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Episode 43: Nerdist Podcast
Nerdist PodcastNerdist Podcast

Nerdist Podcast #43: WIRED’s CHRIS ANDERSON

WIRED’s head nerd Chris Anderson! He also wrote the wonderful books The Long Tail & Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Mr. Anderson–as the Matrix would refer to him–is a super-smart, thoughtful human and I always love chatting with him. What topics can you expect from this episode? Trolls! Social politics! The economy of attention! How to write a book! And the ever-raging debate: NERDS v GEEKS.

Please to enjoy.

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  1. Robin says:

    On the topic of TV vs. internet — I like having television shows on my computer (Hulu, Fancast, what have you). I emphatically do not want internet functionality on my television. It’s a weird distinction to make, I suppose, except that when I’m watching TV in the living room, it’s much more likely that other people will join me in looking at the screen. They won’t want to have to look at my surfing while they’re trying to watch a show, and I don’t necessarily want to share my surfing habits with them.

    Also, using phrases like “the intrinsic unfairness of the ad hominem attack” and “the world’s greatest platform for pedants” and “Cambrian explosion” makes me smile. 🙂

  2. AlexR says:

    you know why trolls bother us? because we are social animals and no one wants to be excluded from the pack. when someone attacks our character, accomplishments or worth, they are deeming us unworthy to be part of the group. it’s basic, animal behavior that no amount of rationalization will overcome. Maybe ChrisH has it figured out, but ChrisA is a smart guy and still bothered by it. it’s same thing with the N word. why can some people say it and others can’t? because when you’re part of the group and say it, it’s inclusive. when you’re outside of the group and say it, its divisive. Go ahead and call your friends Nerds, you’re stating that they’re part of the pack.

  3. Ryan says:

    I’m gonna add another thing into the argument, dorks. Here we go.
    Dorks: Clumsy, not social. Can be nerds and/or geeks.
    Nerds: Smart, educated, analyze and memorize small details. Can be nerds and/or dorks.
    Geeks: Hardcore fans of out-of-main-culture things.

    A dork would go down to his basement and watch a marathon of Star Trek by himself.
    A nerd would watch Star Trek and memorize the language of the Klingons.
    A geek would watch Star Trek and build an exact scale replica of the Starship Enterprise.

  4. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this, and thanks to Chris Anderson for introducing me to the work of Clay Shirky. Can’t wait to dig into some of his writing.

  5. Todd Hoyer says:


    First of all, I’m a big fan, I’ve enjoyed your writing in Wired and on your website, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the podcast since episode 1. I have one minor complaint though. What’s your beef with sports? I know a lot of nerds who are sports fans. I myself was on both the computer programming team in high school as well as the baseball team, and I enjoyed the challenges and camaraderie of both pursuits.

    There are plenty of great stories and lessons to be learned in playing and watching sports. Yet for some reason there is a subset of nerd culture that regards any involvement with sport to be akin to being in league with a bunch of fist bumping chest thumping Neanderthals.

    Now I’m not saying that you should go out and because a sports fan, I really don’t care if people like sports or not, I just don’t understand the active dismissal of sports. I have no interest American Idol. But when someone asks me if I watch American Idol, I just say, “no”, I don’t feel the need to go on some sort of diatribe about how stupid it is. Yet I could hear you barely be able to contain your excitement in sharing with The NerdFather (Chris Anderson) that you think watching sports is a huge waste of time too!

    Now again, I don’t care if you like sports or not, I just don’t understand this whole thing where someone liking sports is anathema to being a part of nerd culture or even exhibiting higher than average intelligence.

    Anyway, great podcast, and great work overall, I really enjoy it.

  6. Tom says:

    Great podcast. I got a lot out of this one. It was a nice change of pace hearing you speak with someone from outside the comedy world. When is Tim Ferriss going to be a guest?

  7. Ryan says:

    In my circles we define geeks as people who are in to artsy stuff and nerds as those who are more into science, so basically
    Geek = Star Wars
    Nerd = Star Trek

  8. Christopher says:


    Out of the 12 or so podcasts I try to squeeze in regularly, yours is by far my eagerly awaited. For the one negative comment you receive that you may dwell on, I hope I can be one of the 100 or more positive that can offset it.

    Thanks for the free podcast, and having such interesting and intelligent friends and colleagues.

  9. Ryan says:

    Okay so, I absolutely love everything that you do (going by the assumption that it is is Chris Hardwick who reads these comments) I, sadly have not been to any of your live shows because of my distance from anywhere city-like. But I do believe I have just encountered something that could possibly make me your biggest fan. Bare with me here, I no these may seem a little “gay” or “Teeny-bopperish” but I just felt like I should inform you that I have just finished watching the first season of “Back To The Barnyard” for the sheer purpose of closing my eyes and listening every time “Otis” talked and imagining you saying the lines. So there it is. (by the way, I have to admit that I have grown fond of the show…. don’t judge me)

  10. Sawyer says:

    I’ll add to the echoes of this being a fantastic, thought-provoking episode. Listening to it on the way home after three classes, I paid more attention to what you two were saying than I paid to my profs.

  11. Arieh says:

    That joke did not go according to plan :$

  12. Arieh says:


  13. Chris P Severson says:

    The terrific chat about technology’s effects on the culture reminded me of a line from ‘God Emperor of Dune’ (which is not-at-all geeky/nerdy to reference):

    Leto scowled at Luyseyal, knowing he could only add to their confusion. “I point out to you . . . a lesson from past over-machined societies you appear *not* to have learned. The devices themselves condition the users to employ each other the way they employ machines.”

    Don’t bother reading the prequels. In fact, I’m going over to Brian Herbert’s homepage right now to tell him how much he f*cking sucks!

  14. JTanzer says:

    Great discussion as always. Glad you found it!

    I wanted to chime in quickly on the actor/nerdy thing. I think that, because some grow up pretty and cool, people often forget how most actors begin: as theater nerds/geeks/whatever. The term “creative obsessive” is used a lot and that, in my experience, describes most of the actors I know, even the ridiculously hot ones.

    In my high school, at least, there were three camps of nerdy kids, the tech nerds, the music nerds, and the theater nerds, and all were wholly obsessed with their passions and lived in their own, insular world. The theater kids just got more sex/herpes.

    To sum up, is breaking into a full, spontaneous rendition of Rent any different (phenomenologically speaking) than breaking into a full, spontaneous rendition of Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

  15. fry says:

    Searchlight, Chris. Searchlight. 🙂

  16. gladly says:

    That was an excellent podcast, and I’m sorry I don’ t have anything intelligent to say about it. I just wanted to say that “Squatting on the super layer” sounds like a “Cleveland steamer”-style euphemism for something very dirty.

  17. yogahz says:

    Now that’s a podcast, great conversation. That was the first time I found myself talking back to the podcast, not just laughing.

    The nerd/geek/dweeb distinction seems to be cultural, we all know what we mean. But I was delighted that ChrisA was attempting to call out ChrisH on not being a nerd (by his definition). Opening up that conversation was the best part of the interview.

  18. Arieh says:

    This was one of the best non-live episodes.
    But back to nerds v geeks
    I’d like to think of them as aspects of the same mindset, defined along the lines that where set out in the podcast, because really, no one can say they have particularly well developed social skills AND love D & D. If you’re nerdy, you’re by implication a bit geeky and vice versa

  19. Since I haven’t seen this linked yet, here’s Tim Ferriss’ post on dealing with haters mentioned in the podcast.

  20. Angelo says:

    Great episode. I keep a little pocket notebook for things I want to look into later, and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a Podcast where I’ve scribbled down more books/articles to pick up later. I currently have a copies of The Shallows and Cognitive Surplus sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.

    On the nerd vs. geek debate, I’m a fan of your nerd/dweeb definitions (though I’m partial to dork). However, I’ve always been a fan of thinking of geek as a verb. For example, when a nerd starts going on a dorky tangent about which Dr. Who was better or group of nerds get together for a D&D game they’re geeking out. Thoughts?

  21. Rob says:

    Thanks to Laughing Squid’s Scott Beale to resolve the Nerd v. Geek v. Dweeb v. Dork debate

  22. Andrew says:

    Hey everyone, just posting this here since I don’t want to start a Twitter account just to send an PM apology. Also, due to the themes of the episode, I think this is fitting. I think I caught Chris Hardwick once at The Flying Saucer in Addison hosting trivia night. I wasn’t sure it was him (and for all I know it wasn’t) but I was with a few friends and and started talking trash about Singled Out or something. We weren’t shout it at him or anything, but I think he (the host) heard us. I just wanted to say I am sorry and I was being an idiot. I started listening to the podcast and I’m a huge fan. Thanks for making such great content and giving it away for free. Again, I was being a douche, sorry. Although, now that I think about it, if that wasn’t Hardwick that night, this entire post is meaningless. I guess i should cover my bases and say sorry random trivia host, whoever you are.

  23. Erin says:

    It seems that the people who self-identify as nerds think geeks are anti-social weirdos and the people that self-identify as geeks think nerds are anti-social weirdos. I’ve heard people make the same arguements that are in these comments except with the terms reversed. I think we need a new word.

  24. ChelseaIRL says:

    i completely disagree with Anderson. Nerds have the social skills, and Geeks are the mouth breathers. i mean, how else would you explain all the gatherings? you don’t see a bunch of Geeks on social networks.
    but enough word-nerding. this episode was awesome. really fun conversations. 🙂

  25. Geekist says:

    Great podcast as usual, Chris. It is a shame that it was so hopelessly outdated. Then again, how could you have predicted the Great Hater Exile of September? Or the creation and immediate acceptance of the your/you’re hybrid: your’e?

    Well, at least you’ve caught up to the future now.

  26. Isaac says:

    I love.
    This episode.
    So much.

    That is all.

  27. Terrence Soon says:

    When I first read Chris Anderson my mind instinctively went to a Mr. Anderson Matrix reference. Lo and behold, right there on the second line. I don’t know why this made me smile, but it did so thanks for that and for another great podcast yet again.

  28. ml says:

    re: empathy

    Both of you mentioned that your online interactions involve not trying to lose your cool 100% of the time, and how to deal with those who make remarks with no regard to the (lack of) tone in their post. But that you two are forced to be hyper focused on empathy arises because others (apparently) disregard it. I wonder if this is a factor of age, personality type, lack of anonymity, or some combination thereof. Both of you have a brand you need to protect, and flying off the handle at asshats, deserved or not, can diminish that. I’m guessing most people posting under xx_notclevername98_xx aren’t worried about preserving a brand, as they are essentially anonymous. It reminds me of John Gabriel’s Internet theory, namely that anonymity and an audience causes people to behave badly.

    Maybe we all just want to be invisible and behave badly.

    I really enjoyed the podcast, though, and I think this is one of the better ones you’ve done.

  29. SK says:

    I never quite grasped what the difference between a nerd and a geek was, nor do I really care enough to look into it any further. Semantics are interesting sometimes, but not when people can’t agree on the basic definitions.

    This was a incredibly fascinating interview, really glad you found it and put it up for us.

  30. coral says:

    Does anyone really use the word geek anymore? I think this podcast is the first time I have heard that word in a LONG time.

    Also, the previous comment made me lol. Literally.
    “I eagerly look forward to his timely retraction and subsequent public apology specifically to me.”

    Don’t hold your breath xD

  31. Lee says:

    Another great podcast. You’re really a top-fucking-notch host, dude. It’s one thing to keep a show on track and moving at a steady pace. It’s another thing entirely to simultaneously relax your guests and make them each more interesting and relatable.

    I have to politely ask you to inform Chris Anderson that his concepts of ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ are woefully misinformed, however.

    A nerd is a person generally defined by a disposition toward thoughtful, creative, and/or intellectual behaviors who often applies those behaviors to their interests, which once – and often still do – laid outside the mainstream.

    A geek is, in short, a mouth-breather who has interests that lie outside the mainstream and may, in many cases, overlap with nerd interests*.

    TL;DR – Nerds finish watching Star Wars, get up, and sift through the internets to digest as much information as they can in order to dissect and analyze the Jedi Code from an intellectual and personal standpoint.

    Geeks finish watching Star Wars, go down to the basement, and start building SWEET LIGHTSABER HILTS.

    I eagerly look forward to his timely retraction and subsequent public apology specifically to me.

    *In cases of overlap nerds will often tolerate the presence of their lobotomized cousins, only showing aggression when their territorial claims are challenged. In such an instance, the nerd will often stand his ground until threatened with physical violence, at which point he or she will walk away and devise a plan to salt the earth that was once their territory. You throw a rock, they build a guided missile. This is the way of the nerd.

  32. and one more thing says:

    p.s. you sound so young.

  33. andrew says:

    its funny the first thing you talk about is stock piling episodes.