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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Geeks vs. Gawks

I started reading Dave Winer's blog again:

And there's apparently a huge rift between him and Adam Curry now. For the two pioneers of podcasting this is one of those classic, almost Asimovian twists. The flamboyant, brash "pretty boy" makes a big splash, while the "techie monkey" gets relegated to the historical footnotes.

Case in point: Dave continues to slog away on cool stuff like OPML (which your average Joe Sixpack has never heard of), and Curry just got a multi-million dollar investment deal in his personality. Or something like that.

But this got me thinking about a larger issue... The supposed rise of geek culture (video games, computing, email, etc.) hasn't necessarily raised the quality of life for your average science nerd or even computer geek. Why not? Because with the spread of technology comes the inevitable dumbing down of said technology. Podcasting was once relegated to people who knew what the hell RSS is. Now any fool with iTunes can get in on the action (several thousand vs. several million). What we are left with is another digital divide: the geeks versus the gawks.

Geeks: Dave Winer is a good example. Technically proficient, brilliant, a little bit of a curmudgeon (sorry Dave, but thank jehosaphat you're no Dvorak), and pioneering in their field. Geeks tend to absorb new technologies, repurpose and extend them. There is a natural curiosity, and a passion for their work.

Gawks: Adam Curry isn't necessarily a great example, because he does have an inner geek. But lately his gawk nature has taken over. Gawks (notice I didn't say gawkers, those are people with the grave misfortune of having to reading said blog-- Gawker makes my eyes bleed) are your typical dumbass. They want the nice things in life, don't worry about the technical aspects of things, just cruise through life trying to make their own lives better. Joe Sixpack couldn't care less what RSS is, what enclosures are, or even what a podcast is. They just know there's this sorta radio thing they can put on their mp3 player. Often, they totally misunderstand tech. For instance, they wouldn't know that podcasting doesn't require an iPod. In fact, they may be pissed off thinking you DO have to have an iPod. When they find out you don't, they might dip in... But maybe not.

Now I'm talking about the "average" person who does at least have a gadget or two. Game consoles have done a lot to democratize tech, for better or worse. I hope it's for the better, because the next generation of devices will further expand the gawks' intrusion. For instance, the rumor is that the Xbox360 will be able to push content to the PSP. Hot damn! Another portable device capable of getting podcasts, and you can connect it to yet another idiotbox extender...

When's the last time you saw Elijah Wood at gnomedex, defcon, or any other "tech" conference? CES does NOT count. No, the gawks are being fed on video games, hence the rise of both.

So what? Well, it takes two to tango in the marketplace. Apple did well for a long time because of the synergy between Steve Jobs (gawk) and Steve Wozniak (geek). Now that Jobs is back I think he's worked hard to balance the two. Hence, the iPod. They took the geek out of HD-based MP3 players. My advice: if you are a real geek, take a marketing or business class. Better yet, take an acting class and get involved in amateur team sports. You gotta get in the game if you want to win it.

Not that it's an "us versus them" kinda thing-- is it?

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