Tired of hearing the incessant bickering of people trying to figure the best way to describe what makes a nerd a nerd and a geek a geek, Burr Settles turned to twitter to end the debate. After analyzing millions of tweets about how people used each term in association with descriptive keywords, he designed a graph listing some words and hashtags that are more likely to be associated with “geeks” or “nerds.”
From Burr Settles:
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.
In broad strokes, it seems to me that geeky words are more about stuff (e.g., “#stuff”), while nerdy words are more about ideas (e.g., “hypothesis”). Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too. Plus, they aren’t two distinct personalities as much as different aspects of personality. Generally, the data seem to affirm my thinking.