getting mad foo skilz

I often ask myself what separates the "real" geeks, from the rest of us?

Ok, maybe not often, but sometimes.

Apropos of my conversation with ProspectiveAdvisor this morning I've been thinking about the mis/remembered history of the "geek" identity. I mean at one point the geeks were the awkward and intense folks who were really good with technology and games (ok, I don't understand that, but we'll take it.) Being a geek wasn't a cool thing, and being a geek wasn't "sexy." Now at least in some circles, with the rise of the commercial Internet, I think it's fair to suggest that in some context geek and hipster have sort of meshed in some perverse way. I mean computers have gotten easier to use, and this means that the boundaries of geek is wider.

My grandfather quit using computers when windows 3.1 came out because he thought it would open the BBSes to too many people and ruin the joy experience. While I wouldn't make that argument in those terms (or draw that line in the sand) I think I'm commenting on a parallel phenomena.

But I'm getting too far afield.

So now since, in a way, we're all geeks, what separates normal geek from uber-geek. What sorts of usage things to the real geeks do that you and I don't do as much?

Near as I can tell, there are two major things:

  1. Templates 2. Automate

Which boils down to basically: your computer is great at doing repetitive tasks, so make it do them, rather than doing it yourself. I think this became most clear to me as I've made the transition to using LaTeX for any kind of document that needs to end up on paper. LaTeX really powerful, and really complex, but figuring out like 90% of what makes it go, is all in the header and footer, so all I have to do is get templates ready for my documents, and then drop in the text that I'm using. Simple.

In OS X, under file info (Command-I in finder) there's a little box that says "Stationary Pad." If you check that, every time you open that file, finder will make a copy of the file and then open that one. There are also ways to use templates inside of TextMate, Quicksilver, and so forth. Nifty. Ok, geek foo time saving skill number one. I have that.

Geek foo skill number two, is automate. If you find yourself doing the same thing again and again, stop. Figure out a way to automate this. Most programs have a macro function, which I think is utterly misunderstood. I you have a series of find and replaces, you can just open up a test document, do the find and replaces, and save the macro so you can do it again and again. If you're a perl genius you could probably write it out in your sleep, but then, where's the fun in that?

Ok. Nifty.

So the question is, what's number 3. There has to be another trick, that I'm missing. Something you can do that doesn't require learning Lisp.

Sigh.

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