The idea for Nerd Merit Badges began innocently enough. After a long day working on an open source project in their shared office space, Randy Schmidt of Umlatte and John Young of Tikaro commented to each other that they thought they deserved a merit badge.
“And we thought ‘aw, what a good idea’,” said Schmidt who wanted to motivate nerds everywhere to contribute to open source projects.
And thus Nerd Merit Badges was born. Basing a lot of their work on Tikaro’s experience making patches with QR codes, the two began creating small badges with Velcro backing. So far, there are only two badges up for sale. One for the achievements of finding “Inbox Zero” and another for contributing to an open source project. Much to the surprise of Schmidt, nerdmeritbadges.com has since sent out nearly 600 badges with 100 more on backorder while garnering the attention of the New York Times.
The Times skipped over the entire New York design community to request that our duo, based in West Chester, make a special badge for its Times Open event last Friday. The two had no previous contact with the Old Grey Lady. The result was an exclusive badge made for the Times, as well as an invitation to the invite-only event.
“That was pretty cool,” said Schmidt of the event, which featured Tim O’Reilly as a speaker. “The huge New York Times seemed to be pretty personable.”
Plans for a sash, something that buyers can attach to the back of their laptops to display their badges, is in the works. Due to their lack of scout experience, the two have a girl scout sash in their office for motivation. “I don’t know if we were cool enough to be in the boy scouts,” Schmidt said. “Though John did mention something about being beat up at camp once.”
There’s also talk of a virtual sash. The idea is that users could reserve space for a sash profile at the nerdmeritbadges site. The virtual sash would display badges earned and let users petition why they deserve more. Schmidt would also like to see a competition system where users could challenge one another’s nerdiness and rip a badge off of someone’s sash.
The duo also has design plans for ten more badges, such as a “Family Help Desk” badge. “You know, for the person that everyone in the family calls for computer help,” Schmidt said. Which, by my guess, is everyone reading Technically Philly.
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