Geek Speak: Newbie Hurdle #1

Consider this Dilbert cartoon:


Now this actual chat transcript from 

(05:18) Geek #1 Thinking about trying a Mac out – is a Mac Mini good enough for web video, or do I need to spring for an iMac?

Geek #2 I wish the mini came with a 7200 rpm drive

(09:41) Newbie #1 theres a mac mini??
no Geek response
(09:44) Geek #3  When i got my new pc i spent 2 days getting vista off it and finding all the missing drivers i needed for xp
… and Newbie #1 has left the studio

So let’s talk about that barrier to entry for newbies, geek speak.  In the tech profession there’s jargon that the techies use that the newbies don’t get.  The sheer number of names for things is intimidating enough, and then on top of that there are all the ways of categorizing the names that just don’t make sense to newbies. 

Is this inevitable?  Is there any way to make it easier?  Where should a newbie start?  This issue was a problem for me when I first started.  I worked through it by sitting with my mentor at geeky gatherings and just writing on a notepad all the nouns I didn’t know.  I remember listing things like “WYSIWYG”, “Ajax”, “CMS”, “Framework”, to name a few.  And what exactly was the difference between Javascript and Java?  What did PHP stand for?  How were you supposed to pronounce SQL?  As geeks reading this might be able to guess, I was sitting in a meetup having to do with developing the back end of web sites.  Once the meetup was over, I took my extensive list of whats-its to my mentor and we went over the terms and concepts one by one.  Over the next few months, I grew much more familiar with the language of web design.  I still hadn’t worked very much with the various tools, but I could understand what geeks meant when they referred to them.

The problem is that when geeks get together, they start talking geek and leave the newbies behind.  To this day, I don’t understand everything they say, but I’m not as intimidated to ask because I do understand a majority of it.  What’s annoying to geeks is having to stop every other sentence (or in mid-sentence) and explain the basic concepts behind what they’re discussing.  What I like about my method of writing the terms down was that I didn’t interrupt the flow of the conversation or demand an immediate explanation.  I wouldn’t be able to ‘get’ the conversation like the geeks did, but at least they would provide a way for me to learn so maybe I would ‘get’ the next one.

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