Updated: February 19, 2011
I know, I know, this article's title reads like a book from the 17th century, when people had no imagination or the notion of buzz, so they explicitly wrote in the title whatever it was their literary piece was expected to contain. Like the observations of mating rituals of the wild coyote in Antarctica between September and November; rather than using something like Coyotes Gone Wild.
But this is exactly the point. You are geeks. Admit it. You read stuff on Dedoimedo, which has only 13% visit by people running Internet Explorer and a total of 40% Linux user base. As geeks, you are familiar with other geeky sites. Usually, at the bottom, there's a little rectangle that captures the author's biography slash lifestyle slash humor in a single light-hearted sentence. You've read them all and never given them a second thought. Until now.
Well, today, you will give it a whole bunch of thoughts, as I'm going to dissect the geek personality into tiny bits. We will discuss the phenomenon of funny disclaimers, cocky biographies and all those little things that geeks worldwide do to assure you they mean no or very little harm. The fine line between worship and modesty. Follow me.
Always smile, even if you look like a tool
Even if you're the elite hacker whose mind swims in zeros and ones, never forget to plaster a wide, honest grin on your face when getting lubed up for a mugshot. That picture goes into the top right corner of your site or perhaps it will be tucked shyly into the footer - but highlighted with some color.
Now, my question is - why do you want put your face on a security-related article? About page, ok, your resume, ok, but all and any article you could possibly write? Why? Does it make any difference what you look like? No reader of yours will ever meet you in person. And if they do, it's going to be a one-time conference somewhere.
Second, what kind of message is your uncomely face supposed to convey? Are you trying to be a journalist or pose as one? Are you trying to mimic the practices from olden days (re: printed newspapers) where such rituals were encouraged and possibly even effective? Are you using a mugshot because you are 1) a journalist, hence you are expected to do something like that 2) trying to become a journalist, so you are doing one thing that requires no certification, just some basic Paint, Photoshop or GIMP skills?
Corny and funny - Forny
No geek is complete without a sense of humor. You can't possibly succeed in the computer-related business without being at least slightly funny. Now, some people achieve fundom by studying horrible things like physics and then writing comics about it. Other people achieve greatness by being mathematicians and angry about the world. Others yet manage to slip a few jokes in their articles.
The majority mistake seriousness for quality and corny one-liners for class. If your entire four-paragraph piece, written with all the style and haste of must-meet-my-daily-quota, has all the flexibility and humor of a brick, do you really think the smear of self-gratifying biography at the end of the page will make any difference? It's like adorning obituaries with pink flowers. Won't make it any better, I'm afraid.
Lou Briquant has spent the last decade trying not to get his Windows infected with evil malware while preaching safety. He brings a wealth of open-source knowledge, like for real. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed book Why GNUKakke is bad for you. When not working on cheesy essays for our website, Lou spends time with his family, carving Tux figurines from beechwood. You can follow him on Twitter and whatnot.
Now, Let's take a look at a few examples that ... eh ... exemplify this phenomenon. I won't be using the real cases. We will invent and adapt. No reason to insult people without a honest personal justification, right? So let's just smear and blather generally.
John's been covering the comings and goings in the open-source world for the last ten years. He has a pet dog named Scrotum and you can find him in the Bay area molesting university students.
You have all seen promo paragraphs like this one. The Bay area is a slight hint that you live in a bubble, since there can't be that many bay areas around the world, especially not THE bay areas. The dog reference shows you have a life other than short and seemingly controversial but dead somber articles without even a single screenshot and nothing more than opinionated and not very professional or technical - rant. Students are there to soften the blow and make you seem cute.
Let's take a look at another stellar case.
Norm has been a journalist for the last 35 years, working on anything from child slavery to iPad. He's been in charge of introducing PDP-7 to our agency. Norm never washes his hands after a visit to the men's room and he carries a portable keyboard with him at all times.
This could work well in my Experts article. The 35 years of experience are the roundhouse kick of the whole thing. It does not matter what it says in the actual text, you are supposed to be awed by numbers. When you think about it, there could be a young writer with only a handful of months in the field with vastly more talent than people decades older and more senior than him/her. In fact, some people are so talented that no amount of practice or hard work on behalf of others could make them as good. You can't be second Mozart just because your mom and dad force you to take piano lessons.
Some people also study and learn much faster than others. You might have three years of experience, in which you have gained more than someone else has in their entire lifetime of work. Moreover, you might be blessed with skills that others won't have, EVER. There's also the matter of style, grace, pace, quality, and a ton more.
Lastly, who cares what you did 30 years ago. Maybe it is completely irrelevant by now. And it probably is, especially in the technology world. It is also possible that you may have spent the 35 years being mediocre, a sort of a quiet clinger, never quite excelling and never quite becoming better at what you do. Because if our skills ought to sharpen with time, then after 35 years, you are supposed to be a master. And somehow, clearly, this is not the case with most journalist or writers. The majority of bloggers peak out very early and never manage to become who they wish to be.
Dominique and Elisavietta work hand in hand like Bonnie and Clyde, except they are both women. Dominique is a student of whateverology, while Elisavietta spends her afternoons plotting world domination. You can follow them both on Twitter or Failbook.
If one is not enough, nothing like a pair of writers to deliver the ultimate punch. Furthermore, when real credentials are in a short supply, use vague references to would-be skills.
Mail client signatures
Having a fancy footnote is like having a big, juicy, pompous signature in your mail client, along with a quote by someone you supposedly admire, plus the whole plethora of your certifications, titles and honors, almost a medieval display of gallantry.
Now, I'm not against showing off when it's required. For instance, lawyers and computer technicians are in fact required to display their diplomas so that you can be certain they have credentials for the craft they practice. The same goes for doctors and whatnot. But someone writing a tech blog? If your work does not endanger human life or demands a monetary sacrifice, then your list of titles is meaningless.
Your site is not a foundry so it can't be founded
This is another of my favorites. Websites try to establish their reputation as more than just an almost random collection of people writing about similar ideas. They try to portray themselves as serious yet spirited startup companies heading off toward Internet stardom. To wit, rather than reading started, gone live or even established, many tech sites feature the very mighty word founded as the birthmark of the operation. Founded in 1992. Top it off with a Facebook fan page and a LinkedIn profile, and you're almost Canonical Mark [sic] II.
Unfortunately, it does not work like that. If every able-minded and somewhat typographically skilled blogger were to become a celebrity, the whole world would be one big startup company. But what makes a company? Do you have a health plan for your would-be workers? Do you have an office? True, the global concept of IRC-connected people working together breaks the traditional definition of a company, but it still does not justify using fancy words wherever you can.
If you're having a laugh, make sure you have one at your own expense
Of course, to humble it all down, let me poke a joke at myself.
Occasionally, I write articles for other sites than my own, which mandate that I add an personal intro somewhere in the context of these guest appearances. As such, you may also find my own procrastinations, forny style, out there. I've had a few articles written for osnews.com and I'm negotiating slash being wooed by a few other sites, which may ask me to create self-intro banners.
Feel free to laugh. But I don't have a photo out there - yet. Only a sexy avatar of a confused slash moronic person, but more about Dedoimedo name and legacy in the second self-interview. But it's pretty much like the writing styles. Get it? I hope so. What I meant is, if I were to use a picture of me, it would be a close shot of my sexy knee. There you go. This is the end.
So ... that's that. Now, you know what you should and shouldn't do. Again, it's about modesty and perceived honesty. You don't have to put your PhD in your signature for the same reason your mugshot has no place on a tech article. You're not a shoe salesman. Your reputation will slowly grow across a span of years and no amount of pearly white teeth will make a difference.
Then, there's the matter of business and marketing hype. You may sell your perfect image of hi-tech efficiency to a bunch of corporate drones, but it won't make your debugging skills any sharper. Worst of all, the fact everyone around you repeats the same mistakes does not mean you should bow to the pressure. Be special. Be unique. Be true to your own self. You don't have to have a Twitter account just because everyone else does.
Your signature means nothing. Your picture is meaningless. Hard work, year after year. That's the only thing that matters. You won't be a millionaire overnight because those things don't happen. How many successful web-based startups have you heard of? Exactly. Tone it down and focus on quality.
No geeks were harmed in the preparation of this article. Self-fun: 57%. THE END.