Imagine these lines sliding into a conversation when you have friends over. : YOU : Well , that was a nice evening , I really had a good time, we should do this more often. BEFRIENDED COUPLE : Yes, it was great , we should do it again next time, perhaps at our place. YOU: Sounds like a great idea. BEFRIENDED COUPLE : And while you are there you might want to fix our PC while you're at it. Cause this and this is wrong with it and you could take a quick look… YOU : <Have bolted out of the door and are already halfway down the street, running for your dear life>. Perhaps a little over the top. Well the whole "Bolting for the door part" at least, Cause quite frankly, the rest is as true as it gets. Imagine a little charity dinner at your local town community center. One is for filling ones duty in attending and one is peacefully eating ones food when suddenly the waiter comes by , crouches down at you and sais .. " I have a problem with my PC , it does .. blablabla…" The next 2 minutes of your existence are waisted on explaining the solution to his newbie problem as your food is getting colder and colder by the minute. Imagine it getting worse as 4 people ( in a row ) plant themselves in front of you to ask for your advise about their problems. Whether you are in the middle of your dinner is apparently not very important to them. As long as they get their answers. Might sound fictional , but is as true as true can be.
All perfect examples what happens if you are a Geek with the slightest knowledge of computers. Endusers seem to smell your knowledge from miles away and like beggars hobbling behind JC-our lord, follow you around everywhere with their petty problems. Unbeknown to them are things like social etiquette, politeness or, god forbid, the fact that you might just have a life of your own. Where we geeks used to be social outcasts, pariahs of the clique-de-cool, we now are far from forgotten in the public eye. Somehow all the newbies hunt us down to suck us dry. Now we would think that in this " web 2.0" society, those with knowledge and experience (geeks like us my fellow friends) would enjoy an elevated social status. Quarterbacks would offer us a night out with their girlfriends in exchange for you de-fragmenting their hard drives, professors would grade our tests with A"s if we would get their excel working. Hell , their would be a round of drinks coming your way whenever you walk into a bar. Yet .. its not like that in reality .. is it.
The reality of the situation is that Geeks are considered a commodity. Something to freely make use of and take advantage of. A Geek in the wild is like a walking Genius bar, a breathing computer-hotline. A desperate computer technician looking for his next free job. People (Noobs) show little respect for your knowledge except from the fact they want constant "read access" to it. Family forgets that you are there for the turkey and plant you behind the computer before they give you a seat at the dinner table. Friends are .. well, are they friends ? or is it just that their PC might be running slow these days.
So what to do ? How to avoid these things ? How does ones royal geekness flee the grasping claws of crashing kernels and ignorant individuals ? The solution I came up with is : FIRE WALLING ! A quick and dirty change in your lifestyle to safeguard you from becoming the end users maid.
1 : Superhero Syndrome. Imagine everybody knew that Clarc Kent had this "freeze breath" ? Before you knew it he would be working in the local chicken factory, deep freezing chickens by the dozens, just blowing on them. He would get payed as much as the next guy but would by no means be appreciated for his talents. So : Don't spill the beans on your computer-knowledge to just anyone. Adopt a secret identity. Noob-by-day, Geek by night. Nothing is as entertaining as telling people that you are an insurance broker (or even better, a tax inspector) and enjoy a night filled with totally different conversations then when you would tell them you where a computergeek. If people DO know you are an IT professional , Tell them you are some kind of weird specialist . I always tell people i'm a Database administrator and don"t know squat about how Windows XP works. Whatever you do , name some IT skill that is completely useless to end users.
2: Incommunicado ! Having access to the Internet and tons of communicational channels is a phenomenal potential. But this great power brings great danger : Danger of giving people more means to reach you ! When I switch on my Msn Messenger, Skype, Email and cell phone you can bet your bubble that I will NOT get anything done that night whatsoever. Giving end users (family and friends) direct access to you, turns you into a free online helpdesk that they will call on at any given time. You should consider the following. A: turn of your cellphone when you want a quiet night. Tell your family that if their is an emergency they can call the cellphone of your girlfriend/wife. B: Divide your IM. Make sure you have a "social IM account" for friends and family, and a GEEK account for your geeky peers. With an IM client like trillian you can put yourself in away mode for the noobs and in "chat" mode for your fellow geeky friends. C: Use indirect communications : I tell people to email me instead of calling me on the phone. That way I can respond when I want to. But one of the major benefits of this 'indirect communication" is that it makes people "think for themselves" when they have a problem, instead of calling you up or IM'ing you right away.
3: You are more then a Geek ! The hardest part might just be telling people the truth. Shocking as it may be, sometimes its the only thing that gets trough to them. " If you don't mind I'm trying to have a nice evening here, so just write down your problems in an email and I'll answer you when I'm behind my pc. That way I can send you more info/screen shots/whatever and help you in a better way then i can right now. " or " Mom, I'm your son, I'm here at thanksgiving as your son, not the local computer technician". It might sound harsh but you would be surprised how good it works. If you are not rude or condescending, people are surprisingly open to you honesty and sometimes even respect you more afterwards. All in all they to have to understand that you are a person first , and a tech-geek-support-guy second. They must respect you for who you are , not the geek commodity you might represent.
If you want more lifestyle tricks in how to live like a geek you might want to check out my podcast episode called "the epiphany of simplicity " that deals with stuff like this. Geek out my friends !