The Alpha Geek Productivity Movement

43 Folders: Patching your personal suck

By now, everybody knows that I swiped the basic idea for 43 Folders from my pal, hero, and personal muse, Danny O’Brien. His work on the original Life Hacks presentation was centered around research into why some people, especially those overachieving alpha geeks, seem to get so much more accomplished over the same 24 hours we mortals start with each day. Some of them, like Rael, just seem preternaturally organized and focused. Others, like Cory, are blessed with an ungodly gift for effective multi-tasking.

I have a weakness for “self-help” or “life improvement” concepts. I am a bit of a tech nerd. I like to accomplish things. But somehow I can’t get into this whole “Alpha Geek Productivity Quest” thing that is going on at 43 Folders and being talked about at the coolest techie geek conventions and on the coolest techie geek blogs and so on.

It’s this “productivity” thing. The worship of sheer output, stuff done per day, per hour, per minute. How much code can you spew? How many cool blog posts can you emit? How many books can you inhale? How much information can you choke down, begin to digest, and regurgitate to the rest of the world? Crank it UP, boys! Come on! More more more!

Who wants to be like that? Who wants to think like that? “Productivity” is a quality that a manager measures with respect to an employee, considered as an abstract unit of business, not as a human being. Why should you apply that measure to yourself?

“Alpha Geeks.” Gosh, I seem to remember when “geek” was something that meant you were an outcast, the opposite of the “alpha” at the head of the pack — an omega, a pariah. I guess that meaning has been turned inside out — for a while you could earn a lot of money doing things that “geeks” had done, and that means that now if you’re not cool enough, capable enough, “productive” enough, you don’t even get to call yourself a “geek.” Only the cool kids, who have their shit together, who are “productive,” get to be “geeks” now. If you don’t employ the Seven Habits of Geekily Effective Nerds, you’re sub-geekual. You’re just a loser, not a geek. Geeks are cool.

I dunno. I do own two Moleskine notebooks, which apparently is one of the fetish items of this movement, so maybe I shouldn’t be talking. Could be sour grapes, too — I can’t seem to get my shit together for any extended period of time in life; I’m usually holding it all together with spit an’ bailin’ wire, house usually a mess, my boss saying “I told you to look for those files on that server, didn’t I?” Start projects and don’t finish them, yadda yadda. I’m not “productive.” I’m not an “alpha geek.”

But you know, I don’t think I’d be a whit happier if I were more “productive.” Squeezing the last bit of efficiency out of yourself isn’t what life is about. There’s a lot to be said for inefficiency, redundancy, even sloppiness. I get by, and I’m pretty happy with how I get by.

So I’m sure I’ll see more about this craze in my blog reading — and heck, I put “43 folders” in my RSS reader, cause who knows, might be something cool there — but mostly I look at the whole thing and shake my head, and think, “what has “geek” come to mean anymore?

UPDATE: Oh, I almost forgot. “Life Hacks”? Computer metaphor for human life. Man as machine. Niiiice dehumanization there. No thank you.

UPDATE 2: I’m really hostile to elitism lately. That’s a big part of this. I’m hostile to the worship of sacred metrics which make some people better than others and imply that we’d be better off if everyone were like, or at least deferred to, those people that the metric favors. Whether that metric is “being a millionaire by age 30” or “having a really clean house” or “being a great programmer” or “being an alpha geek.”

CONTINUITY NOTE: This post is part 2 in my ongoing series where I channel the spirit of Snappy the Clam, but snapping at tech weens in general rather than bloggers in particular. Stay tuned for more!

FINAL DISCLAIMER: I haven’t dug into the Alpha Geek Productivity Movement deeply enough to criticize it intelligently, this is just a subjective reaction to first impressions. But it’s a strong enough reaction that I don’t think I’m gonna be jumping on this bandwagon.

2 thoughts on “The Alpha Geek Productivity Movement”

  1. Thanks, Ed. I’m actually touched. Seriously. I’ve been offline lately; I’ve been on jury duty, on a long complex case. Plus blogging in general is just getting far too in-crowd for me to even bother commenting on it much anymore. Even more so, given the fact that it’s starting to just feel like shoveling shit against the tide.

    But, yeah, what you’re talking about here has bothered me for awhile, too – it’s all cool kid now, which to someone who has spent a lot of time being too weird for the straights and too straight for the weirds is kind of disappointing. I’ll check out 43 folders, but for the most part I’m looking for ways off the grid, not on it.

  2. Hey, glad you caught the post. :) Keep the faith, man, and don’t worry about not posting too often; if you can get out of the mess that is the internet, more power to you. Just pop in once in a while and say hi and remind us all to keep on snappin’.

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