Category Archives: Geek

Some Thoughts on Ruggedized Geekdom

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As I write this, America’s response to COVID-19 has been dismal without federal vision. There are many problems, but one of the things I’ve been considering is the status of geeky activities: cons, gaming events, cosplay, etc.

This is not intended to be flippant or minimize issues. However these activities are big parts of people’s lives, create and reinforce social ties, and encourage creativity and development. They do matter, and I wondered how they can survive our current situation, become stronger, and build a better geeky community. My barely-organized thoughts are as follows.

As a note, this is based on two things. One is my knowledge of organizational structures. The other is what I’ve observed, learned, etc. about the virus, possible treatments, and responses. The short form is I think this will bedevil the world for two years, that a vaccine IS possible (but needs annual updates), that there will be better treatments/preventatives, but lots of people aren’t going to follow science.

CONVENTIONS

Conventions should plan for the worst case scenario of no in-person cons happening until mid-2021 easily, possibly start of 2022. I’m missing them as much as anyone, but there’s not going to be anything big until we have a widespread vaccine, and even if we find preventative/prophylactic medication who’s going to take the risk.

But we also needed to rethink cons anyways. Some are overly huge draws. Small ones provide useful niches but get ignored. There’s giant logistical challenges. So here’s my takes.

  • Every con out there should plan to go virtual for the next 18 months easily.
  • A kind of “league of conventions” needs to be formed to share knowledge, tech, and ensure survivability.
  • Cons should consider breaking up into smaller events online, then possibly in person, then re-consolidate if needed.
  • Cons should look at things like outdoor events, etc. that will minimize risk when we’re nearer the end of this.
  • Small cons need to Voltron together right now to support each other.
  • We need convention guides and info sites to focus on virtuality and track them.
  • Duplicate con events as singular events – online viewings, dealer rooms, etc.

GAMING GROUPS

Argh. I didn’t play a lot of tabletop and P&P RPGs as of late, but I wanted to get back into them, and now this happens. I can’t imagine how devastating this is for various gaming groups and stores. Fortunately I’ve seen a lot of gaming groups going virtual or having it as an option anyway.

  • First, I don’t know how bad this is going to be for game stores, but my guess is pretty devastating – many held gaming events. It’s imperative for people to support them.
  • I think we need to see someone write and promote guides on moving gaming groups virtual temporarily. Discord, tools, etc. I see people pick this up by osmosis.
  • Other groups (con groups, cosplay groups, etc.) need to promote these.
  • Gaming groups are great ways to build virtual events to – you guessed it – support cons.

WRITING AND CREATIVE GROUPS

I belong to a bunch of these, and trust me they’re helping a lot of us stay sane and focused. Be it writing, art, or cosplay, these are vital. Fortunately, a lot of these have been going virtual for ages (in fact, I think they’re ahead of gaming groups). The ones I’m part of have adapted well.

  • These groups should cross-pollinate. I’m doing that with my current groups, and it’s helpful to maintaining them, and is psychologically comforting.
  • Some groups are good at specializing, and this helps cross-pollination. Have a “shut up and write group” share members with a “business writers” group.
  • Combine with other events to promote the socializing. We run a movie night and I promote it into my writing groups. This further reinforces things.
  • Start doing presentations WITH cons and other events – be a source of events!

VIDEO GROUPS AND BOOK CLUBS

These seem to have moved online pretty easy based on my experience, so hey, my folks, keep at it. A few thoughts

  • These groups can be vital to building social ties and be ready to help people. We need groups like this.
  • Video groups especially can help support other groups as they can be sites of casual socialization.
  • Experiment with different technologies and try them out – I’ve found out about optimizing experiencces.

GENERAL GEEKDOM
A few more thoughts on what geekdom can do to ruggedize.

  • SPEND. Financial supports of cons, groups, meetups, dealers, etc. Put your money where your mouth is.
  • VOLUNTEER. People may be busy, but we should step up to help our various clubs and groups and cons out.
  • DON’T depend on one technology. Do not count on Discord, Facebook, Zoom, etc. if at all possible. Use multiple technologies as social backup.
  • RECRUIT. Get people involved and help out. We need people actively supporting geeky communities.
  • LEARN AND SHARE. Get to know all these tech tools and share your knowledge.
  • RELAX. Treat yourself right, let your hobbies support you, and don’t overdo it.

So those are my thoughts of a more rugged geekdom. There’s a lot to do – and a lot I need to do more of. But maybe we can build a stronger geekdom in a hard world.

Steven Savage

Making Friends As An Adult

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I saw this fascinating Tweet thread when @itsashleyoh asked how people make friends as adult. This is something that’s often troubled me after college, and is an issue in ever-busy Silicon Valley.

Its hard to make friends past a certain point. You get busy with work. Some of your friends have kids and some don’t. Some of you are married and some aren’t. So I read the Tweetstream and added a few suggestions of my own. Think of it as my own way of combating some issues of loneliness all face.

Most of these are face-to-face, but a lot of this applies to online.

Here we go. Please add your own.

Hobbies

  • Have a hobby and follow it. This is good for you personally, and of course makes you more interesting.
  • Use that hobby to meet people with similar interests and go to meetups, drinks, dinner, etc.
  • Help people get into the hobby.
  • Hobbies also keep you from being boring and work obsessed.

Clubs

  • There are all sorts of clubs out there you can find via meetup, game stores, hobby stores, etc. Find some and go try them out.
  • When you can, help out at your club.
  • Take a position at a club.

Causes

  • Get involved in good causes, and help out. This is also good for you mentally and emotionally.
  • If you get involved in a good cause, you may want to be “on staff” – that means reguarly meeting people.

Conventions

  • Go to conventions and socialize.
  • Speak or run events at conventions.
  • Get on staff at conventions.

Go to places and hang out

  • Start hanging out at coffee shops, the library, gymns, etc. other places people gather. Sure you can write and read, but also its a chance to meet people.
  • Many places have regular events, bands, etc. Look for those.
  • Places you hang out may also have event boards, where people post different things going on.

Events

  • If you go to events, go early so you can meet people in line, getting drinks, etc.
  • If you go to events reguarly, help out.
  • Go to events people you know throw and make new connections.

Specific events and organizations

  • Many pubs and places have trivia events and other great social opportunities.
  • Game nights are popular at various establishments, including game stores, bars, and meetups.
  • Libraries have lots of events, including book sales that you can go to or help out with.
  • Museums have events and need volunteers.
  • Writing groups and various creative groups often do a lot of events.

Throw events

  • Throw open houses, writing meetups, etc. If necessary, used Meetup.com.
  • Do events for your club, church, work to nextwork with people you know.
  • Start your own Meetup.
  • Try doing “creative jams” at your place or nearby, where fellow writers/artists/musicians socialize.

Work

  • Your job may have events that connect you with others, not just those at work.
  • Find people you like at work and hang with them if you’re comfortable.
  • Places of work often have charity connections that you can get involved in.

Pets

  • Pets are a common shared interest. There’s parks for animals, clubs, and more.
  • There’s often social events for pet lovers.
  • There’s charities focused around pets to get involved in

Be prepared

  • Have business cards or “social cards” to connect with people.
  • Choose the social media you use to connect with people so you can network.
  • Meetup.com is invaluable.

Psychology

  • Be ready to reach out to people.
  • Rejection is OK. It happens to all of us.
  • If you’re seeing a therapist for whatever reason, they may have advice.

Be a good friend

  • Take an interest in others. It’s not all about you.
  • Help people out (don’t be used, just lend a helping hand)
  • Invite your friends to things. even if they don’t always show up, it helps.
  • Remember some people are in the same boat as you.

I hope this helps out.

Steven Savage



Changing Tech Culture’s Attitude Towards Women

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com  Steve’s Tumblr)

Management consultant Erwin Van Der Koogh wrote an essay on tech and how women are treated, “This industry and living life on the lowest difficulty setting,”  Go read the entire thing, but he pretty much sums it up by noting that at a tech conference his worst fear is making a mistake, but a female colleague’s worst fear is sexual assault and harassment.

It pretty much sums up issues of women in tech in that they face inordinate issues men don’t face, and these issues are pretty horrific.  When people say white male is the lowest difficulty setting in, say, tech, that’s because we’re not facing the same challenges.  We’re playing a game with infinite lives; women are playing Dark Souls III.

His experiences and those of the woman he writes about are not alone.  I’ve talked about bias in tech to a room nodding sadly.  Everyone in tech who listens can hear stories about sexism.  Just watch the news in tech, and stories of bias pop up repeatedly.

It’s wrong.

It’s wrong on any number of ethical levels, moral levels, societal levels, and civic levels.  Bigotry of any kind is corrosive, acid on the soul, eating away decent things.

It’s wrong in tech, an industry that should put ideas and work and creativity first – but too often doesn’t.  When someone’s gender matters more than their work, then that’s anathema to what we’re supposedly about.

And as a white guy – and if you’re one of me in tech – as Erwin points out, we need to make an effort to solve it.  I’ll put it simply – we’re having a comparatively easy time, we have the (at times unwarranted) attention, so we have the ability to make a difference, and we should.  Else we’re letting our industry be something it shouldn’t be, as well as letting our fellow techs drag themselves down with their own bias.

Tech should be what we think it is.

 

Erwin proposes solutions where we work on ourselves, which is vital.  Start with yourself – I can thank my lucky stars I had several female managers and co-workers that helped me see sexism and deal with it.

I’d say we also need to call out sexism in tech when possible, be it in person or on Twitter or whatever.  Just get into the habit of it.

However a big thing we should do is change the culture of tech.  To do that, there’s plenty of places to get involved in REALLY changing the culture – the organizations.  If you want to make a difference promote these or help out.  We change the culture by getting involved and supporting women getting into tech – and staying there.

  • Girl Develop IT – A nonprofit that provides accessible programs for women who want to learn coding.
  • Girls Learning Code – A Canadian non-profit that focuses on helping young women learn technical skills in a supportive atmosphere.
  • Girls Teaching Girls To Code – A Bay Area program where women in CS teach Bay Area high school girls to code.
  • Grace Hopper Celebration – Produced by the Anita Borg institute, this is a celebration of women in computing.
  • Ladies Learning Code – A Canadian non-profit that focuses on helping people learn beginner technical skills in a comfortable, social way.
  • Made With Code – Promotes women in coding with projects, events, and mentoring. Has several alliances and supporters.
  • Mothercoders – An organization focused on helping mothers get tech-savvy and up-to-date for this economy
  • National Center For Women And Information Technology – Focuses on correcting gender imbalance in technology, and bringing the balance of diversity to the industry.
  • Rails Girls – A worldwide group that works to empower women with technology.
  • The Ada Initiative – An organization that supports women in technology, with a heavy emphasis on codes of conduct, training, and an embrace of open source.
  • Tech Girls Canada – Provides national leadership for the various industry groups in Canada encouraging women in tech careers.
  • Girls Make Games – A series of international summer camps encouraging girls to explore the world of video games.

The resources are there.

– Steve