Thursday, August 28, 2008

Retiring a cliche

There is a word in The New Hacker's Dictionary "marketroid", a derogatory term for marketing people. It encapsulates contempt geeks supposedly have for marketers. They are traditionally assumed to know very little about technology, being the kind of people who have their secretaries type up and send emails for them, yet they are the ones whose opinion executives listen to. They are the ones who promise customers unimplementable features on unrealistic deadlines, leaving poor techies scrambling to get them out of the mess.

Of course, I can't say whether a mutual hatred and contempt between those groups really existed, or if it was a bogus phenomenon manufactured by people who seek comfort in group identification (like Mommy Wars :-)) But if I were to follow conventional wisdom, I would have to stay clear of marketroids.

But I didn't. Monday night I went to a Tweetup where I met a bunch of technically savvy Tweeple (to use the alternatingly cute and cringe-inducing webspeak :-)) who are essentially in the marketing business. They do it in the new media: blogs, podcasts, Twitter, and social networks. So they are well aware how to use the net to engineer human interactions for all kinds of purposes, from commercial to political to saving the world. And I have to admit this is more interesting to me than how to engineer computers. To model real-life human behavior in data structures, to formalize interactions between people by finding an appropriate electronic format for them, and observe how they change as a result -- I find it fascinating. These folks haven't created the internet and don't necessarily know much about its plumbing, but they have ideas on directions in which to push it.

What I liked best about the people I met at the Tweetup is that many of them seemed to be interested in meeting new people and receptive to new interactions. Unfortunately, I haven't seen so much of that at techie gatherings. Those often turn into "I'm geekier than thou" pissing contests. The tone at this Tweetup felt quite different, far more democratic.

Of course, I still don't know whether all these marketing folks aren't guilty of overpromising to customers. :-)

In any case, I think The New Hacker's Dictionary is overdue for some new chapters.

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