Death to Techie Primadonnas

Shane & Peter, two of my web developer heroes (yeah, I know that sounds weird, but think of them as sort of really cool quarterbacks in the NFL if that makes it easier for you), have put up a cute definition on their blog of the word “techneurotic” which they pretend is an adjective. Hey, it’s a made up word, so they can do with it as they please. But, I’d like to hijack the word as a noun.

Still, here’s one of their three definitions:

2. Compulsive gadget buying behavior fueled by the impossible ideal that you can own a piece of technology that is not already obsolete

This reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine who was describing a telephone interview he had for a PHP web developer position. My friend is very laid back. Almost dangerously so. But he’s a normal guy. He loves music, his family, and having good food and conversation. He relayed to me that when he does phone interviews for jobs he just talks casually like he always would. No sense in being all formal and nervous - not that he ever gets nervous anyway. He just figures if they get all ‘uppity’ about his casual conversation, better to find out then, rather than later.

He (nor I) am geeks, (or dorks). In the tech industry, there are normal people, and then there are geeks. But some geeks are cool. Or good. Take Steve Jobs. He’s kind of a good geek. Else we wouldn’t have iPods. And who wants that? So some geekiness is okay and necessary. Else we wouldn’t have space shuttles, color television, or even this internet thing. But it can get out of hand. And it has to be stopped.

So, when the interviewer asked him what his feelings were on some of the latest technologies out there, my friend pretty much laid it down to her. He told her that he was pretty busy with the good stuff in life and that he tried as best as he could to keep up with PHP, but he wasn’t running all over the internet learning every piece of cool technology stuff that was being pumped out on us web developers. The interviewer responded, “So, in other words, you are not a techie primadonna?”.

Exactly. Having had more than their fair share of techie primadonnas, the firm didn’t need or want anymore. They were desiring some real people to come in - not another guy full of cool browser tricks and neat little Mac widgets.

I’ve really liked that term ‘techie primadonna’ ever since he told me that story. I had to work with one who literally drove me nuts. The guy couldn’t do a single project without muttering words like “cool”, “neat” and “wow” as he “learned himself some hot new dork stuff”. Worse, he would then proceed to evangelize the entire office on his new schoolings - no matter how busy or behind we were. He would brag about how his five computers at home were all on automatic backup systems that he could “tunnel into” from any other computer. I thought seriously about asking him to tunnel into a new zipcode. Naturally, he drove a Volkswagon and swore that it was the greatest car ever created. Techie Primadonnas always insist that something is the greatest in a given category. They have an opinion about everything technical, no matter how far outside their element. This guy actually had a server preference. Although he had never actually touched or operated a server in his life, he was convinced that Dell and HP didn’t make good servers. I have no idea how he could be so sure.

But he was single - and getting more single by the day, if you ask me - so compromise and collaboration were not exactly anything that appealed to him. I suspected him of being a closet gamer at first (not that, I, uh, would know anything about that, ahem!), but I soon realized that his massive trivia bits that he shared each morning would have long since gotten him kicked out of any self-respecting gaming clan. He literally spent every waking moment acquiring useless knowledge, and yet not getting any more productive or efficient at the very job he was hired to do.

“Did you know that Google is about to invest 15 million dollars in wireless internet access for the city of Boston?”

“I found a great Firefox plugin last night that lets me download all the images on a webpage with one-click!”

“It’s probably a given that Windows Vista will be officially banned by the US Government by this Friday.”

“I have over 4,250 fonts on my main machine and 3,000 Photoshop brushes, so I’m going to spend some time today organizing them so I can try and get caught up on this project.”

I’m not making this stuff up - and this would just be one morning. By 10:30 AM, I was pretty convinced that God hated me.

So, whether or not you call them “Techie Primadonnas” or “Techneurotics”, I’m starting to think they should be put on the U.S. Governments terrorist watch list. Who’s with me?

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Shane and Peter are my heroes too, although I strongly doubt that Peter actually exists. I have never seen them in the same room. (Then again, I’ve never seen either of them in any room, so that’s not exactly incontrovertible evidence.)

Great post, and I look forward to many more outright inflammatory accusations to come.

haha thats awesome. But, I’d probably drive you nuts, not about code but about business. Peter & I love to talk shop on the nuance of business all day long. It is our passion.

In fact, its our next word of the day (no stealing): entreprenerd!

(wow I’m a hero - that makes my month!!!)

you really have 6 kids and home school? How do you find the time to do anything else? I’d actually read leo’s stuff if I was in your shoes.

Lawrence, thanks for the heroic status!

Apparently there is already a word for this…. in Japan.

I just watched a video of Seth Godin speaking at Ted about the Japanese concept “otaku”; Wikipedia sites one of the more recent definitions by William Gibson is “pathological-techno-fetishist-with-social-deficit”

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