Tell me what's wrong with this picture?
How about this one:
And this one?
Yep. That's right. Could someone please tell me where all da women at?
So here's a call-to-action: lady-geeks need to represent, put on their game-face, and participate in hackathons. Please help us restore the testosterone-estrogen balance.
A hackathon is a 1- to 3-day event in which a large congregation of geeks compete to develop the coolest app according to a given theme, mission, or set of tools or API's. Contestants are judged by a panel, or by the attendees of the hackathon, based on the app's complexity, relevance, popularity, and general 'coolness'. It's a competition which challenges the geek to overcome technical challenges, and stretch his/her limits of creativity.
Examples of hackathons include Music Hack Day, Foursquare Hack Day, Startup Weekend, and Lean Startup Machine. It is here where you'll see a geek in full dishevelled, single-minded, and caffeine-fuelled glory.
Unfortunately, like the IT industry in general, hackathons tend to be male-dominated. By some estimates, the male-to-female ratio at hackathons could be as high as 15-to-1, without exaggeration.
Lady-geeks are missing out on the benefits of hackathons: you get bragging rights if you win, free T-shirts, free trans-fat-laden food, cash prizes and giveaways, and, yeah, maybe you'll find a hottie in the process.
"Geeks? Hotties?" you ask? okay, admittedly the word "sexy" and "geek" are rarely, if ever, used in the same sentence. A geek spends a minimum of 10 hours each day in front of a computer, microscope, or some other technical apparatus; oblivious of the world around him, basking in the glow of a monitor; all four eyes, bloodshot red; grazing on Doritos and some fizzy caffeinated beverage, and hacking away at a problem simply for the pure cerebral joy.
How could that possibly be sexy?
Well, I investigated this very question in a 6-month, undercover observational study of the geek species in their natural habitat--at more hackathons than I'd like to admit. Based on a statistically significant sample of hundreds of male geek specimens, I've been able to categorize geeks based on some key distinctive traits that lady-geeks need to know about. If I've missed any categories, please feel free to comment.
1. The Religious Geek
To clarify, I don't mean religious as in "Hallelujah", "Hare Krishna", Tom Cruise, or "Ohm Shanti". I mean Android versus iPhone. PHP versus Ruby. Linux versus Windows. HTML5 versus Flash. Open source versus Evil Inc. This geek is a warmongering purist. It's his way or the highway when it comes to development methods and tools.
- He is always the first to instigate flame wars in online forums about platforms, programming languages, and other technical matters that are trivial to the layman.
- Beauty is an elegantly written line of code, not a Picasso.
- He'll tirelessly fight for you if you're ever in need, as long as you're on his side. If you're loyal to him, he'll be loyal to you.
- It's tough to earn his respect, but if you do, he's your friend for life.
2. The Hardware Geek
Like their software siblings, hardware geeks constantly tinker, but with hardware. Need to jail-break or replace the battery in your iPhone or iPad? The hardware geek will be quick to dismantle your device, disobeying all manufacturer's warnings. He'll risk electrocution just to re-purpose and reverse-engineer any electronic gadget. Check out this hardware geek who won first prize for creating invisible instruments.
- Within 1 week of the release of the Wii and Kinnect, hardware geeks had already hacked together augmented reality applications that had nothing to do with those ridiculous volley ball, table tennis, and bowling games that came out-of-the-box.
- A hardware geek will crossbreed your Commodore 64, Betamax VCR, vacuum cleaner, and obsolete laptop into something for your amusement ... like a robot or invisible instrument.
3. The Geek Who Sold Out
This is the geek who works for GE, Microsoft, IBM, Goldman Sachs, or other cushy blue chip. Other geeks despise the Geek Who Sold Out because he's not suffering like the rest of them in a risky startup. Instead, he chose the six-figure salary, 401K, and life of deference to corporate bureaucracy, stale technologies, and offshoring of juicy programming responsibilities.
- He has forgotten how to code, and has now become a project manager or "business guy." If he stays in this job for another couple of years, he'll become a Poser Geek.
- The O'Reilly Books have given way to the GMAT Prep Books because he is planning to get an MBA.
- Due to the dress code and demands of his workplace, he will have better hygiene than the average geek.
- He can afford to live here (1-bedroom in the West Village) rather than here (studio in Newark, Jersey City).
4. The Rebel Geek
This is the hacker who smokes a lot of weed, has a part-time job as a bike messenger weaving in and out of traffic, and plays bike polo on the weekends in the Lower East Side. If there are rules, he'll break them. If something is supposedly impossible to figure out, he'll seek to prove you wrong. He doesn't give a shit what you or The Man thinks.
- Tattoos. Usually the half- or full-sleeve variety.
- His laptop-toting accessory of choice is any messenger bag made by Chrome.
- He is well-traveled. Lonely Planet is too mainstream for him. He backpacked through the Annapurna without a Sherpa.
- CPI compliance is a dare to the Rebel Geek. His spyware may have stolen your credit card number, but he means no harm.
5. The Design Snob Geek
This is the geek who should've attended RISD, or studied architecture, but chose a computer science major instead. He's been regretting that decision ever since. So the next best alternative is to read a lot of design magazines, put on a pair of super skinny jeans from Top Man, and lament the general lack of good design and good "look-and-feel" of UI's, UX's, and all things displeasing to the eye.
- As a freelance web designer, he frequently complains about his clients for just not "getting it" about web user experience. "Those idiots are constantly changing their requirements on me."
- Preferred eyewear is trendy dark plastic frames a la Elvis Costello.
- In spite of his moodiness and general irritability, the male Design Snob Geek is likely in touch with his feminine side.
- Knows all the cool places to hang out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
6. The "Offspring of the Tiger Mother" Geek
This is the geek who grew up having overachievement beaten into him by an oppressive parent who espouses the Tiger Mother method of raising kids. So, basically, not only can this geek write code in 5 different programming languages and get a perfect score on the GRE, he's semi-pro on the violin, and he can still kick your ass in judo.
- This geek is not always Asian, but most likely will be.
- He attended an Ivy League school.
- Although he has a low tolerance for stupidity, he's forgiving.
- He doesn't buy into the whole Asian fetish thing. He'll be more impressed by your IQ than your looks or ethnicity.
7. The Movie Geek
A variation of this geek-type is the Literary Geek. As a teenager, the Movie Geek spent his summers in sedentary jobs at movie rental stores, book stores, and libraries--basically jobs which afforded him the time to read a lot, hack, and watch a shitload of classical movies normal people wouldn't care to watch.
- The Movie/Literary Geek tends to quote or make reference to obscure or cultish movies such as Star Trek, The Big Lebowski, Donny Darko, and Blade Runner.
- With one hand holding up a Kindle or iPad, and another gripping the overhead railing, this geek can read without a single break in concentration, even in a tightly packed subway.
- With a refined penchant for spotting irony, artistic homages, foreshadows, and other literary/cinematic devices, the Movie Geek will have an appreciation for even the most seemingly mundane things in life.
8. The Euro Geek
Just in case you didn't know, there actually are geeks outside of San Francisco, Boston, and NYC. For example, in one hack day, there was a good turnout of geeks from London, Barcelona, Paris, and Berlin.
- Euro Geeks are immediately identifiable by their funny little accents, nicer haircuts, and a certain fashionable je ne sais quoi in their choice of clothes.
- Ladies, if metrosexual men are your thing, definitely try to snag yourself a Euro Geek.
- Multilingual + a PhD in computer science. What could be sexier?
- For some reason, Euro Geeks aren't as dismissive of Americans and American culture as normal Europeans. Perhaps it's because technical skill supersedes cultural sensibility from a Euro Geek's perspective.
9. The Hardcore Geek
At most hackathons, the average geek begins hacking in the morning, and fades out around midnight. He returns early the next day for another round of hacking. But you're not really considered hardcore unless you keep hacking until the next morning. Hardcore Geeks don't ever go home during a hackathon. The most sleep to which they ever treat themselves is an hour or two with their head on their desk, or sprawled out on any available flat surface. That's a hardcore geek.
- A puddle of drool next to the computer.
- The usual signs of extreme sleep deprivation such as uncontrollable cravings for unhealthy, fatty, and sugary carbohydrates to sustain a high level of alertness.
- In time of need, Hardcore Geeks always come through.
10. The Rocker Geek
I didn't know this subspecies of geek existed until I attended Music Hack Day. The Rocker Geek, in my opinion, sits at the top of the geek pecking order because he is not only king of code, but also king of cool. This geek codes by day, and DJs by night. He can program a drum loop that makes Prodigy and Moby sound like Nintendo. He scoffs at Rockstar and Rockband because he prefers real instruments.
- Goatee with a good dab of pomade.
- Calluses on fingertips due to frequent guitar playing and computer use.
- Your friends may warn you against dating musicians, but you can ignore them this time. This multi-talented geek can win your heart with a song, and troubleshoot your computer on demand.
Lady-geeks do exist. My point is that there just aren't enough of them showing up. So, Miss Hacker Lady-Geek, do show up at the next hackathon. And join your sisters.
Jeffery To is an NYC-based corporate entrepreneur and IBM Innovator Award Winner who decided just now that he ought to startup PimpDatGeek.com which would match lady-geeks and dude-geeks at hackathons. Shoot him a note at PimpDatGeek@gmail.com if you want to someday be a beta user.
Photo credits: A huge thanks to Thomas Bonte for great pics of real geeks from Music Hack Day.