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Programming GNU is Not Unix Software Technology

Open Source Geeks Considered Modern Heroes 361

loconet writes "The BBC reports that a report by Demos says that the all-consuming passions of geeks and nerds may actually be beneficial for society. The UK think tank's report published today, underlines the importance of 'Pro-Ams' -- amateurs who pursue a hobby or pastime, in many cases an all-consuming passion, to a professional standard. The report says Pro-Am astronomers have made 'significant contributions' to the knowledge of the universe, while Pro-Am computer programmers are providing the only serious challenge to Microsoft's dominance of personal computing."
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Open Source Geeks Considered Modern Heroes

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  • by pohl ( 872 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:46PM (#10954202) Homepage
    Heroes are people who save lives.

    That may be the colloquial useage to some, but the first dictionary that I checked does not mention life-saving at all. It mentioned courage, nobility, fighting for a cause...but nothing explicitly about saving lives.

    And let's not forget the Greek mathematician "Hero" famous for devising a way to determine the area of a triangle....definately a geek.

  • by FlukeMeister ( 20692 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @02:12PM (#10954475) Homepage
    First off, I should point out that I'm the guy who was interviewed by Demos for the report, and also the same Seb Potter that the nice people at the BBC interviewed for their piece. Please excuse any rambling in the article, I was interviewed very early in the morning, before coffee, on the day after the wedding of two close friends, and my brain was most definitely not fully engaged.

    The first thing that I notice on here is a lot of detracting comments from people who haven't read the full report, but are just going on the headline. I'm not particularly surprised, as, of the several members of the press that interviewed me, only the BBC actually wanted to try to present the story in a positive light. Others just wanted to regurgitate the press release and get some nerdy quotes about not having a social life, for which I was happy to disappoint. No member of the press that I spoke to had actually read the port as far as I could tell.

    Strangely, nobody wanted to publish my photo, because I don't look at all like the stereotypical image of a trainspotting nerd. I feel sorry for the other 5 people who were put forward by Demo as being examples of what Demos calls the "Pro/Amateur" economy, as the press ignored them completely.

    So guys, remember that when you're pressing that submit button, you might be coming off as no more intelligent than a tabloid journalist.

    I'm pretty encouraged by the report and what Demos are doing with it. For those who don't know the background, Demos is a think-tank organisation that provides policy advice to the british government. In this case, their advice has been obscured behind a knee-jerk press reaction, a reaction that I especially wouldn't have expected from the audience that the report praises.

    You might need to know who I am, that I have the nerve to represent the community in this way. Well, I'm a 27 year old programmer from England. I've held a series of successively senior roles in several companies over the last 8 year, that has led to my current position as the Technical Director a company called Getfrank (http://www.getfrank.com/ [getfrank.com]. Along the way I helped get Battle.Net started in Europe when I worked for Sierra/Vivendi running their online presence back in the 90s.

    6 years ago, almost to the week, I was one of a handful of people that started an online community called evolt (http://evolt.org/ [evolt.org]). Actually, the wedding I was at this weekend was for 2 of the most prominent members of that community. I'm about to dump most of my time over the next couple of weeks to work on a complete rebuild of the technical architecture behind the community.

    About 2 years ago I started working with the Plone project http://plone.org/ [plone.org], and became a core developer through working myself silly helping to get the 2.0 release out of the door. I don't get to contribute to the community as much as I would like at the moment, but that's mainly because everyone there is pretty damned good at what they do.

    I have a steady girlfriend, but then, so do nearly all of my geeky friends, except the married ones. I have a social life that can best be characterised as amplified. I code about 50 hours a week at work for clients (on OSS projects), and about 30 hours a week for fun (on whatever the hell I like, but mostly little Torque Engine-based games for fun).

    The point about the Pro/Amateur thing isn't people making a living out of their hobbies, it's mostly about motivation, and the availability of expertise and knowledge outside of the traditional bounds of "professions". In fact, it's one of the first indicators that many sections of the economy are noticing a move back away from the protestant work ethic, and back towards concepts of social responsibility and pride in self-directed achievement.

    It's all small steps, and getting a report like this published and noticed in the press is just the first tiny step towards change, but it's definitely going to be an interesting journey.
  • Re:Ok then... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @02:43PM (#10954763)
    Sorry, just saw that movie and thought it was awesome... if you haven't seen it, you won't get the above.

    No. If you read Watchmen 20 years ago you'll also get it [devermore.net]. (Towards the end of page)

    It's interesting that movie versions of both Fantastic Four and Watchmen are in development, immediately after The Incredibles made such a big show of borrowing/stealing major elements from those stories. Many viewers next year could make the wrong assumption about who is copying from who.
  • Re:A Troll article? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @04:16PM (#10955960)
    The same goes for other research. Or computer forensics. Or program development. We are becoming increasingly dependend on open source - unfortunately, most people do not realite this :)

  • by bob_jenkins ( 144606 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @05:24PM (#10956762) Homepage Journal
    Here's why people think geeks can't get laid:
    I've been married for six and a half years, and I've got a fantastic 10-month old daughter.

    I think there's something to the "geeks can't get laid" thing. In high school and college, getting laid (or a steady relationship, or popularity) is most people's primary objective. One popular strategy is lifting yourself up by putting others down. Geeks, though, they actually spend a substantial fraction of their time getting educated. Since they don't dedicate as much time and effort on being social as others, they tend to come out on the low end of the pecking order.

    After graduating, though, everyone has to spend a substantial fraction of their time earning a living. Geeks get paid more because they're in demand. And the balance changes to more like what you're describing.

(null cookie; hope that's ok)