Thursday, July 12, 2012

Simplifying Speak Out With Your Geek Out

I updated the description for Speak Out With Your Geek Out.

It reads:

    Take a positive stance against baiting nerd rage, geek elitism, negative stereotypes of geeks, and yellow journalism.

    Post about how much you love your geeky hobbies or vocation from Monday, September 10th, 2012 to Friday, September 14th on your blog, website, social media account or in a forum somewhere. Then come here and tell us about it. We'll have a kick-off post where you can stand and be counted.

    Let's show the world who we really are -- passionate people who love a hobby so much we are willing to share it in a positive way with other people. This week, we will show our best side to remind others of that, too, and will actively avoid negativity and cheer each other on, instead.

Last year was a learning experience because people were fixated on specific words or phrases. Then there were the discussions of "I don't want to read this." or "I don't think there's a problem." That's fine, people. That's your choice. But there is a problem whenever someone is passionate enough about "X" to want to say or do something about it. We get laughed at. Bullied. Shoved to the side. Embarrassed. On a high level, being more respectful of one another is what accepting geeks boils down to. That is also why I didn't define what "geek" is, because many people feel ostracized regardless of whether or not they're typecast as a comics/gaming/knitting/cooking/etc. sort of geek, too. We're supposed to be about inclusion, not exclusion.

I cannot stress enough how simple this is supposed to be. This is not a corporate thing, a money-making scheme, or a movement to be manipulated. We live in a world of near-constant criticism and, all too often, we are baited into that negativity. All Speak Out With Your Geek Out really is? A week of happy. Of shiny. Of supporting one another and acknowledging that passion. Of not taking the bait and recognizing that sometimes we are the worst offenders because by defending our own interests we wind up putting other people down without realizing it.

Can we be happy for a week? Can we be cheerful on the internet for five days? Can we have a positive impact in spite of so much negativity?

We'll find out. Guidelines next week.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On The New Guidelines

I'm having a little trouble with the new submission guidelines, so I need your help. The thing is, last year when Speak Out With Your Geek Out spontaneously combusted into being, we had some negative criticism based on how things were worded. There was a vocal minority of folks who didn't like the mission statement. So, I want to do two things: a) reword the current mission statement and b) offer up a theme.

I have a few challenges writing up the submission guidelines for the theme of gratitude. First, I don't want this to turn into an opportunity for religious, political, or otherwise inflammatory debate because of socially-charged topics.

Secondly, I can't accept any submissions that reveals specific addresses or full names -- especially of kids. First name and last initial is perfectly okay; I'd prefer that this site covers my butt and a few of my own basic privacy concerns. Whether that be an "at risk" clause in the submission guidelines or not, there has to be some -ese in this. Ugh.

This week-long celebration was supposed to be akin to Geek Pride Day and not a chance for people to be beaten over the head with deep, serious topics and rampant negativity or criticism for simply wanting to be happy. It was, also, a way to point out and avoid yellow journalism within the context of being nerd bait or inducing nerd rage. Is it hard being a geek? Yes, because it doesn't matter if certain topics are mainstream or not. If it's mainstream, some of these awesome things will likely fade over time, because it's capitalizing on a trend. Not to mention, if geeks were that accepted? Then there wouldn't be any bullies lurking about and we all know that's not true.

What we're talking about here, is passion for what we love. That passion can manifest in a very positive way. I need to figure out how to get that message across in the simplest way possible but still make it firmly rooted in this thing called "geek."

I'm attaching the original statement. What needs to change?
Take a stance against baiting nerd rage and stereotypes of geeks. 
Post about how much you love your geeky hobbies or vocation from [Date] to [Date] on your blog, website, social media account or in a forum somewhere. Then come here and tell us about it. We'll have a kick-off post where you can stand and be counted. 
Let's show the world why we're awesome and why there is nothing wrong with being a geek.
What do you think about the submission guidelines? Thoughts?

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Theme Out of a Troll

I've been playing around with the idea of implementing a theme for this year's Speak Out after reading another round of: "Hey, why can't you just be happy for people with good news?" Negative and bullish comments simply because someone had a great day? What can anyone do except to tell that person to shut up. If you're upset about someone being happy, then what does that say about your state of mind? On those rare occasions when I'm annoyed by someone's overabundance of SQUEE, then I simply unplug for a little while.


I fight back not with fire, but with gratitude.

There's a lot of power in the words "Thank You" and really, who can argue or be a troll about that? We may feel envious of other people's successes, especially if you're a creative like I am, but in the end there's enough happiness to go around for everyone.

Imagine a week of thank you letters to the people who got us into our hobbies, who inspired our passions, who helped us grow into the people we are now?

Thoughts? What do you think about this theme?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There Is No Such Thing as a Fake Geek

Dear Readers:

I am writing this today in response to the latest kerfluffle online regarding the post that debuted on Forbes about fake geek girls. The last time I read an article like this, the subject matter was inflammatory on purpose because the writer got paid per page view and it was "good marketing." In the effort of full disclosure, I have no idea whether or not that's the case here. I just know that this post is generating a lot of discussion right now and, given what Speak Out is all about, I felt I needed to chime in here.

When I launched Speak Out with your Geek Out last Fall, I did receive some vocal negativity regarding the fact that I did not (and still do not) ever want to define what a "geek" is.

The reason why I didn't want to do that, is because this word is a bucket. People will self-identify with a label either when it's comfortable for them or when someone else has taught them that they are associated with it.

Th word "geek" has carried negative connotations for some time because what it does is call out someone who is passionate about "X." It's that passion, not necessarily the topic that person cares oh-so-much about, that causes these people to be bullied incessantly. As human beings, we have a problem dealing with those who share excessive amounts of emotion. Part of it stems from our different cultural expectations; it also originates from a sheer and utter lack of empathy.

Conventional wisdom says that to be cool and accepted by someone else's ideals, it's better to be casual and aloof. The funny thing is, the most successful people I know are exactly the opposite. They are happy with who they are, they're free from worry, and they pursue their dreams with passion, grace, and dignity.

Now that the emotional weight of the word "geek" has changed somewhat in our society, more than a few folks are upset by that. Why? Well, before geek had any positive connotations, it allowed some folks to feel more like individuals because their way of life wasn't as commonplace. Now that it's mainstream or popular, I'm guessing some folks don't feel like the underdog anymore. Regardless of what the truth is there, I feel this entire notion is incredibly sad and stupid. The only person that has the power to threaten your individuality is you.

Still, I do not consider myself to be a human being who has the right to tell someone else how they should feel about themselves. Who the eff am I to tell someone whether they are or aren't a geek? In my mind, defining who can and can't join this party is its own form of being a bully.

The minute you impose your views on someone else you stray into that territory because you are asserting yourself in a position of power. You are saying that your world viewpoint is better or more superior to someone else's. It doesn't matter how many people agree with what a "geek" is, there will always be that one person who feels they are one and outcast as a result. The same, sadly, can be said of any word that we use to label one another as a way of dividing, rather than uniting, us.

It is for that person, that single nameless individual, regardless of who they are, what they do, or where they came from, that I will continue Speak Out with your Geek Out this fall the exact same way I did last year.

I sincerely hope no one will wait until September to say a kind word or do a good deed until then. There may be seven billion people on this planet, but the only people we will ever truly have is each other, provided we take the time to listen and speak.

All my best,

Monica Valentinelli
Founder of Speak Out With Your Geek Out

Friday, September 16, 2011

Need Your Help! Feedback on Speak out

Speak Out with your Geek Out began with a single drop of creativity. Today, from where I sit, I'm floating happily along in an ocean of laughter, smiles and friendship. For that? I thank you muchly. (See: the answer to why is a raven like a writing desk.)

The majority of the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. There have been a few critical conversations that highlighted deeper issues within the community but that is to be expected from an event that got a lot of attention. Speak Out got a signal boost earlier in the week which amplified people's knowledge about it. Geek Dad on blogged about it, John Kovalic from Dork Tower drew a strip about it, Matt Forbeck interviewed me for GeekDad and Jennisodes podcast hosted me for a special chat.

In my mind, what has happened here can and should happen again. Many people would like this to be an annual event. There have been other conversations about going above-and-beyond what this event is. For that? I need your help.

Everything that was done: interviews, comic, writing, hosting, logo, etc. was donated or done on a volunteer basis in an extremely short span of time. Please keep that in mind when you're answering my questions. You can either comment below or answer these on your blog and link to them in the comments.

(1) Do you feel Speak Out was a positive experience? Why or why not?

(2) Would you like this to be an annual event?

(3) Did you understand participation was voluntary? That there was a reason why "geek" was never defined?

(4) Is there anything that can be done differently for next year?

(5) If your answer to (4) was yes, how would you feel about a Kickstarter to help fund those goals?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stand Up, Cheer and Be Counted

Good Morning,

Today is the first day of Speak Out with your Geek Out.

Over 2,000 people have committed to sharing their enthusiasm and their love of their hobbies and vocations for an entire week of geek. Parents and children, friends and strangers, fans and creators are participating by blogging, mentoring, listening, speaking and sharing.

An entire community has built up around the idea that we can be positive role models. Positive. Before the week even began, people have reinforced the message that being happy is a choice and we are empowered to be who we are when we're together. Or simply: there is strength in numbers and even when we feel like the odd man out? We are not alone.

I feel this is our chance to prove that -- once and for all -- to each other. That we can inspire and uplift. That tolerance is possible, provided we remember to be tolerant of other people. That our emotions are what bind us together and labels are what keep us apart.

Please, do not hesitate to read and digest the articles on this site. There are contributions from many people and several words of wisdom and encouragement to be had.

To stand up and be counted, I encourage you to post your contributions to Speak Out in the comments below. The Twitter hashtag is: #speakgeek

Keep your comments G-Rated and focus on the positive. Have a great week!

Monica Valentinelli
Author, Game Designer and Founder of Speak Out

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where's this Going? Stop and Listen before Speak Out

Behind-the-scenes, many people are stepping forward and asking me where Speak Out with your Geek Out is going to go. On the Jennisodes podcast that will air on Thursday, my answer was a very bubbily (if not overly enthusiastic): "I don't know!"

In my bio on my website, I call myself a pragmatist. For those who know me and my business/volunteer experiences, they know I try to balance that realism with my own passions and joys. The past two weeks, Speak Out has allowed me to get caught up in the enthusiasm because volunteers and bloggers and advocates and parents and kids have really come together to make this a community event.

Right now? That's where my mind is. It's on YOU. Your enthusiasm, your hobbies, your precious positivity and your exuberance and willingness to share who you are. Period. This is nothing without you. This is just another flash-in-the-pan unless people are more than thrilled with the idea -- they participate in the happy and make a difference.

I am excited to lead the charge and there are directions Speak Out can go. Those options require a pesky thing called "infrastructure" and another annoying concept called "money." Conversations are happening, but no decisions will be made. This is not the time for that. This isn't about where this movement is going, because in my mind? The week hasn't even started yet and none of us have any idea what kind of an impact we will make. Maybe all that's needed is to support the community online. Maybe this turns into something hobbyists and pros can use to learn from each other. There are a lot of options, but that's all they are. Options.

None of that matters. The only thing that's important here is being empowered to be who we are in the happiest and most positive way that we possibly can. To inspire others to share in what we love, to mentor those who want to learn, to support those who are afraid to be themselves.

I look at Speak Out with your Geek Out as a way to be part of a community that blows the lid off of negative stereotypes on both sides of the equation. We're not geek elites. We're not victims who'll take the bait. We are something new.

We are Geeks who Speak.

Watch for the big post on Monday where I encourage you to stand up and be counted.

All my best,

Monica Valentinelli

Author, Game Designer and Consultant
Founder of Speak Out with your Geek Out