Geek As Citizen: Boost The Signal

Direction Sign

“Ho ho ho. Isn’t it nice we hate the same things?”

Principal Skinner, “Principal Charming” Simpsons episode 7-15

Complaining about things is a popular past-time for people. We complain about movies, about music, about comics, about television, about politics. Complaining is practically a cause for some people – in fact, a few of them made it into a career, disguising it as punditry or critique.

We geeks do like to complain. We’re passionate about what we love, do, read, speak on, and so on. That, in turn, means we may be critical of things for the very reasons of that passion. The problem is complaining doesn’t address what we’re critical of.

Complaining doesn’t solve things. Saying how bad a cold is doesn’t make it go away, expressing annoyance about a tacky shirt doesn’t make it change its color, and complaining about a bad movie means it’s still a pile of dreck. Complaining at its best warns people off of something – and possibly warns them off of you as you’re a jerk because you won’t shut up.

Too much complaining, even for legitimate reasons can backfire. This is what I’ve head referred to as the “bigger a-hole” theory – talking all the time how bad something makes you look bad. If you look bad, even your legitimate complaints are disregarded because you’re the bigger a-hole and people assume your legitimate concerns originate from your own being a jerk.

Sometimes the messenger is the message, like it or not.

Now I’m all for complaining, or at least tolerant of it (I do it myself), but when it comes down to it, if we want better movies, technology, comics, and anything else, we’ve got to do something else. Complaining solves little.

So when I asked some of the Crossroads Alpha gang what we could do different, the best action became obvious.

Want something good? Boost The Signal.

Boost The Signal (Insert “Can’t Stop The Signal Joke” Yourself)

Complaining as noted does little – at best it warns and at worse it annoys. Complaining rarely results in better works, better tech, and better ideas.

But what we can do is boost people’s awareness of the good things out there, of the wonderful things we find, of the things people should say attention to.

People have a choice in how they spend their time, their money, and so on. When we make them aware of good things, from a friend’s recommendation to writing a review of something great for a major website, we’re making people aware.  When they’re aware, they are more likely to focus on the things we’re promoting.

In short, let’s spend less time complaining and more time making people aware of the good things so they choose them, or helping out those promoting the good things. Those good things are out there, but often obscure, unknown, disregarded, not understood. We can make people aware, we can do our part to get them out there – we Boost The Signal

Its also better than criticism. Criticism as noted can backfire, and I’d also say criticism is something we’re awful numb too. It pours out of TV and talk radio and the like all the time, and most people aren’t good at it.

But how do we Boost the Signal? I’m glad you asked, because over the days to come I’m going to be summing up ideas I found – and wanting to hear about your own.


– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at

Fandom, Critique, and Art

In order to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie.

– Jean-Luc Godard (

Fellow blogger Serdar turned me on to the above quote, which speaks volumes really about media, culture, and profans (and fans doing pro-activity as fans).

I’m a great believer in people practicing an art, be it writing, or music, or drawing.  Some form of communication is worth practicing and even mastering, for the sake of expressing ourselves, understanding how others communicate, understanding how others manipulate, and to create a dialogue.  To have an art is to engage other people.

This is one of the reasons I love fandom, geeks, nerds, otaku, and more.  Many of them are engaged in their art, from fanfic to fanart to fan games.  They are practicing their creativity and communication.

Godard’s quote made me realize that in a way, they’re really engaging other creators in a dialogue and in a critique.

Think of many fanfics go down paths that authors avoided.  Yes at times there were damn good reasons for that.  But still, the dialogue is there, even if it’s more telling about a fans desires or a misinterpretation or a wish fulfillment.

Think of the artists who show characters in new light, from the humorous to the deep to the bizarre.  Each piece of art is a glimpse into an opinion, and analysis, and/or an artists ideas.  Even if it’s just pandering or a simple piece for fun it tells you something.

Fan creations are a kind of dialogue.  Often about the fans themselves and among the fans themselves, but it is a dialogue.  So many of us are following Godard’s advice in writing, art, music videos and more.

In some cases however it breaks into the larger world (even if not always well received). Hasbro’s engagement with the Bronies.  50 Shades of Gray bringing fanfic and taboo subjects to the fore.  User-created content being encouraged by gaming companies.  There are moments the fan/otaku/nerd/geek dialogue breaks out – and it’s magic when it does.

In a way, I think that’s part of what I’m trying to do in my work here and elsewhere – connect people up and expand the horizons of what they do and who they reach.  I want to see the dialogue expand.

Of course I also want to see you make money at it too.  That’s a given.  Seeing what it can be can help.

The fanart, fanfic, games, RPGs, and more are all, in a way, a form of dialogue.  We’re all doing a critique or commentary on previous art, even if we never go as far as Godard and make a movie to critique another film.  It’s powerful and amazing, and it should be appreciated as such.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach for professional and potentially professional geeks, fans, and otaku. He can be reached at

How A Helpful Letter Produced A Firestorm

OK, clearly I missed the whole Shea Gunther drama, so let me recap.

  • Monday, Mr. Gunther sends out an email to people who applied to a job for a cleantech news site, listing criticisms and giving advice on the job search process. It hit the newsat the Guardian.
  • This hit the Gakwer network, who posted it in a rather negative context.
  • This produced what we technically call a “shitstorm” and Mr. Gunther ended up with a predictable amount of trolls and insults – as well as people praising him. Though the usual dogpile of would-be internet tough guys/gals is odd to see as this is about job search advice, and I don’t get why it’d get people that riled up.  Mr. Gunther summarizes the experience here.
  • You can read his entire list of advice in this Scribd document.

I’ve read it Know what? It’s good advice. In fact, I advise that anyone read it, as his tips are accurate, if skewed towards the writing positions in question. Mr. Gunther lists a whole lot of trends that are troublesome, gives advice, and makes good points about what people do wrong.

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