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September 07, 2011

Get Your Alpha Geek On: "A Google A Day"

Different cultures have their own ways of inculcating valued skills and establishing a hierarchy (usually based on the same skills). The best way to help a person gain skills, especially a young person, is through experience, and if you can make it a fun experience all the better. It's amazing how much we learn when we're at play.

Dogs establish hierarchy in a pretty straightforward way; they sniff at each other's hind quarters to establish the alpha-dog.

Among humans the hierarchy thing is more subtle and potentially more disingenuous. . When the hierarchy is based on observed performance, like who gets to the top of the hill first in the Tour de France or who digs the most coal in a shift, then it's pretty clear who the leader is.

But when the skill is used in private or remote locations, and when the work is virtual rather than physical, it's hard for the group to discern excellence and then the process sometime morphs into a verbal contest for hierarchy. You could call it bragging. The geek world calls it alpha-geek butt sniffing.

Inevitably, the verbal postures give way to demonstrated performance and the hierarchy shifts, but there's time latency between posture and performance. We need a quantified, distributed, platform-independent method of establishing Geek Ninja status.

It may be that Google has met the need with A Google A Day, in which Google offers you a question and you need to use your Google Ninja skills to find the answer. And if you've brought your A-Game, you can use the timer to measure how long it takes you to get the right answer, for Tweeting and general chest-thumping.

It's pretty cool.

Schools really aren't teaching search skills other than "don't use wikipedia". That works about as well as, don't think of elephants. But if we're in an information economy, and the valued skill is handling information overload, then maybe Google has rolled out a game of great value.


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