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I am not a Linux geek
face, photo booth
I went to Sydney last week for my first It was very intense. Geeks I know seem to believe that I am a geek. I must make a better effort at destroying this illusion.

I'm not much of a programmer and I don't intend to become one. I believe in using the right tool for the job and using that well. I'm writing a minor master's thesis and managing simple websites. Emacs, LaTeX, Template Toolkit and, underneath, a GNU/Linux system are the right tools for me and I'm trying to get better at using them for my particular needs. Maybe this makes me more geeky than the typical PC user, but it doesn't make me a typical LCA attendee or LUG member.

'Impostor syndrome' is the feeling that you're not as good as your peers, that you've snuck in by accident. It's important to recognise impostor syndrome when it's unrealistic and is a barrier to achieving one's full potential. But sometimes, one feels like an impostor because one is an impostor.

I found the education miniconf inspiring, encouraging and not too technical for me. I went to some of the less technical sessions in the LinuxChix miniconf. By the final block of LinuxChix sessions (focused generally on IT career development) I started to feel that I was in the wrong place. I'm not a woman interested in working in IT. I'm a woman who uses Linux.

I spent much of the next three days being antisocial and avoiding the conference. Occasionally I would attend a talk (and even understood some of them) or tried to engage with other humans. I felt terribly isolated. I couldn't talk about my isolation because everyone I knew seemed to be in full geek mode and I didn't want to burst their bubbles by moaning about how ungeeky I was.

I did get a lot out of Kathy Sierra's Friday keynote on engaging with users. I don't know the first thing about Java but her Creating Passionate Users blog deals with user relationships in general. Similarly, while her keynote was addressed at programmers, what she had to say was relevant to anyone who is involved in getting people to do things. A small revelation came when she asked who had read Flow and I was one of the few who raised their hands. (She was shocked.) Maybe I have more in common with lifehacks/GTD geeks than with Linux/programming geeks.

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Course, when you have doubts about your ability, it's by definition impossible for you to form an unbiased opinion on whether you are an imposter or not. For what it's worth, you don't give the impression of being an imposter! I got the same feeling the one LCA I went to, as well as my own academic conferences.

Interesting -- they have a name for this?

Here's the paper from 1978 where 'impostor phenomenon' was first used (PDF). You won't find it in DSM but when I've described it to people they know what I'm talking about. It isn't exclusive to women but the way women are brought up does make us more susceptible.

In my case, it's not just a lack of ability, it's a lack of desire. Late last year I realised I didn't want to follow my current career to its logical conclusion. I thought maybe I would get a geeky job instead, so I went to LCA. Now I know I don't want to be a geek either.

Sounds familiar. I have been blogging about that a lot lately.

Basically, I'm not the technically-inclined type; I just made a different choice about which OS I use and started using it back when some assembly was required and batteries were not included, which according to some employers, made me an instant specialist of all things Linux.

Later on, I packaged a few pieces of software that nobody would package and later adopted other software that nobody would maintain properly.

This being said, I've never seen myself as a software developer and recently building the prototype of what became the Linutop managed to put the last nail in the coffin, as far as my will to stay involved in technology is concerned.

Thus, I genuinely feel that it's time for me to move on and try something radically different. Biological farmer in Kazakstan? Midwife in Nederlands? Anything goes; I'm open to suggestions.

I don't think I'm a geek at all and I don't feel like I can operate on the same level and well it's kinda lowering. I don't even know if I want to be one.

But I still want to go to conferences.

I really don't know what I want to do. I'm pretty sure it's not teach but who knows. (I teach now...)

okay, i probably want to go to conferences to see if i fit in or see if i get moved or motivated...

That's what I thought too. In that way, LCA2007 taught me a lot.

well, that's a good thing then

departing from the norm

Hi Claudine,
I think you assume that there is only one type of geek. There is not.
There are many of the same type of geek at LCA. There are women who
are getting more involved in such conferences. There maybe free
software geeks, linux geeks, open source geek, etc. that are men and
women and act the same way. I suspect that you are a new kind of geek
that is yet to be named. A Geek is someone who is passionate about
8something and see things for their function and not necessarity form
(at least that is a defination that I can think of). You seem to use
great software not because it is popular but because it does the job
and maybe because its free or ethical software. I have not seen too
many female geeks but if you talk to other women, I would expect that
you, collectively, have or will form a geek culture based upon things
that you know and have in common. Ask Debian women, Gnome women, etc.
and see if they feel that they have a culture different but similar
to what male geeks have formed.
Most of the older geek were brought up with D & D, unix culture,
scifi, math, chess, tinkering with the command line, etc. As someone
who is part of a generation that came to linux as a 'desktop' users,
you dont necessilary have the same background and thus will form/have
formed a differnt culture.

Re: departing from the norm

Thanks. I guess that's why I said 'I am not a Linux geek', or maybe, to be more clear, I am not a programmer. I admit that I have some geeky tendencies, but Linux conferences aren't for me.

Re: departing from the norm

Hi again,
As 'Linux' goes from sysadmin tool towards what Ubuntu wants
(Desktop user who value the freedom and usefulness of free
software), Linux conferences are going to have more
'non-linux geeks' including more women as Pia Waugh was
elated to hear. These folks are looking to use free software
to meet their needs in Education, non-profits, Day care
centers, Libraries, Art creation, Music creation, Book
creation, etc. At least for me, 'Linux' is about meeting
people virtually and in real life that share a curiosity
about the world we live in as I have yet to meet 'boring'
people using free software. On the Debian-user and other
mailing list, people go off-topic and talk about non-linux
geek things all the time. If you are not passionate about a
'kernel' aka Linux, what software or aspect of free software
do you like?

Re: departing from the norm

As I've said above, I use Linux (or computers in general) for writing my thesis, maintaining websites and everyday productivity.

I know there are women involved in all aspects of Linux and FOSS. I know there are many end-user applications for Linux and FOSS. My original point is that LCA is too hard-core for me. I'm comfortable with all this. I guess the point of my original post was to let some of my professional geek acquaintances see that I am not in the same league as them.

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