8BD Talks to Ken Denmead, the ‘Geek Dad’
I was extremely excited when Ken Denmead himself, the namekeeper of Wired‘s Geek Dad replied to one of our posts about him. So naturally, I asked him if I could do a Q&A with him. To our delight, he said yes – and I told him I’d contact him in a couple months when he had a new book coming out. Naturally, Ken blew it off and forgot about 8BitDad. So when I read that pre-orders were now open for his new book, “The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists,” I looked Denmead up in my Rolodex and had my secretary get him on the horn.
Okay, that’s not exactly how it happened, but we made sure that Denmead was staying on our radar, and when we heard about “The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists,” we knew we had to ask him a couple questions.
Just in case you’re a little slow, our questions are labeled “8BD” and Ken’s responses are labeled “KD.”
8BD: Give us a quick-and-dirty on GeekDad’s origins and current state.
KD: GeekDad started in early 2007 as a pet project for Chris Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief at Wired Magazine. He wanted a place he and a few other geeky parents he knew could share the interesting projects they were doing with their kids (Chris is big into UAVs – un-manned aerial vehicles). Not much later, he put out an open call for bloggers, and I got lucky. Moving forwards, I blogged like an angry Horta, started a podcast, and soon Chris asked me to take the enterprise over. Since then, we’ve multiplied our readership 20-fold and had a tremendous time helping spread the word of geek-parenting.
8BD: Time Magazine named GeekDad one of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010”. That’s got to be wild. Did you and your team think it’d get this big?
KD: Never. We always felt like the red-headed step-child, making it up as we went along. Really, we are all just passionate amateurs, writing about what interests us. It just turns out those things interest a lot of other people
as well. Which rocks!
8BD: You’re like the Emmett “Doc” Brown of fatherhood. What are your favorite projects so far?
KD: As long as I don’t get shot down in the old West, I’ll take that as a compliment. I still love my low-expectations version of the weather balloon camera launch, using a party balloon kit and a hand-held video camera. It’s fun coming up with big ideas that parents and kids can execute in an afternoon.
KD: The new book is so much fun because it’s all focused on science, but science you can use… to TAKE OVER THE WORLD (as one small but maniacal mouse might say). There are a lot of great experiments in there, many of them ideas submitted by GeekDad’s writers, but I am fond of the project that teaches you how to build your own spout for a proper diet soda and Mentos candy reaction, and then sets up a proper scientific protocol for studying the effect. I predict many wet garages after the book is released!
8BD: You also talk at conventions like PAX I saw a couple of topics like the right age to introduce kids to nerdy stuff like RPGs and The Hobbit, as well as how to help your kids with nerd-bullying. So, seems like, correct me if I’m wrong, you’re not just a guy showing kids how to build a radio out of paperclips and ball-point pens. It’s as much Dad as Geek. That’s important.
KD: Absolutely. As kids, those of us to self-identify as geeks and nerds were, to one extent or another, outcasts from the mainstream culture in our schools and communities. But we have our own passions, and as parents we want to do two things. We want to share our passions with our kids, so they hopefully can share them with us. And we want to help them through whatever social impacts of being other-than-mainstream.
8BD: There’s a lot of talk in the parenting community about how soon is too soon for things like cellphones and computers. What do you think? Does my two year old need an iPhone 4S?
KD: Sure, why not? Well, you might want to start with a base-model iPod Touch; infants can really ring up the texting fees if you don’t keep an eye on them. The iOS devices really are accessible and useful for almost all ages, and can make fun and learning a truly engaging experience for our kids from a very young age. I don’t see a downside.
Thanks to Ken for his time answering questions!