Geek or nerd? The choice is yours.

We can all rest easy knowing that Twitter has finally provided us with something useful.  Well, more accurately, data researcher Burr Settles has provided us with something useful.  Settles has analyzed two sets of data from Twitter to give us a study which should help the confused masses decide once and for all whether they are geeks or nerds…because we all have some geek and/or nerd in us, even sports-loving, bratwurst-eating, arm-punching manly men.  Don’t deny it!

Full disclosure: I first read an article about this study on io9, but I wanted to link to the original blog and study, as they made my day.

The study, entitled On “Geek” Versus “Nerd”, was published on Burr Settles blog on June 3rd.  Settles begins with the premise that the terms “geek” and “nerd” are defined (loosely) as such:

  • geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are “collection” oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
  • nerd – A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.

I’m not sure how I feel about those definitions, but I’m also not the guy modeling word pair frequencies and churning out sweet studies, so I’m giving him that.  If you want to read the study, you can find it here on Burr Settles’ blog, but the chart below pretty well illustrates what puts the “ness” suffix in nerdiness or geekiness. .  Here’s the quick rundown Burr provided to interpret the chart:

“Moving up the vertical axis, words become more geeky (“#music” → “#gadget” → “#cosplay”), and moving left to right they become more nerdy (“education” → “grammar” → “neuroscience”). Words along the diagonal are similarly geeky and nerdy, including social (“#awkward”, “weirdo”), mainstream tech (“#computers”, “#microsoft”), and sci-fi/fantasy terms (“doctorwho,” ”#thehobbit”). Words in the lower-left (“chores,” “vegetables,” “boobies”) aren’t really associated with either, while those in the upper-right (“#avengers”, “#gamer”, “#glasses”) are strongly tied to both. Orange words are more geeky than nerdy, and blue words are the opposite.”

BSettles geek vs nerd

All in all, I’m not sure how I feel about Settles’ results and conclusions.  I’ve always identified with the term “nerd” more than “geek”, but these results suggest that I have more “geeky” interests than “nerdy” ones.  And though I’ve wandered into “geek” territory on that damn chart, I’m still mostly along the “both geeky and nerdy” diagonal.  “Not all who wander are lost”, right?  I’ve still got Zelda, Atari, the Hobbit and Jeopardy on my nerd side.  Huzzah!

So where do you fall?  Take a look and plant your flag!

Image from Burr Settles’ blog, Slackpropogation.


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