About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Real-Life Nerds: Protecting Public Data from Big Brother

spent the day with a group of nerds who gathered at the University of Pennsylvania's Van Pelt Library on the Saturday before President Trump's inauguration day. Archivists, hackers, scientists, programmers, and librarians scraped data from government databases run by the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other government sites threatened with deletion, alteration, or removal from the public domain by the incoming administration.

Some members of the group sent spiders to crawl web pages and send the contents to the Internet Archive (archive.org). Others worked through data sets looking for ways to download the information without breaking it and preserve it at DataRefuge.org. Librarians established a chain of provenance to ensure the data could be trusted if future researchers needed to rely upon it.

By the end of the day, they had everything from data on Ice core samples, coastal ocean current velocities, EPA air quality sensor data, the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility data, the Department of Transportation’s Hazmat accidents database, and EPA rules violations.

Was this a political action? A Quixotic task? Hacktivist preservation of vital data? Perhaps it was all of these things, and perhaps it was unnecessary. But considering the evidence--the Trump administration’s EPA transition team has admitted their intent to remove climate data from the agency’s website, incoming EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has sued the EPA multiple times to repeal air pollution regulations, and all White House website mentions of climate change were scrubbed at noon on the day Trump took office--perhaps it was a day well spent.

Read more about this diverse team of data preservationists in Wired article "Rogue Scientists Race to Save Climate Data from Trump"


Nerd Q&A: Why Are Smart People So Quiet?

I've heard the phrase "still waters run deep" too many times to count, so I think most people (and I include myself in that group) consider intelligence and silence directly connected.

Before I go on, I need to get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way: not all smart people are quiet.

But this is still a fair question that has a lot going on behind it.