The Blogcritics version of my post on a non-techie discovering open source software got Dugg a few days ago, which was a bit surreal. I realized something was going on when my hits here quintupled just from people clicking through to my blog from that post. I’ve had spikes when posts on this blog were Whedonesqued or Wikipediaed or descended on by House fans, but that amount of spillover from Blogcritics has never happened before.
There’s nothing earth shattering or controversial (or, you might say, interesting) in that post. So I’m completely floored that the kind of people who gravitate towards Digg – people who are more on the techie end of the spectrum – would care.
I got flooded with e-mails and Blogcritics comments from insightful, helpful people, most encouraging me to try Linux, some offering to help me set it up, and a couple complimenting the post for being refreshing in aiming for non-geeks and not getting into the politics of the open source movement. This is why I use the word geek with affection.
Then, it turns out, despite the number of users voting for my article, in the Digg comments I was called out as a techie in hiding. A fraud.
Instead of being outraged or annoyed, I was amused. My brother is the one who once had to suppress his snickers when I answered a question about how much memory my computer had with a GHz number. By phone, he led me through the process of changing the battery on my old decrepit computer a few years ago (me: “computers have batteries?!”), which ended up being like one of those scenes in a movie where the hero is trying to diffuse a bomb oh so carefully … because Steve first helpfully told me stories of people getting fried and being found weeks later when not grounding themselves properly before starting. Thanks, big brother. I guess it’s a more interesting way to go than slipping in the shower and being eaten by the cat.
While I tease him about being a geek, he’s actually not much of one. I mean, he’s freakishly smart about computers and other stuff, and got a Spudtrooper for Christmas, and he watches Battlestar Galactica and Dr. Who, but he’s not a computer tech as a day job, and he has other non-geek interests. I just can’t think of any at the moment. Oh, he posts cat pictures. (That’s his, in the box from one of the Christmas presents he gave me.)
He explains my Digg controversy succinctly in his post Forum Wars, where he later comes to my defense by calling me a clueless non-techie (though he puts it much nicer than that):
A lot of the comments on digg concentrated on whether or not she was a techie, with some stating they were burying the story as inaccurate. They seemed to feel she was trying to put something over on them, and missed the point of the article entirely. It seems they were confused by the thought that a person could be intelligent and not a techie at the same time. Some seemed to feel that the ability to maintain a website made a person a techie. And some didn’t quite know what to make of the word “communications.”
The Blogcritics commenters on the other hand were, as Diane put it, “Really supportive, helpful people with common sense.” A lot of them were Linux zealots (sometimes we can be almost as bad as Mac zealots), but they seemed to genuinely want to help, or at least add intelligently to the discussion.
After my dabbling in online discussions with House, I definitely think different forums have different personalities. But some of the difference between Digg and Blogcritics is also that one is commenting about me, one is commenting to me.
I commented on Digg in my defense after another Blogcritic pointed out the raging debate over my non-techie credentials:
To be fair, I didn’t say I have no knowledge of computers, I said I’m reasonably comfortable using them but can’t talk about them intelligently. I don’t know anything about their inner workings or how they’re configured, hence the Linux reluctance. (I also didn’t say I was an early adopter – I said I wasn’t.) I work in web communications as in public relations. The techies at work laugh at the thought of me being a techie – I’m the content person. And yes, I can use a blog and content management system. So can Jessica Simpson. I’m fairly new to the idea of open source and thought other newbies might be interested in seeing what’s out there for the basics most people need.
The debate is kind of hilarious timing, actually. Days before, I finally broke down and called The Geek Squad to come set up my wireless network at home. I’m ashamed to discover it’s been months since I bought the supplies and tried and failed to set it up myself. I kept meaning to try again, but the crushing sense of failure was so disheartening I couldn’t face it. I’m not used to not being able to figure something out with concerted effort, and my pride prevented me from taking up the offer of my friend’s husband to do it or making the Geek Squad call earlier. (If my brother or another techie friend lived closer, I would have had no qualms about taking advantage of them.)
Anyway, because of all the helpful people who e-mailed and commented with advice on using Linux, I think I’ll have to give it a shot sometime and write about my experiences, and incorporate some of what I’ve learned from them. I’m not ready to start the experiment yet, and might lose interest before I feel like tackling that project, so don’t hold me to that, though.
I already know a reason why I’d never be able to give up Windows completely: my brother couldn’t watch the House parody on the This Hour Has 22 Minutes website because of Linux compatibility issues. How could I possibly live in a world where I can’t access House parodies on demand?