Why it's good to be a geek

The world of geekdom is truly a land of the good, the bad and the just plain ugly.

Luckily, the good guys can still punch their weight when it comes to power and influence.

Take Tim Berners-Lee.

The man responsible for inventing the world wide web has been sharing his ideas with others with his talks at the Do Lectures at a campsite in the wilds of west Wales. 

The Do Lectures mini-festival, held at the weekend, saw a load of geniuses invited to a former chicken farm two miles south of Cardigan to give talks and inspire each other. 

Or, in the words of co-founder David Hieatt, “The idea is a simple one: That people who Do amazing things can inspire the rest of us to go and do amazing things too.”

Lectures were held in rustic teepees, with cosy singing around the campfire and communal breakfasts…. as we didn’t get an invite, we’ll have to quote The Guardian on this, but the Doers were also reported to be able to try their hand at jam making, take part in bakery workshops and go on rustic walks in the woods… you get the picture.

And the 2010 Do Lectures ‘Secret Speaker’ was Berners-Lee.

The British brainbox was among the first day’s speakers taking their turn at the lecture tree stump.

“I am a geek, by the way,” he confessed to the audience, “and proud of it”.

Although his comment was met with “whoops from the like-minded” in the audience, this affiliation with techies was to be short-lived. When Berners-Lee asked the assembled group who among them had ever written a computer program, very few hands shot up, according to The Guardian, making our internet guru look sad.

“But programming computers is really very creative,” he said. “And what’s disappointing is that kids at school tend to see computers like a fridge.”

Apparently, even more depressing for Berners-Lee was that just a fifth of the world’s population uses the web. But the World Wide Web Consortium, of which Berners-Lee is a director, hopes to remedy this and to make the internet available to everyone.

Other speakers at the Do Lectures included conservationist and social entrepreneur Alasdair Harris, who talked about the need to quickly rethink commercial fishing – or risk losing our sea stocks forever, and former British Army captain Ed Stafford, just back from becoming the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River – with only a laptop for company.

And what did Berners-Lee make of the Do Lectures?

“Well, having people from different disciplines criss-crossing each other here can be inspiring,” he told The Guardian. “But what really stimulates me is being in this beautiful rural environment.”

Ah, bless.

For Berners-Lee, it is possible to be influential and successful and still be one of the good guys. Or should that be good geeks?

He joins that group of nice nerds who have selflessly done things for the benefit of others.

Take Free Software Foundation (FSS) founder Richard Stallman who believes we all deserve software that is “free from restriction, free to share and copy, free to learn and adapt and free to work with others”. 

According to the FSS website, the charity’s campaigns aim to empower people against specific threats to their freedom and move us all closer to a free society. This includes the recent Software Freedom Day (September 18th) which encouraged people to spread the word and connect with other free software activists. 

Stallman himself still spends much of his time traveling the globe and talking about free software and just, well, trying to make the world a better place.

We think some of the other guys in the good geek camp would include the father of Linux Linis Torvalds and, going further back into history, we’d have to take our hats off to the inventor of modern computing, Alan Turing. 

And looking to the future, we’ve got a warm glow after discovering the recently formed Geeks For Good website – a volunteer programme that aims to match nerds and their skills with not-for-profit organisations in the US

According to the site, it lets experts in tech fields such as graphic design, web design and social media all do their bit – and get their own nice warm glow inside. 

We especially loved the catchline on their site: “Rebuilding our world one geek at a time”.