Geekdom

John Siracusa, writing on his personal blog:

Geekdom is not a club; it’s a destination, open to anyone who wants to put in the time and effort to travel there.

In recent memory, few articles have invoked such an immediate and visceral emotional response as "The Road to Geekdom."

Focusing on John's youthful fascination with remote control cars, it's difficult not to feel the heart-warming resonance. For as long as I remember, I've always fallen down similar slopes — particularly those which are otherwise deemed odd, immature, or outcast by broader society.

As a young man, I was deathly afraid of admitting that side of my personality to my friends and family. I was self-conscious regarding my care for — and admiration of — things I perceived as existing outside the bounds of normality for someone my age.

These days, I'm much more open about these interests. Most people know, for instance, that I'm a regular reader of comic books.

The persistent trouble for me, though, is the fact that geekdom is, as John puts it, a destination.

For me, geekdom is me and I am geekdom. It's less of a place to eventually reach and more of a persistent, intangible reality. And, as such, it's something I still struggle to tout as part of my person. It's a characteristic that resides far below the surface and, without explicit acknowledgement, is not readily apparent for those around me.

In other words, I'm adept at camouflaging, hiding, and masking my so-called geekdom. And, most troublesome, I have yet to discern precisely how to tackle that intense sense self-consciousness.

Sadly, I have no resolution for such issues. I doubt you have any either.

The best thing I've found, though, is that people — like John — exist and inhabit the same realm of fears, anxieties, and concerns as me. That, although I haven't quite worked out how to articulate and share the extent of my geek-side, there are others who are tackling such issues publicly, triumphantly, and admirably.

And that's a wonderful, encouraging thing, at the very least.

"I'm Still Here"

Paul Miller, The Verge:

I'd read enough blog posts and magazine articles and books about how the internet makes us lonely, or stupid, or lonely and stupid, that I'd begun to believe them. I wanted to figure out what the internet was "doing to me," so I could fight back. But the internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The internet is where people are.

Paul Miller's experiment has been one of the most controversial, derided, and frequently queried topics in recent memory. Some believe the entire notion of leaving the Internet is a contrived and pointless and endeavor. Others believe it was an attention-grabbing and utterly embarrassing piece of year-long link bait.

In my eyes, however, Paul's experiment has been one of the most fascinating and valuable sociological adventures in a very, very long time.

The Internet has become an inextricable portion of our lives. Regardless of where you are or what you do, the fabric of digital information has pervaded virtually every facet of our daily experience. And the desire to understand the ramifications of this reality is irrefutably important.

Paul, as a religious and self-confessed depressive 26-year-old man, took it upon himself to explore those ramifications. It was not easy. It was not natural. And I take sincere offense with the notion that it was purely for attention.

Reading his 'Offline' journals and watching The Verge's concluding video of the experiment, there's a visceral sense of tension and trouble. Paul embarked on something alien and difficult — something that seems so harmless and pointless from our vantage points — and truly tested himself in doing so. He didn't come out unscathed and we won't truly be able to gauge the impact of this for quite some time.

Paul's 'Offline' experiment has been polarizing, but I reside firmly on the side of admiration and appreciation for his — for lack of a better word — sacrifice. He challenged his profession, lifestyle, and, indeed, modern society, and he kept track of all involved.

I cannot shake the feeling that we'll be reflecting on this experiment over the coming years — particularly with the advent of wearable technologies like Google Glass — as one of intense value. Deride 'Offline' if you must, but I choose to regard the experiment — and Paul Miller — with a very sincere sense of respect.

Returning, Paul's first article begins with the simple and humble statement: "I was wrong." It's a poignant confession — one that ought to resonate deeply within all of us.

Quality Over Quantity

Myke Hurley, 512Pixels:

Audience Quality > Audience Quantity
I feel like this notion can be applied to so many mediums; I don’t believe that this will just work with podcasting. I’m sure that if you write on lovely sites like this one and you follow this simple idea, you’d achieve similar results. Of course there is a limited amount of space on the internet for success, but those that get there will be the ones that produce good quality work, on a regular basis.
Quality over quantity.

The concluding notion of "quality over quantity" is one of the most oft-spoken phrases in our industry. Regardless of whether it's applied to venture capital, user engagement, conversion rates, or audience growth, the lesson remains constant to the point of banality.

And yet, despite the saturation of this knowledge, it's rare to meet someone capable of truly abiding — and living — by such a philosophy.

We're inherently self-conscious people and, accordingly, we have a desire affixed deep within each of us to quantify, compare, and gauge ourselves and our perceived popularity or success. So, as we open our respective content management systems and sales databases, the natural inclination is to compare our performance to yesterday. To look backward and attempt to assure ourselves of growth.

The sad, sad ramification of this is that the true value of your product — whatever commodity that might be — is lost. You lose focus on producing the best articles or the best products. You lose sight on intuitively working to better yourself and your product,  instead relying upon the safe knowledge of what worked in the past.

All of our endeavors — regardless of discipline — benefit from confidence. If you can demonstrate conviction and self-assurance, you'll define a positive trajectory for yourself. Obviously this conviction must be informed with real world data to avoid flagrant, unintelligent narcissism, but the fundamental truth is that when tethering yourself to statistics and excessive worries about associative matters, you will not be able to move forward.

Broadcasting with 70Decibels for almost a year, I've watched Myke move away from an introspective focus upon statistics, to a confident mentality of growth and excitement. In direct correlation with this attitude shift, CMD+Space has become a juggernaut of a show and 70Decibels is now merging with 5by5.

All of us on 70Decibels care passionately about our shows not because of statistics and reach, but because we are — or hope to be — producing quality content. We are all confident in what we produce and, therefore, we expect that growth is the logical outcome.

And such a mentality has proven to be accurate.

Perhaps you could dismiss this unscientific, organic, and intuition-driven route toward success as flimsy and unrepeatable. That's not an outlandish criticism. I will, however, offer a pre-emptive rebuttal:

People flock toward good products. There is science in producing something good and differentiated for people. Coupling something good with intelligent, informed confidence, whilst allowing self-conscious fears to subside, will result in success and growth.

Numbers do not engender success, good products do. If you're confident in the goodness and quality of your product, you will invariably find success.

Focus not on the past, but upon what you need to do to build something better. Focus not on numbers, but on the people most engaged and supportive of your cause. Be pragmatic, but dare to embrace blind optimism.

As Myke wrote yesterday — and as thousands of people have said before him — it's all about "quality over quantity." There is wisdom in that philosophy, but its value is only unlocked by those who dare to truly live in such a manner.

A Moment from the Boston Marathon

New York Times:

One week ago — at approximately 2:50 p.m. on Monday — the first of two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This image, taken from the NBC broadcast of the race, shows the flash of the explosion and the final split-second of normalcy before the area turned into what witnesses described as a war zone. Here are the stories of the runners, spectators and others seen in this image.

A remarkably harrowing, touching, and powerful interactive article from the New York Times.

Scrolling through, you hear the brief stories of many of the people in the immediate blast radius at the finish-line of the Boston Marathon.

Perhaps the most memorable of all comes from Debi Caprio:

I said out loud, 'This is how my life is going to end.'

An awful tragedy.

(Via Gabe Bullard and Chris Gonzales)