Chances are, you'll eventually need help with some technology. These hints will help you recognize whether someone knows what they are talking about, or is just posing.

  • The word hacker is an important shibboleth. If they use the term hack to refer to breaking into a computer, defacing websites, or other illegal or unethical activities, it is reasonably safe assume that most of what they tell you is wrong. You should immediately ignore anything else they say about technology. Just because a term is abused outside its field, this doesn't excuse those in the field from using the proper definition.
  • If they advertise that they are ‘certified’ for something or other. This typically means that they only know one way of solving a problem. They are committed to using that recipe book. They are unlikely to compare solutions and choose the best one. Note the difference between using a product that is certified to a standard, and a service that is ‘certified’. A product that is certified to meet a standard will work with other products, a certified service means nothing. If the service does need some certification, those who are competent take the certification as a given.
  • If they constantly recommend products from one company, and never suggest alternatives, they are crazy. This usually means they are lazy in comparing options. If they know what they are talking about, they will have a second and third choice, and will be able to give a good reason why the first choice is better.
  • A good nerd is lazy according to Larry Wall's definition. This means that they will find a way to do something right the first time. Then they don't have to waste time doing it again. They will spend a little extra time setting something up. Then they won't have to spend as much time when it has to be done again. Say there are two ways to do something, and you know you'll have to do it a number of times. The first way is obvious and takes half an hour each time. The second way takes a couple hours to setup, but then takes one minute every time after that. If you know it will be repeated, a good nerd will choose the second way.