The psychology of geeks

In Geeks and Promotion Anil Dash suggests:

There are many kinds of geeks in the world, and I think I tend to know at least one of each variety. But a common personality trait among a lot of the smartest, most creative people I know is that they’re not inclined to do a lot of self-promotion…

I find that most of my friends and acquaintances who create truly visionary works aren’t really against promotion, it’s just not a skill that they cultivate for themselves…

I think part of the reason is cultural, as programmers have always had a mistrust and even a contempt for the suits, for the marketers who just want to pimp a product, developmental realities be damned.

Well the reason may be partly cultural, but it’s also definitely psychological. Here’s an excerpt from The Trouble with Computers: Usefulness, Usability and Productivity by Thomas K. Landauer (1995):

Software engineers (another name for programmers and system designers) tend to have different personalities, different approaches to the world, from the rest of us.

Programming attracts twice the proportion of introverts in the general population and three times the number of “intuitive” thinkers (Tognazzini 1992)1. Introverts prefer their own thoughts to social interaction. Intuitive thinkers prefer the products of their imaginations to humdrum reality; they solve problems by visual imagery and insight rather than by plodding logic or investigation. These traits apparently suit people for the largely independent, sometimes lonely work of programming and to creating the intricately complex and abstract structures of software systems. It is unlikely that they help a person understand the majority, who would rather interact with co-workers than computers and who prefer to think about simple, concrete problems.”

1. Tognazzini, B. (1992). Tog on Interface. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Give me the world inside my head any day.