What is The Geek Code? (…and why should Recruiters care?)

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Okay, so I’m flipping the channels late one night and I come across a Spanish soap opera. I do not speak Spanish, but from what I could tell somebody was cheating on somebody else and the main body was just getting home. Panic struck the couple and amid the hurried dressing and last minute kisses, someone said, “See you later.”

And I said, “Hey! I understood that.”

For a moment I thought I had mastered the Spanish language purely through osmosis and the mass consumption of Taco Bell burritos; but such was not the case. All of the characters began speaking Spanish again and I was back to looking at the actions and facial expressions of the people on the screen. As I observed all of this, I thought to myself, “Self, this is just like recruiting.”

Sound kinda crazy? Bear with me a moment and imagine the recruiting cycle from the angle of a Software Developer. Better yet, think of it from the angle of a highly-skilled Software Developer who works for a competitor. Better yet, think of it from the angle of a highly-skilled Software Developer who works for a competitor who mentioned on a blog that his job sucks. Better yet… Well, you get the picture. How many emails do you think this Software Developer received from recruiters seeking to seduce him (or her) into the welcoming arms of their open position? For arguments sake, let’s go with 7 emails a week (assuming a better economy than now).

Recruiter 1: “Hey I found your information online and wanted to introduce myself…”

Recruiter 2: “I have this new opening that you would be perfect for. Can we talk?”

Recruiter 3: “I am looking to recruit software engineers for my client in Redmond and…”

Recruiter 4: “Are you open to an interview?”

Recruiter 5: “Blah, blah”

Recruiter 6: “Blah, blah, blah”

Recruiter 7: “Blah, blah, blah, blobbity-blah.”

After a while all of the emails from recruiters begin to sound the same and the Software Developer does not “hear” them anymore. Instead, he (or she) looks for something in the email that speaks to them directly; something that either meets their immediate interest or persuades them to read through the entire email. For example, check this email out.


Your name,

Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah,
blah Software Engineer blah, blah
blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Redmond,
. blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah
blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, competitive
blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah.

A Recruiter


Now I will wager that this is how most people read unsolicited email, unless the content is compelling and/or elicits an emotional response to action; otherwise, a quick delete is exercised. Now imagine if there was a way to create an email that was so intriguing to geeks that they not only responded, but forwarded your email to their peers as well. Sound too good to be true? One may think that if they did not have access to… “The Geek Code.” (insert dramatic music here)…

Gee Jim, “What is… The Geek Code?” (insert dramatic music here)

“Glad you asked,” I reply. “Here is the answer.”

The Geek Code was created by Robert Hayden in 1993 as a means of self-identification for geeks. With just a few lines of (seemingly) indecipherable code, a geek could proudly proclaim his interests, his technical prowess and grant insight into his personality. In a very real way, it was like social networking, but without signing up for anything. (Umm… kinda’) For example, review the following Geek Code below:

GED/J d- s:++>: a- C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++ E– W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w- O-M+ V-PS++>$ PE++>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++ X++R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G++++ e++ h r- y++


Translated, the above code identifies the geek who wrote the code as:

  • Geek of Education, Geek of Jurisprudence (Law). My t-shirts go a step further and have a trendy political message on them. I’m a
    linebacker candidate. But someday I’d like to say: “I’m an average geek.” ” My age is 20-24.
  • I like C++. My tendencies on this issue range from: “Computers are a large part of my existence. When I get up in the morning, the
    first thing I do is log myself in. I play games or mud on weekends, but still manage to stay off of academic probation.”, to: “I’ll be first in line to get the new cybernetic interface installed into my skull.”
  • I use Linux and Ultrix. I’ve get the entire admin ticked off at me because I am always using all of the CPU time and trying to run programs that I don’t have access to. I’m going to try cracking /etc/passwd next week, just don’t tell anyone.
  • I know of perl. I like perl. I just haven’t learned much perl, but it is on my agenda.
  • I use Linux ALMOST exclusively on my system. I’ve given up trying to achieve Linux.God status, but welcome the OS as a
    replacement for DOS. I only boot to DOS to play games.
  • Emacs sucks! pico forever!!!
  • My tendencies on this issue range from: “I have the latest version of Netscape, and wander the web only when there’s something
    specific I’m looking for.”, to: “The web is really a pain. Life was so much easier when you could transfer information by simple ASCII. Now everyone won’t even consider your ideas unless you spiff them up with bandwidth-consuming pictures and pointless information links.”
  • I read so many news groups that the next batch of news comes in before I finish reading the last batch, and I have to read for
    about 2 hours straight before I’m caught up on the morning’s news. Then there’s the afternoon…
  • I give to liberal causes. I march for gay rights. I’m a card carrying member of the ACLU. Keep abortion safe and legal. But someday I’d like to say: “Getting paid for it!”

And this is only a portion of what the code means! To decipher the entirety of this code would make this post a WHOLE LOT LONGER. The Geek Code encompasses multiple facets of Geek life to include: Appearance, Computer knowledge, Politics, Entertainment and Lifestyle.

So what would people do with their Geek Codes? They would add it to their email signature lines, hide it in the source code of technical projects or post it in forums when debating ideas. What happened next? Initially The Geek Code was an instant underground phenomenon that only geeks were privy to; eventually the popularity of the code forced itself into the mainstream (somewhat). In 1995, The Geek Code was mentioned in Fast Forward, Boardwatch and The Washington Post.

Although the mainstream notoriety waned, The Geek Code continues to exist (in some capacity) among geeks online in source code, the
occasional blog entry and in forums. Here are a few examples:

After discovering The Geek Code, two things immediately came to mind. First, I have a means of tracking geeks based on their Geek Code (more on that later) and should I decide to contact them, I have free access to who they are as a person. (Imagine how much easier building a rapport would be with this kind of insde info on a candidate?) Second, I have a way of breaking through the clutter of email and getting geeks to identify with me and vice-versa. For example, remember the email example I used before? Let’s review a new and improved email, powered by The Geek Code.


Your name,

Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Software Engineer blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Atlanta,
. blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, competitive salary blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah.

A Recruiter


Version: 3.1
GLS d- s: a? C+++ L- W++ N+++ K- w+ O- PS- PE+ Y+ t+ X++++ R* tv+++ b+ DI+ G e h– r+++ y+++


The desired geek response (and hopefully the average geek response) would be:

lead-generation“Wow! I’ve never received an email from a recruiter that knows and understands the geek code. Maybe they do “get it.” I’m going to reply to this email for sure and just for giggles, let me send it to a few of my pals.

Dude! Can you believe this? This recruiters is hip to the geek code!!! Who’d a thunk it?

So maybe I am being overly optimistic? With email being so cheap to send, what’s the harm in trying it out?


Okay, so let’s put this new found knowledge to the test. Let’s say that you are looking for Software Developing Geeks, specifically – Open Source Software Developing Geeks to begin, let’s jot down a few code snippets from The Geek Code for us to focus on.


I am Linus, grovel before me.


I am a Linux wizard. I munch C code for breakfast and have enough room left over for a kernel debugging. I have so many patches installed that I lost track about ten versions ago. Linux newbies consider me a net.god.


I use Linux exclusively on my system. I monitor comp.os.linux.* and even answer questions sometimes.


I use Linux ALMOST exclusively on my system. I’ve given up trying to achieve Linux.God status, but welcome the OS as a replacement for DOS. I only boot to DOS to play games.


I’ve managed to get Linux installed and even used it a few times. It seems like it is just another OS.

Armed with this knowledge, I build a Google search string that looks a lot like… well, actually, exactly like this:

L+++++ my.geek.code -intitle:generator -decoder

In case you are not hip to my jive, this is what the search string means:


( This is a search for people who have ranked themselves highly as a Linux guru. )


( I am looking for people who proudly display their Greek Code. I have dots between the words as a matter of preference, but you could just as easily use “my geek code” )


( I noticed in my search that many of the results were pointing to sites that helped you create geek code and I did not want them, so I asked Google to restrict those types of results. )


( This is to restrict search results that point to websites that decode Geek Code and do not (necessarily contain personal geek codes).

So what was the result?

At this writing, I found 6 results on Google. Hmmm… not bad (in that other Recruiters / Sourcers probably did not find them yet), but I want more, so I adjust the search to include Geeks who were a bit more modest. For example…

One thing to keep in mind with this is that many of the pages citing the code are ten years old (more or less), so anyone ranking themselves low (L+), by now they may be a whole lot better. Just something to think about. Here are a few other search strings to consider.

Oracle Gurus

Perl Gurus

Windows Gurus

Hey, if this has registered a certain “WOW!” with you, then prepared to be overwhelmed because the Geek Code is not the only code of its kind. There are codes like this that Security Hacking Geeks, a more extensive (an updated) version of the geek code, codes for Gothic Geeks, Gay Geeks, Animal Loving Geeks, German Geeks, French Geeks, Geeks with Pet Rats, Blogging Geeks, Perl Geeks, Meta Geeks and Simpson-Loving Geeks. And (I think) there are still a few I have yet to mention… As such, here are a few more examples that might make you smile if you are someone on the hunt for Software Developing Geeks.




Search Strings

If you want to experiment with other Codes in the OmniCode, I made a partial list for you below. (Find more on the Omnicode site.)

  • Pr* (I program in all languages)
  • PrPHP.(PHP Geeks)
  • PrPerl (Perl Geeks)
  • PrC++ (C++ Geeks)
  • PrJava (Java Geeks)
  • PrRuby (Ruby Geeks)



If you are looking for Hackers, Security Specialists, White Hat, Black Hat, whatever, then you DEFINITELY want to become acquainted with the Hackerkey code. It’s more robust than the Geek Code and is harder to decrypt as a glance. (go figure). As such, the best a Sourcer can do is look for people who cite their Hackerkeys, then decrypt them here: http://www.hackerkey.com/decrypt.html.




Are you looking for Perl Geeks, well look no further than this! Here is the search string (and its pretty simple). At this writing, I saw 44,000 results on Google. ( Nice.)





After writing and researching all this info about Geek Codes, I decided to create one of my own and license under a Creative Commons so all may enjoy and spread it about freely.


The Sourcing Geek Code was inspired by Robert Hayden’s excellent Geek Code. It is a means for Sourcers to identify themselves. Its intended to be displayed in forums, emails to other Sourcers and on websites. It is also intended to be very cool. This version of The Sourcing Geek Code is 1.0. To suggest additions and/or changes for the Sourcing Geek Code, please send me a note  via Google Plus or LinkedIn.


Because of its design, the Sourcing Geek Code should fit fairly unobtrusively in your signature file. As the Sourcing Geek Code is not very well known, it is suggested that you display your Sourcing Geek Code in the following manner. (Notice that the URL is cited. This is so other Sourcing Geeks can download the latest official version of The Sourcing Geek Code.)

Version: 1.0 – http://therecruiterslounge.com
SE+++++. JB. SN+++++.T. Tr+++++. So++. So+++. So++++. Y+++++.W. IS+++. IS++++++



Copyright © 2009 Jim Stroud

Credit/blame should rest with yours truly, Jim Stroud. Any subsequent versions of The Sourcing Geek will be made available for downloading at: http://therecruiterslounge.com. The Sourcing Geek Code is licensed under an “Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States” Creative Commons (Details can be found here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us)


v1.0 – Released on 7.13.09




SE+++++ ( I | me | myself) (“too cool” | “way beyond) ~this.stuff ext:clue
SE++++ I rarely use the big 3 searchengines anymore. All of my needles are in
alternative searchengine haystacks.
SE+++ Google, Yahoo and Bing? They fear me, for I am… “The Boolean
SE++ I know how to work Google, but that’s about it. Is there another
Searchengine I should know about?
SE+ What?!! You can find Resumes for free on the internet? What am I
paying Monster for?
SE “Searchengines?” There’s more than one? What else is there besides

Job Boards

JB+++++ I have access to 10+ job boards and (with the help of friends) a whole
lot more. I rock!
JB++++ I use one job board and I wear it out.
JB+++ I am a slave to Monster and have been since I’ve been in the game.
JB++ I use ’em, I hate ’em, but what you’re gonna’ do?
JB+ Job Boards are dead, why bother?
JB I only use the free ones.

Social Networks

SN+++++ I have a “poke me” tattoo and underneath it a bluebird chirping a song
I first heard on MySpace.
SN++++ I do ALL of my Sourcing / Recruiting through Social Networks. I
don’t have time for anything else.
SN+++ I belong to a LOT of social networks , but I don’t have time for
any of them.
SN++ I use Linkedin all the time. What else is there?
SN+ I’ve heard of them, sure, but all my networking is in person.
SN Um… is this a web 2.0 thing?


T+++++ I sleep with a Bluetooth in my ear and talk in my sleep.
T++++ I heart IVR systems.
T+++ I am talking to a candidate now, while I am reading this.
T++ My favorite song is “Call me” by Blondie.
T+ I rather die a long, slow and lingering death, then pick up the phone
and call a stranger about a job that they (probably) don’t want.
T Talk? That’s what email is for.


Tr+++++ I get paid to train people on how to Source the internet and/or “dial
and smile.”
Tr++++ I take every class I can find and experiment constantly.
Tr+++ I take at least one webinar each year and anything else my company
will pay for.
Tr++ Sure, I took a few classes, but I forgot most of it. (blush)
Tr+ No training for me. All I know I found for free on a blog
Tr Umm… none. (I’m a bit frugal.)


So++++++ I am SourceCon.
So+++++ I solved a Grandmaster Challenge (but was too late to win
So++++ I’m going to the SourceCon 2010 event!
So+++ I was at the SourceCon2008 event!
So++ I was at the SourceCon2007 event!
So+ What’s a SourceCon?


Y+++++ I’ve been Sourcing (as a specialty) for more than a decade
Y++++ I’ve been Sourcing (as a specialty) for 5 years
Y+++ I’ve been Sourcing (as a specialty) for a couple of years now.
Y++ Recruiting… Sourcing… what’s the difference. I’ve been running my own
desk for years.
Y+ I’m the new kid on the block. What should I do


W++ I have always been my own boss.
W+ I have always worked for “the man.”
W I’ve worked for others and myself. I’m just glad to be working.

Internet Sourcing

IS++++++ I never stop Sourcing.
IS+++++ I do all my sourcing at night.
IS++++ All of my Sourcing is between 9 and 5.
IS+++ I source sporadically throughout the day.
IS++ I outsource it to others, but get all the credit.
IS+ I look through my ATS and check emails everyday! That’s sourcing


M+++ I mine the internet for leads, then pass them over for someone else to
M++ I mine the internet, find a candidate, warm them up and then pass them
on to a Recruiter (who gets all the glory).
M+ I find them, I call them and present them to the Hiring Manager. (I do
it all!)



So, do you think that I have totally lost it with this rant? Or, are you seeing the same recruiting possibilities I do? Let me know! I would love to hear from you… By the way, as you no doubt have guessed if you have read this far, this article was written a few years ago. As such, my Sourcing Geek Code needs to be updated. If you would, leave your suggestions in the comments below. Cool? You can also reach out to me via Linkedin or Google Plus.

Jim Stroud – The Searchologist—BEGIN SOURCING GEEK CODE BLOCK —
Version: 1.0 – http://therecruiterslounge.com
SE+++++ JB SN+++++ T Tr+++++ So++ So+++ So++++ Y+++++ W IS+++ IS++++++ M+++

Version: 3.1
GLS d- s: a? C+++ L- W++ N+++ K- w+ O- PS- PE+ Y+ t+ X++++ R* tv+++ b+ DI+ G e h– r+++ y+++

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