Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Geek Cancer Spreads

Abstract: An ironic and hypocritical analysis of the popularization (bastardization) of the term geek. Marketing people are blamed for the erosion in status of IT professionals to the level of pizza deliverymen.

Note to readers: The hypocrisy is intentional. It's not anybody's fault that marketing works, so, in the words of blogger ABB, "If you can't beat them, rip off their hustle..."


Washington, DC: I am sick of the term geek. It used to have one meaning, then it had another, then another... Nowadays, geek is chic.
  • Googling geek, you get 63.4 million results. Googling tech support you get only 26.1 million results. nerd garners 20.1 million, and dork gets 8.2 million results on Google.
  • More than 25,000 geek domains names have been registered. For example, there is 1-800-Rent-a-Geek.com. But that's not their phone number; their phone number is 1-888-542-GEEK.

Somewhere along the line, geek was embraced by marketing people. Rapid growth and uncontrolled usage of the term in the media ensued. Thanks to the marketing geeks (turnabout is fair play), the term became malignant nonsense through endless repetition; the very definition of a cancer.

  • This holiday season, you can find the word geek used to sell almost anything and everything. There are geek t-shirts that were "designed by experts." There is a web site that pushes a geekly and geekily erotic newsletter. "Geek My Ride" was a book published last year. Search Yahoo Shopping for geek and you find clothes, food, golf clubs, tools, musical instruments, cars, etc.
  • Information technology professionals are routinely called geeks and portrayed as akward and unfashionable. On the job, they are made to wear retro (silly) uniforms and drive retro cars (e.g., New Beetle). In advertising, IT geeks have the look and status of pizza deliverymen.

Yet, there are early signs that this cancer is abating.

  • According to Yahoo's overture.com, in October 2006, searches for the term geek lagged behind searches for the term nerd and for tech support. And the high keyword bid for geek is currently only half what it is for tech support. (Curiously, there are currently no bids for nerd.)
    • FYI: When you see Google or Yahoo ads on a web page, Google or Yahoo has scanned the page and identified key words and phrases. Google and Yahoo each has a massive storehouse of advertisements. Each advertisement is associated with some number of keywords and phrases selected by the advertisers. For each keyword selected, advertisers bid, that is, they indicate how much they're willing to pay for each click-thru resulting from that ad being displayed. Your bid, relative to others for the same keyword will determine the frequency and placement of your ad. Thus, the high keyword bid is a measure of the current economic value a key word of phrase.
  • Circuit City recently launched a new tech support service along the lines of Best Buy's Geek Squad. Circuit City has chosen to brand this service "Firedog."

Disclosure: I am not a geek, nerd, dork, doofus, techno-whore or other variation on this theme. I don't dress ridiculously, carry a badge and drive a themed car. I am a consultant that does tech support and tech strategy with Keystone Computer Group (an excellent company) in Metro DC. BTW, my brother-in-law owns and operates an excellent business in Omaha, NE called GetYourGeek.com.

For more information or for questions, call John Redmond at 240-486-6370 or email him at jredmond@keystoneisit.com. Keystone Computer Group is located at 4615 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22207.

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