Why do they hate us?

First, if you are looking for a reprise of Fareed Zakaria's piece with the same title in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, this piece is unrelated. That piece is on Newsweek here. This piece if about the amount of disdain technologists (in general) get from the reading public.

In a way, I should be the last person to talk about this after my decades long - since high school - interest in technology.

Over the last few months, as I have drifted away from technology, I have started catching glimpses of what techies sound like to the general public.

I will take as my Hacker News as my reference website which is where programmers, hard core techies, and general nerds hang out to shoot the breeze and discuss the (mostly) tech related goings on in the world.

Exhibit A: Wordgasms

I want you to read this comment. Then, I want you to simply guess what topic they are commenting on. I'll give you 5 seconds.


Ok, what was your guess?

They were discussing an incident where the venerable NPR retracted a story because their journalist did a piss poor job validating all sides of the story. You can read the entire story @ this link.

NPR retracting a story is big but isn't the end of the world. On the other hand, if you were to read this comment, it very quickly talks in such abstract terms that it could just as well be about cyber terrorism, NSA, the Sony hack from a few years ago, or Cambridge Analytica.

I recognize this tendency in myself too. The need to find a meta pattern which I can use to categorize, pigeonhole, box a problem or a situation. I'm sure I have driven away enough people with such wordgasms of my own.

Exhibit B: Bloodless Arguments

This example is more a reflection on the moderation policies at Hacker News.

Notice how bloodless the argument is?

These two people clearly don't see eye to eye on some subject. Yet, they are unflinching in their commitment to civil discourse. They keep their verbiage neutral - "...has been left uncontested". By whom? "Well, I'm not going to take names but I will look pointedly at the guy whose comment I am replying to. You draw your own conclusions."

There is nothing wrong with politeness. There is something uninteresting in a discussion which stays studiedly inoffensive.

Exhibit C: Trivia

Techies have made researching things a personal project. This commenter for instance was sufficiently energized by the post to research larchwood on WP aka Wikipedia.


(This comments relates to a post about a 11,000 year old statue discovered in the 1890s.)

While, personally, I love this comment because it creates a fantastic context inside which to understand the post itself, it is also a great example of the amount of detail techies seem to obtain, retain, and regurgitate at will.

So, my point is...

That techies are a unique breed with a unique way of seeing the world. If you are selling to them, buying from them, trying to market to them, you need to know what you are likely to encounter.

Techies, almost invariably, believe that they are right and the world is wrong about the important things in life. They aren't going to change but if you were to recognize and play to this aspect of the techie world, you could, possibly, maybe, not enter into a adversarial feedback loop with negative outcomes where your claims are contested without mercy with references and indexes to Wiki entries. You have been warned.

Why do they hate us?
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