I don't know what you do for a hobby, but I find it interesting to track the migration patterns of the North American Geek. Before I get started, I should point out that the classification "North American Geek" is actually quite a misnomer. Although the North American Geek is found mostly in a region called Silicon Valley, similar species can be found throughout the United States and, indeed, all over the world.
It seems from my observations that each year in the middle of November the North American Geek migrates to a desert area in the southwestern United States known as Silicone City. For several days and nights, these Geeks engage in unusual ceremonies including "ogling the gadgets," "schmoozing," "posturing," and "gambling." This series of premating rituals is referred to as Comdex.
Closer examination reveals that, regardless of their origin, there are several varieties of Geeks. I have classified them into two groups: Prey and Predators. Among the Prey are Initiates, Hunter-Gatherers, and Medioids. Predators include Drones, Medioids, and Flatuloids. Notice that Medioids fall into both the Prey and Predator groups.
Initiates are strictly in the Prey category. They tend to be unspoiled Geeks who are engaging in Comdex for the very first time. Hunter-Gatherers can be divided into at least two subclassifications: Job and Chachka. The ritual of the Chachka Hunter-Gatherer is fascinating, because this particular Geek seems to know no bounds as to what it will endure to provide vendors with free advertising by gathering and wearing vendor T-shirts or caps. I have witnessed Chachka Hunter-Gatherers suffer through excruciatingly tedious presentations or humiliating questions just for a chance to get a gecko Beanie Baby or a fuzzy plastic Monitor Wiper.
Drones have many different types of observable behavior, but all of its rituals generally boil down to one objective: Grab prey and bring it to the predator. The Drones have several mating calls. They include "Let me get you a press kit," "The person you want to speak to is right over here," "I don't know the answer to that but let me have someone get back to you," and "Can I swipe your badge?" Drones tend to be the most aggressive in the presence of Medioids.
Flatuloids come in many forms but share one characteristic. They seem to have an endless supply of hot gas. Most of them vent it throughout the day onstage. Others wait until the evening and vent it mostly at vendor-sponsored parties.
Medioids are only listed as Predators as a formality to protect the cycle of Comdex ecology. It is essential that Medioids retain the illusion of being predators -- the ones who are after a story or are looking to capture the Next Big Thing. In reality, true predators spend Comdex fattening up Medioids with hors d'oeuvres and press kits to devour their souls in exchange for positive publicity.
Although I personally fall into the Medioid classification, I am an exception. I have not been brainwashed into thinking I am a predator. I am truly a predator. Truly a predator. Truly a predator. Yes, master, I am truly a predator.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the gambling at Comdex occurs not in the casinos, but on the show floor. Flatuloids and their sponsors pay a great deal of money betting that someone important will respond to their sales posturing. Medioids and their sponsors spend money on the possibility of getting the Next Big Story. And Drones are gambling with their health as they shake the hands of thousands of complete strangers who just hours ago sat on a plane next to two hacking people with Nyquil hangovers.
Personally, I lost my bet on finding the Next Big Thing. Comdex was only interesting to me this year because it confirmed all the trends I've observed for quite a while. For example, Linux had a bigger presence than ever. And people were talking about Linux everywhere. Even voice-recognition big shot Lernout & Hauspie is using Linux for embedded devices these days. Why? Two words: No royalties.
The rest of the show could be summed up in five more words: appliances and flat-panel displays. So there weren't any new or surprising developments. But surely you figured that out by now. If there were, I'd have spent this column talking about them instead of studying the migration patterns of the Geek.
Nicholas Petreley is editorial director of LinuxWorld (www.linuxworld.com). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit his forum at www.infoworld.com.