On Nerd Elitism

Richard J. Anderson writes:

There’s nothing wrong with liking the crazy, fancy stuff us geeks like. We can’t control our obsessions, but we can control how we communicate them to others. Smug superiority gets us nowhere.

Richard is completely right. Why look down on someone because they use an Android phone, or because they don’t use a fountain pen, or because they don’t use amazing headphones, or don’t drink fussy coffee, or don’t have a clicky keyboard, or don’t drink fizzy water? No good comes of it, other than making yourself out to be a jerk.

I’m as guilty of this as the next nerd, though I am actively trying to stop doing that to people.

Back to Richard’s article, I was amused to see myself cited as an example of such behavior. Earlier in his article:

It’s not hard to extend this to other geeky obsessions with quality: fussy coffee prepared fussily, artisanal notebooks and fountain pens, perfectly clear ice cubes for your cocktails, high-end audio equipment, and fancy bags for carrying all your fancy [💩] around.

I can understand citing me as an example here. But it’s important to remember how I ended that post about the wonderful Neat Ice Kit:

At the end of the day, I’m unconvinced that making my drinks with this fussy ice makes them taste any better. But the ceremony of forming the ice in advance, then splitting it when I want my drink, is really enjoyable. It’s rather silly and a bit of a waste of time, and I love it.

This is me not being a jerk about it. I’m saying that while I enjoy the ceremony of the Neat Ice Kit, I acknowledge that really, it’s silly. And that’s okay.


I do, however, take umbrage at what Richard said about cameras:

When I read articles defending the purchase of fancy cameras, there’s a recurring mantra of “you’ll regret it when your kids grow up and all you have are cell phone pictures.” I don’t know about other people in my age group, but I remember growing up with albums of badly exposed 35mm prints from point-and-shoot film cameras. My parents didn’t mind, and I doubt the parents of most other people my age minded either.

Richard is completely missing the point here.

The reason that no one complained about “badly exposed 35mm prints” is because that was the best (or at the least, most approachable) option at the time, short of spending serious money on a camera body and lenses. Today, one can spend comparatively little money and get a camera setup that is, in my estimation, vastly superior to the iPhone camera.

As someone who just bought a semi-fancy camera for this very reason, I can tell you that I could not possibly be more happy that I did. While I absolutely can take acceptable shots using my iPhone, I much prefer the results from the Olympus. The shots are unequivocally better. I say that as someone who does not have a strong artistic eye.

I have not and will not regret spending the money on a nice camera to know that (within reason) I have the best possible photographs I can of our little boy. That is not only money well spent, but it’s an insurance policy against future regret.