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.


Nerdism: MOTD

ASCII Talking Cow
In nerd circles, MOTD is an initialism for Message Of The Day (although it might mean Match of the Day in sports talk, so consider the context carefully).

MOTD dates back to the earliest days of computer connections when system administrators wanted to make sure all users got a message, but didn’t want to send the message to each person individually. The solution was to set up an automatically executed file that displayed a message when a user logged into the system.

A Pony by Mattbas

Usually the MOTD didn’t change much, and included things like rules for using the system and basic instructions such as what to type to get help documentation, although the MOTD might also spit out information about the user’s last login, the system uptime, or even the weather. Admins sometimes got creative with their messages, offering pearls of wisdom in the form of fortune cookies or the ubiquitous talking cow. Some MOTDs even included complex ASCII art depicting anything from dragons to flowers to portraits of musicians, or even ponies of the friendly magical variety.

In the early days you could find MOTDs on UNIX systems and dial-up BBSs--both of which are difficult, but not impossible to access as of 2018--but MOTDs can still be easily found on multiplayer games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield, and of course you can see the MOTD at the beginning of all the Nerd Manual podcasts.


Real-Life Nerds: NerdBurger Games

I lost a friend at the Southern Fried Gaming Expo (not tragically, I just misplaced him), and while I was walking around looking for him I passed this vendor's table with a few books on display. I'm telling myself, "it's just RPGs, you have enough of those already and you need to keep walking," but the title Murders and Acquisitions grabs me by the collar and turns me toward the table.

While I was a little surprised at being manhandled by an RPG manual, I'm glad it happened, because the guy at the table, Craig Campbell, was really cool and also happened to be the game designer for NerdBurger Games. I talked with Craig for far to brief a time, because I had to go find my aforementioned friend, but I picked up his business card (more on that later) so I could look him up online when I got home.

If you've never heard of NerdBurger before, you need to go visit the site. Like, now. Just stop reading this and go spend some time over there. You'll find descriptions of Craig's games, you can purchase Murders and Acquisitions as well as NerdBurger's newest title Capers--an RPG set in the roaring twenties featuring super-powered gangsters, and listen to the NerdBurger podcast, which will give you an idea of why I'm so glad I stopped and talked to Craig.

This guy is a gaming genius.

Remember that business card I mentioned? He's got the entire RPG manual for Lucky Dino-Robo-Pirates on the card. How does he do it? You'll have to get a business card from him to find out.

It's worth it. Check out NerdBurger and have some fun. 


Nerdy Competition: Congressional App Challenge

The Congressional App Challenge opened this week, and their website specifically says that earlier registrations have a better chance at winning, so go on and register today!

(This challenge is only open to middle and high school students in the US and its territories--apologies to any of my older readers or visitors from other countries who got their hopes up.)

The Congressional App Challenge (CAC) is an annual competition hosted by members of Congress meant to encourage kids to learn how to code. Not all members of Congress participate, so if you don't find your representatives on the CAC list, send them a tweet, give them a call, or write a letter.

According to the website any kind of app, in any programming language, on any platform qualifies for entry, as long as it's original (not a copy of an existing app). So if you want to program an app for an autonomous lawn sprinkler in Rust, go right ahead.

The competition offers recognition by members of Congress, prizes, and the winning apps go on display in the Capitol building in Washington, DC.

One of the coolest aspects of the CAC is its aim to bridge the gender, geographic, and racial gaps in tech by encouraging future tech innovators from a variety of backgrounds. Participant demographics for previous App Challenges surpassed all tech industry diversity metrics, so they're doing something right.

Submissions are accepted through October 15th, but the rules strongly suggest registering before September 10th, so find your representative and sign up early!