analogy

My wife teaches our primary introductory programming class, CISC 121, and regularly has to advise students whether to take the even-more-introductory class first. The even-more-introductory course, CISC 101, presumes no programming experience at all. The primary course presumes "some previous experience with programming" but many students find they don't have enough such experience.

It occurred to me that there's a useful analogy to explain to students why their little bit of programming experience isn't enough for the regular course: levels of programming skill are much like levels of writing prose.