We hear the word ‘Geek’ tossed around casually and pejoratively, but Geeks consider themselves as part of a grand tradition dating back to those Ur Geeks who thought of melting rocks to form metal tools, dreamed of sewer systems to make cities livable, and devoted their energies to figuring out how exactly man could fly. Da Vinci was a Geek, The Wright Brothers, yup Geeks, Mendel with his pea plants–the list goes on. Each had the ultimate Geek qualities—absolute devotion to matters deemed too arcane for the more popular heroes, perseverance, and the ability to look beyond the obvious into the strange to find the next big thing. Geeks do this knowing the social cost of being an outsider by choice but they persevere for that tingling of excitement when something really ‘cool’ happens. read more…
1. Wikipedia—Dear en.wikipedia.org, what would we do without you? Wondering what a narwhal is? When did the Dodgers move to Los Angeles? How many versions of Castlevania have been released in English? Questions you didn’t even know you wanted answers to are available in this grand experiment of knowledge curation. Non-profit and without editorial staff, this assembled information is given to the Internet by the Internet. Of course, hijinks and hacking have occurred, especially at the urging of TV host Stephen Colbert or in the case of a particularly mean-spirited political campaign. The power of the horde of Wikipedia helps to keep order, with a bureaucracy and review system available to sort out conflicts when they arise.
Wikipedia can even serve as a news service when fast-changing events are occurring. From the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011 to the Iraq war, from pop culture to cutting edge scientific discovery, Wikipedia often is first in presenting the newest facts in an ordered fashion. One danger of visiting the online encyclopedia is the ability to fall down an Internet rabbit hole, clicking from one related article to another.
2. Etsy—For the crafty Geek or the Geeky crafter, Etsy.com is an online fair to showcase a full range of handmade gifts. Where else are you going to find Tardis cufflinks and cupcake magnets made with love? No longer do you have to make your own hand-painted pillowcases with the images of sea mammals and have them languish unnoticed at the annual church bazaar. A decidedly low-tech corner of the Internet.
3. io9.com is the relatively new kid on the block, but its coverage of science fiction, science and other things Geeky treats its topics seriously, adding intelligent commentary and a fresh perspective on comic books, TV, movies, fiction and casts a big “What if?” approach to scientific discovery. Part of the Gawker media group, it is a site known to host intelligent and witty discussions in the comments that the community can recommend to others of leave languishing in the ‘grays’.
4. Thinkgeek—Thinkgeek.com is a store not a Geek community, but it is a store for everything Geeky. It is equal opportunity Geek covering both Star Trek and Star Wars items, stuff for chemists and mathematicians and not afraid to be silly. Its April Fool’s Day newsletter is renowned for its over-the-top products that you actually may find yourself wanting. In fact, some of these parody products have gone on to be available including the Tauntaun carcass sleeping bag due to popular demand.
5. Instructables—Instructables.com is a project sharing site where users can describe in text, photos and videos their latest masterpieces. From useful things, to the purely enjoyable, Instructables also provides editorial content from professional staff. There are contests and comment interaction with the creators of each project.
Originally it focused on mechanical and electronic creations, but now it covers food, fashion and home topics serving as “(t)he world’s biggest show and tell”.
6. Lifehacker—Lifehacker.com provides “(t)ips, tricks, and downloads for getting things done.” Whether making your computer run faster, keeping your desk organized or making a better sandwich, this site and the commenting community is focused on the type of tips that would have previously been found in the “Hints from Heloise” column years ago, if Heloise had been enamored with Apple products and electronic organization.
The role of the commenters here is to keep the editors honest, and adding their own suggestions both in the comments on an article and in the “Help Yourself” series where people can ask and answer each others questions.
7. 4chan—Speaking of distasteful, this image board site that started as a manga and anime sharing site (/a/) grew more popular and notorious under its (/b/ or “random”) section which covers everything else of interest to its young punk comunity. As all posters are assigned an “Anonymous” name unless they choose to post with a screenname, this is the springboard for the Anonymous movement which has brought cooperative anarchy into the mainstream. Whether battling the Church of Scientology or the big banks, legions of so-called script kiddies or /b/-tards have launched DOS (denial-of-service) attacks against those who come into their bad graces.
Founded by moot (aka Christopher Poole, 4chan has been the breeding ground of many Internet memes including “Rickrolls” and way too many images of various LOLCats.
8. Boing Boing—BoingBoing.net started its life offline as a ‘zine created by Mark Fraudenfelder and his wife Carla Sinclair, and joined by Cory Doctorow, David Pescowitz and Xeni Jardin after it came online. Describing itself as a “directory of wonderful things”, it covers things from a slightly more activist and artistic viewpoint than the typical Geek blog. Each of the main editors have used this forum to highlight electronic freedom, steampunk style, futurism and retro-futurism, science fiction, human rights campaigns and the type of topics that necessitate a “unicorn chaser” to cleanse the brain from seeing something particularly distasteful.
9. Reddit—In many ways, Reddit.com is the start and end of the web for the short-attention spanned but deeply curious segment of Geekdom. Reddit.com describes itself as “the front page of the Internet”. User submitted and user moderated stories bring news from all over of interest to its community at large or of one of the many sub-communities, or subreddits.
Both the light side and the dark side of the Net is highlighted here, but redditors have formed true communities hosting Secret Santa and book exchange programs. It even held a “Holy War” between r/Christianity and r/Atheism challenging each subreddit to raise more money for their respective charity. One of the most popular features of the site are the “I AM A”s interviews between people both famous, at least Geeky famous such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ken Jennings, and not-so-famous, tattoo artists, IT help desk guy, questions ranging from the meaning of life to what was the worst tattoo you’ve ever done.
10. Slashdot—Covering topics from developments in science to sharing the joys and pain of working in IT, Slashdot.org is a community that enjoys healthy debate moderated by those most committed to its success. Users submit stories that fit the byline: “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters”. Users who have earned karma points are able to assign values of +1 or -1 to comments and describe them as “insightful”, “informative”, “interesting” or if they don’t add to the discussion comments can be “flamebait”, “redundant” or “troll”.
The culture of “/.” includes Linux fans, punsters, white and black hat hackers, young Geeks and old-timers. Bring a thick skin and strong opinions.