Brad Feld

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Nerd or Geek?

May 23, 2008

As we all head into the long weekend, I thought I’d give you something to ponder other than what your friends will twitter about this weekend.

While in Italy last week, David Cohen and I got into yet another discussion about whether it was better to be a nerd or a geek.  I generally use the word nerd to describe myself whereas David was all about geek. 

During our fundraising for Foundry Group last year, we had a due diligence session with two of our investors where we got into the same debate.  The conclusion from our discussion (no alcohol was involved) was that "nerds are geeks who make money."

David Brooks takes a different position in today’s NY Times in his Op-Ed titled The Alpha Geeks.  Brooks does an awesome job of detailing the history of nerd and geek from the original 1950 Dr. Suess "If I Ran the Zoo" (the first known published mention of the word nerd) through Happy Days, through the nerd ascendancy of the 1980’s (led by Bill Gates and Paul Allen), finished with the recent shift of geek to a position of prominence in the past decade.  He tosses in a little political commentary along with a few serious literary analogies.

So – which is it?  Nerd or Geek?  What’s the difference? 

As David Brooks says, "the last shall be first and the geek shall inherit the earth."