Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Geek Channel

This could be big. Here's a short description from edu-sig, a Python elist:
Imagine a new Geek Channel on cable or via satellite, where kids can tune in to see vid clips of their heroes in the open source community, talking kernel design, futurism, hardware. Slashdot for television. OSCON 24/7 (repetitive, like Sesame Street -- segments for different ages, different shows). Twist in elements from scifi. Get some authors on, like Vonnegut. Radical OK. Clowning around OK. Both Python *and* Monty Python. Plenty to bliss out on, and for both boyz & girlz. Synchronized websites. Blogs.

Damian's lecture on thermodynamics, the game of life, and programming using a Klingon version of perl -- there's an audience for this kind of thing.
I know c|net did TV for awhile (do they still?), but there was little attempt to communicate much computer science. Marketing trends and gizmo lust shouldn't be the focus. This isn't InfoWorld and button-down IT culture. We'd rather watch Donald Knuth (or a puppet double) share about MMIX than hear Steve Ballmer trash some technology he doesn't like.

Ala the Sesame Street model, I envision a growing data base of video shorts recycling thematic content, punctuated with longer episodes, ongoing serials, perhaps with their own niche-market sponsors.

A DVD aftermarket might develop based on student demand (e.g. one DVD distills segments on TCP/IP, subnets, routing, DNS, wifi, ethernet...). Good example of a video short: Warriors of the Net (many would be shorter). I've shared it with 10-to-18 year-olds, and received lots of positive feedback.

Some segments and shows would help geeks learn Python, Perl, PHP, and so on. Tutorials with high production values. Lots of animated exploding diagrams of gizmo internals (not just PCs), lots of retro stuff, museum technologies (Enigma, ENIAC, John Logie Baird).

The content may be, should be, over your head half the time, and yet entertaining nonetheless. How little I know! How big my world! These experiences aren't turn-offs -- the kind of viewer we want to attract will keep coming back for more.

We must not let this become another home shopping channel. Advertisers (IBM?) should often showcase technologies that are too expensive for individuals at home i.e. lots of B2B messages, piggy-backing on the content, earning good will for sponsors.

Parents won't feel like their kids are being brainwashed to always want the latest gizmo. We won't indulge so much in fetishizing expensive "sharper image" accoutrements, ala Wired. For example, we'll often screen role models using free software on recycled computers. The emphasis is on what works, not on glitz for the sake of glitz. We're bridging the digital divide by spreading knowledge and literacy. Skills and a willingness to always learn more, not loads of cash, is what gains you access to this vibrant community of innovators and developers.

As Arthur Siegel put it on edu-sig, citing Bucky Fuller, this is all about doing more with less (ephemeralization).

Follow up threads:
math-teach in December 2004
classes list @ Free Geek in December 2004