Growing Up Geek: Nicole Scott

Welcome to Growing Up Geek, an ongoing feature where we take a look back at our youth and tell stories of growing up to be the nerds that we are. Today, we have a special guest: tech journalist and co-founder of Netbooknews, Nicole Scott.

Snow Day set it all off. Seventh grade, and already I knew. In Canada everything shuts down when the snow is deep, especially school. But I was determined to go. They had a better computer than we had at home. I was going to get my allotted half hour, no matter what. I made my poor parents drive me to school anyway, and after all that, we were promptly sent away. And so my disastrous love affair with technology began.

I used my Erector Set to make my Barbie her dream car and of course she deserved an elevator and roller coaster in her dream home as well. I'm sure that all girls who really loved Barbie took the time to pimp out her stuff, right?

I remember winters helping my father build model airplanes, and spending months playing Oregon Trail. I was enthralled when the internet began in the early nineties. I knew with that raw potency -- a feeling some people call love -- it was going to change our entire world. And most of all, change me.

After a brief stint with bio-mechanics in the physics department at the University of Waterloo I decided 18 was just too young to know what I wanted to do with my life. So I left Canada and ended up in Sydney, Australia, running a small café, of all things.

But the world of tech came calling for me. Through text messaging, in fact. Australia was way ahead of Canada and the US in that regard. Pay-as-you-go phones were cheap, and non-invasive SMS was the standard way of keeping in touch.

When I returned to Canada, I felt stunted. How was it that we couldn't even send cross-carrier text messages? It wasn't until 2003 that asking your friend which carrier they were on came to and end and we could message anyone we wanted! I was shocked! How could we be so behind?

So it began, me with my backpack across two-dozen countries. Everywhere I went I paid attention to how people used and adopted their technology. I started seeking it out. Espionage that eventually blossomed into evangelism.

In India I had a Sony Discman that was just one millimeter thicker than a CD case. Somewhere along the border of Tibet I remember trading my precious lifeline of a guidebook for an MP3 player that held an incredible 150 songs! So shockingly high-tech for 2000. I ended up trading that MP3 player for my freedom later on in my travels, but that's perhaps a story to be enjoyed some other time over a pint.

In my mother's native land, the Philippines, an event took place that kicked off my obsession with how technology was changing the basic structures of human communication. In 2001 a "smart mob" toppled the Estrada government. A simple text message motivated 1 million people to gather in a single day, ultimately causing a revolution. Being connected came to represent potential for me. Potential for massive social change. And massive personal life changes.

I ended up dancing my way through Spain and even after asking my dad to sell my car, I was virtually penniless. So I got on a boat and headed over to Morocco, which to this day remains one of my favorite countries. I'm not sure if it was the steam baths that cleared my mind, but things came together for me. I had just finished installing a slammin' sound system in a restaurant to lure the tourists. I had become a nomad. Gypsy. Freelance tech mercenary. I had been traveling for a few years and realized it was time to take this all seriously. Time to go back to school and figure out how I was going to turn tech into a serious career.

At York University, back in Toronto, I met a professor, Darren Wershler-Henry. He wrote Free As In Speech and Beer. It was a fundamental work for me. Suddenly I was thrust into the debate about open source, peer-to-peer and the economics of this online revolution. I began to see how the future was going to be shaped almost exclusively by the online exchange of information.

How large companies were beginning to arrogantly implement Digital Rights Management and how forces were already moving to constrict this new freedom. How terrifying it was to discover people were generally clueless about losing their digital rights.

Lucky for me, York was chock-full of professors that allowed me to look at mobile through the glasses of their courses. I was able to turn my degree into something uniquely tailored to my interests, perhaps the advantage to going back to school a little later, is that professors are willing to help people who are genuinely excited and engaged. My double major in communications was spent studying mobile. The rest of my time, the sensual versus sexual in relation to the real and unreal in East Asian Studies. Hey, technology is sexy. Let's not forget that.

After that everything accelerated. I got a job as a mobile technology reporter for bnetTV, then met Sascha Pallenberg who was running He asked me to start and happened to be moving to Taipei. I was about to be a tech nomad again! Asia was calling my name. So I sold yet another car, gave my bearded dragon Jubjub to my dad and hopped on a plane. I've never looked back.

You can read Nicole's latest work at Netbooknews and follow her on Twitter (@nicole_scooter).