Dracos and Otter

Investigation into the Group Behavioral Dynamics of the Species Homo Techie-Nerdus

by Liana M. Winsauer, PE, BSCE, AS, MoS, RW, AB, HSE, etc. 1

Despite all the silly titles, I am a real person, and I actually assert my copyright to this work. Kindly have the decency to leave my name on this and give me proper credit.

Recent observations of the behavior of the human sub-species Homo Techie-Nerdus, commonly known as Geeks, strongly suggests that these hominids engage in group dynamic behavior strongly similar to those displayed by the common wolf, Canis Lupus. Leadership of Geek social units is held by a limited number of Alpha Geeks, with subservient geeks struggling to attain more elevated social levels within the geek hierarchy, including challenges to the Alpha Geeks.

For a basic discussion of the general characteristics of Homo Techie-Nerdus, Professor Artemus Gordon's fine work: "Latest Developments in Primate Social Evolution: Divergence of Sapiens and Techie-Nerdus Species May be product of Cthoniate Intercession"2 is one of the more brief and accessible descriptions.

To further investigate the phenomenon of geek status, geek social groups were observed interacting via one of the more common natural habitats, internet mailing lists, for a period of time3.

One of the early observations was that, although most members of these lists could arguably be classified as Homo Techie-Nerdus, few were engaged in the struggle for overall status. Most engaged in competition in only certain limited fields, and were not apparently concerned with demonstrating dominant Geek qualities in all possible fields. As it was further determined that Geeks attempting to establish and/or maintain status in many or all possible areas of concern were actually among the lowest in status (leading to the supposition that those who can't do, make a lot of noise about it), it was determined to focus attention on one of the more hotly-contested sub-genres of geek status: Computers, in particular, daily operations and maintenance of systems.

Interestingly, Homo Techie-Nerdus females were seen to be less likely than males to engage in dominance competition in the communities under study. Several targeted observations and experiments were planned to test possible explanations of this dominance-neutrality behavior. The first to be investigated was that Geek females are less aggressive than the males. This was tested by attempted theft of several female Geeks' primary computing equipment. The graduate student responsible for investigation of female Techie-Nerdus dominance-neutrality will be submitting detailed research findings regarding this experiment upon release from hospital. Initial indications are that this hypothesis is incorrect.

It was found that few Geek social groups contained only one Alpha Geek. Those that did concerned themselves with one very limited area of specialization. Most other Homo Techie-Nerdus habitats are more generalized, and can be divided into smaller special interest zones. For each of these zones there are typically one or two Alpha Geeks. These Alpha Geeks have, through time, repeatedly demonstrated superior knowledge within their specialty, coupled with the ability to communicate this knowledge to other members of the group. When these Alpha Geeks speak, their pronouncements are rarely questioned, except when a particularly aggressive challenger for Alpha Geek status is attempting to increase their status. Alpha Geek pronouncements may, however, be dissected and commented on, and in the case of the issues with multiple possible solutions, alternatives suggested. Much of the commentary on Alpha Geek pronouncements is what is known as "nit-picking" and seems to serve to remind the Alpha Geeks of their basic humanity, or rather Nerdity.

The behavior of Alpha Geeks is typically more restrained than that of their challengers. Apparently, being secure in their status, the Alpha Geeks do not feel it necessary to flaunt their status. Therefore, it was found that the lower-status Geeks were actually the more interesting study subjects. 4 The more flamboyant Homo Techie-Nerdus individuals who engage in dominance challenges can be characterized as follows. As in the struggle for Alpha-Geek-dom, these archetypical individuals are generally male, unless noted.

Rabid Mumble-Winger

An aging hippie.

Rabid Other-Mumble-Winger

An aging fan of Reaganomics.

The Rabid Mumble- and Other-Mumble Wingers often, but not necessarily, occur in pairs within a Geek social group. When both are present, they will usually engage in fierce debate whenever social-political topics are under discussion. Their ability to make obscure technical minutia into social-political topics is astounding even to other Geeks. Although notable, it is not clear what effect behavior has on status.

The Raging Flake

This disturbed individual has a view of reality out of step with both other Homo Techie-Nerdus and Homo Sapiens. Usually paranoid to a greater or lesser degree (although this paranoia may not be general, and only directed at certain categories of "Them"), the Raging Flake submits opinions to mailing lists in one of two formats - verbose - pages and pages of his long, meandering commentary, or terse to the point of obscurity. Additionally, the Raging Flake often uses a pet vocabulary (as opposed to common Geek acronyms, nicknames, and techno-babble), further obscuring the Raging Flake's meanings. Long-time inhabitants of areas infested with a Raging Flake for the most part ignore this individual's post. Newcomers (see Newbie) will often be drawn in to what on the surface, or limited exposure, seem to be discussions by a persecuted individual, and may even attempt to defend the Raging Flake. Repeated exposure allows the Newbie to develop a tolerance and ability to ignore him. Others (see Flake-Bait) are never available to do so, and will engage in discussions which almost inevitably degrade into vitriolic name-calling. In his own world-view the Raging Flake is clearly an Alpha Geek, albeit in an understaffed pack. In the eyes of other Geeks, the Raging Flake does not have status, but only annoyance value.

It is not clear why Geeks tolerate the presence of the Raging Flake. Whereas Trolls (see below) are not tolerated and universally despised, almost every mailing list studied had a resident Raging Flake. It is theorized that the Raging Flake acts as a social safety valve for the lower-status Geeks, who will perceive him as being lower than themselves. Alternatively, Geeks may tolerate the Raging Flake out of sympathy. Or perhaps its similar to my first theory, that in often being looked down upon by non-Geeks, the Raging Flake gives the Geeks someone weirder than themselves to point to. 5


As most Geek habitats include a Raging Flake, there is usually at least one Flake-Bait who is unable to resist correcting/arguing/name-calling with the Raging Flake. Oddly enough, the Flake-Bait is not generally of lower status, and may even be an Alpha Geek. Flake-Bait occurs about equally between male and female Geeks.

The Newbie

The Newbie is generally new to the Internet and/or face-to-face Geek interaction in general. The Newbie is prone to leaping in with both feet, from about 10 stories up, volubly and enthusiastically6. The Newbies, no matter how knowledgeable they may actually be, are at the lower end of the Geek social ladder, although not necessarily recognizing it themselves. Newbies lose their Newbie-ness qualities in all but the most rare cases, although the time taken for the shiny to wear off is variable, and no guidelines can be given. The Newbie occurs with about equal distribution between male and female Geeks, and a Geek group may contain multiple Newbies.

Warning: Overload of a habitat with Newbies can lead to abandonment by senior Geeks and failure of the Newbies to mature into senior Geeks. For this reason, Newbies may be taken under the wing of one or more senior Geeks, and counseled on more acceptable behavior, leading to quicker integration to the Geek group and quicker loss of the Newbie label. Sadly, once a habitat has proceeded too far into overload-abandonment, the process appears to be irreversible. The Overloaded-abandoned habitat will often continue to attract additional Newbies, who engage in behavior outside the scope of this study. If any senior Geeks remain in the overloaded-abandoned habitat, they are eventually become seen as a type of Olde Phartes (see below).

Not all newcomers to Geek habitats are or should be classified as Newbies, although may introduce themselves as Newbies. Newcomers who join the group and listen quietly to the senior members of the group (known appropriately as lurking), and introduce themselves and proceed to join social introductions calmly and with behavior appropriate to the group are not classified as Newbies, even if minor faux pas are made.

The Gun Nut and Anti Gun Nut

Abortion and Anti-Abortion Zealots

Bible-Thumping Rabid Creationist and Intolerantly Rabid Evolutionist

Apostles of vi and Emacs

The Geeks with any of these or related tendencies may be found anywhere on the social ladder, and the tendency may be latent for long periods of time. When it breaks out, however, these characteristics dominate any other facet of the Geek's personality. The rest of the group generally stomps the individuals engaged to the bottom of the social ladder, as few appreciate another round of the discussion that goes nowhere and changes no one's mind. For some reason, these individuals almost always appear in opposed pairs, who when the infection breaks out must try to convert all other Geeks in the vicinity to The One True Way, and just won't shut up and let the other guy have the last word.

Editorially Challenged Earnest/Earnestine

This individual seems to be incapable of posting only a link and short synopsis, or of quoting an interesting bit in anything but its full screaming entirety. In their defense, the information being shared is generally germane to the discussion at hand, or otherwise interesting to the rest of the Geek group. Therefore, this individual is generally found in the vast midst of the herd in terms of social status.

Prophet of Perfection

This Geek may be an Alpha Geek in certain areas, but annoys the snot out of Geeks in others by believing that their chosen Operating System, program, or widget is The Answer to any question. To this person, any fastener is a nail, and they have the perfect hammer. Even if the subject is zippers.

The Enforcer

Not necessarily the list owner or administrator, this Geek is at least as likely to be female as male. The Enforcer position can be fixed with one or a few individuals, or may rotate through the group by a social mechanism not clearly understood. The Enforcer comes to the fore when other social interactions have gone out of control, and a voice of reason is needed. Often a parent, The Enforcer uses the Voice of Mom/Dad to remind the other Geeks to "Play Nice". Although the Geek acting as The Enforcer may not normally be of high social status, when acting as The Enforcer, the Geek in question is undoubtedly *the* Alpha Geek.

The Voice of Doom

The list owner/administrator, owner of the home where Geeks have congregated, or otherwise the final authority. Even more Alpha than The Enforcer, although in face-to-face situations, the Voice of Doom may be backed by one or more Enforcers.

Olde Phartes

Olde Phartes may be found in habitats suffering from overload-abandonment, and in more balanced Geek habitats. Olde Phartes in balanced habitats are senior Geeks who loudly decry changes that most other Geeks see as progress, usually beginning with the phrase "In my day . . . " Interestingly, Olde Phartes may also be Alpha Geeks in some areas, so it is difficult to give a general status level. Olde Phartes do not necessarily resist new technology or other change, they are simply vocal about how good life was in the halcyon days of their techie youth. In overloaded-abandoned habitats, Olde Pharte behavior generally consists of attempts to keep discussions on some sort of track, suppression of infantile behavior, and other basic social Newbie training. Unfortunately, in these habitats this is seen by the Newbies as aberrant behavior, and the Olde Pharte may be resented. Transplantation of an Olde Pharte from an overloaded-abandoned habitat to a balanced setting may result in either the Geek abandoning the Olde Pharte behavior, or whining about the previous habitat. See also Techie-Luddite.


More a behavior among Geeks in general than an actual Geek archetype, Pseudo-Olde-Pharte-One-Upsmanship occurs when Geeks begin to compare, usually humorously, how difficult Geek-dom was in their younger days. Hiking barefoot in the snow uphill both ways has been replaced by anecdotes of how long tapes were for conversely tiny storage capability, and the like. A more serious variant on this occurs when Alpha Geek coders begin comparing how tight the code can be written in order to complete a given task but veer into hopeless obfuscation as a result.


The troll is not really a Geek, but rather an annoying lower life-form, generally considered to be an evolutionary scale with pond scum. Typical Troll behavior is to join a Geek social group, incite one or more arguments, then vanish when the mob armed with torches and pitchforks comes in search of the guilty party.


The Lurker is a Geek without much to say. They are found in all Geek social groups, and generally make up the vast midsection of the status hierarchy. Lurkers lurk for a variety of reasons:

Core Dump

The Core Dump is a behavior that may be engaged in by a Geek of any social status, male or female. In its most spectacular form, the Core Dump is performed by a Geek who commonly acts as a Lurker. In such a case, a broad question is posed on a subject unfamiliar to most of the Geeks in the group. The performer of the Core Dump, having familiarity with the subject, answers, with some enthusiasm7. The resulting Core Dump, while large and occasionally unwieldy, is usually accurate. In this regards, it differs markedly from the ramblings of The Raging Flake.


The Compulsive-Responsive Geek is the last word in last words. Rare is the conversation in which the Compulsive-Responsive doesn't have something to say. Fortunately, unlike The Raging Flake, the Compulsive-Responsive's comments are at least rational.


A walking oxymoron, the Techie-Luddite is a Geek that resists change. No matter that the program he's so attached to is failing under the load of current usage, slows the system to a crawl, and hasn't been supported by the manufacturer for years, the Techie-Luddite has a seemingly bottomless font of reasons not to make the switch to the new product. Where the Olde Pharte moves on with the times, but ensures that all nearby know how it was in the old day, the Techie-Luddite doesn't want to move on. The Techie-Luddite is most fearsome when inhabiting IT departments.

Glurge Goddess

Admittedly, the Glurge8 Goddess is rarely a Geek, but Geeks are so often subjected to the smarmy spewings of this person, that she has been included. The Glurge Goddess rarely has anything original to say, and is often also an Editorially Challenged Earnestine, forwarding reams and reams of emotional/inspirational/sappy crap.

Humor Impaired

Humor Impairment in a Geek may be either chronic or acute. In particularly severe chronic cases, even emoticon clues are unrecognized. Generally, however, the Geek suffering from Humor Impairment will recognize the more outrageous bits, while irony, tongue-in-cheek jabs, such as this study, are taken at face value, usually with offense.

1Professional Engineer, Bachelor's of Science-Civil Engineering, Associates in Science, Mom of Spud (since SM for Spud's Mom engenders snarky comments), Ron's Wife, Alpha Bitch, Happy State Employee, etc.

2Proceedings of the 87th Annual Conference on Extra-Dimensional Involvement in Human Affairs, ed. Jumbaa and Plekeley, Arkham Univ. Press, 2003, pp. 1857-1924

3To the best of the author's knowledge, the author is the only common member of all these lists.

4And with the difficulty of obtaining competent graduate student assistance, it was decided to let the field personnel research what most interested them.

5The author, not being a pshrink, also vaguely recalls something about "outsiders" in society and literature, but is too damn lazy to follow it up and see what it refers to and if that is the Raging Flake's role, an internet connection not being available in the room with the AC.

6Much like this sentence

7This document may be considered an example of such a performance - Ed.

8Glurge: For a further definition, See http://www.snopes.com/glurge/glurge.asp.

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