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Matt Shobe, chief design officer for Seattle gamification startup BigDoor. (Photo: Annie Laurie Malarkey)

Our latest Geek of the Week, Matt Shobe, is in charge of design for BigDoor, a Seattle-based company bringing the mechanics of video games to a variety of sites and online services. But his geek credentials go much further, from his passion for flying to his appreciation for good old-fashioned Windows keyboard shortcuts.

Continue reading for those details and more in his answers to our questionnaire.

Name: Matt Shobe

Job, hobby and/or other geeky pursuit:  By day: Chief Design Officer for BigDoor. By other day (and night): Private pilot and aviation software/simulator geek.

Coolest thing about what you do: Work with a small team where everyone knows that on any day, they may have an opportunity to destroy the business. Only in startups do you share that kind of trust and responsibility. At BigDoor, it probably doesn’t get done unless you do it (and you can be sure someone’s counting on you).

What does it mean to you to be a geek? Intense pride in complex pursuits that fulfill your curiosity and expand your know-how without giving a flip for what others think about them.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life: Use a laptop screen protector on any 6am flight from Seattle to SFO. Perhaps more importantly, surround yourself with smart people whose skills complement yours and keep working together until you achieve success or can no longer stand each other’s company. In this scenario, no other outcomes are possible – so you won’t waste much time muddling in mediocrity.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac, although nothing matches Windows’ keyboard accessibility and efficiency. (I’m among the last of a shadowy tribe that recalls Shift+Delete to cut and Shift+Insert to paste.) Linux and I maintain cordial relations at command line distance.

Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Sisko? Kirk. I don’t believe in the no-win scenario, either.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Easy: Time Machine. I’d like to see many of those newsreels in color.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … try the Hollywood model and try to reboot a startup franchise I’ve already been a part of. Consumer alerting platforms come to mind.

I once waited in line for … Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion I and II. I’ll never get those three hours outside the record store back.

Your geek role models (And why?):  Edward Tufte, for his relentless fascination with the purposeful display of data. Joss Whedon, for just about every word of bright dialogue he’s improbably gotten onto network TV and the big screen.

Greatest Game In History: The safe answer is chess or go. But since I’m a poor shot at both, I’m going with baseball. Because I love how analytics and nostalgia combine to create America’s ultimate steampunk pastime. Besides, where else do managers wear the same uniform as the players?

Best Gadget Ever:  Any handheld GPS navigator, or maybe night vision goggles. What else gives you a personal superpower?

First computer: An Atari 800. We special-ordered it from the Sears store in town, I think. Boot from cartridge or floppy? Yes!

Current phone: A Google standard-issue Nexus S.

Favorite app: TripIt Pro. So keeps me organized when I travel, so worth the premium edition as it’s paid for itself 2x over with fare drop alerts on already-purchased tickets.

Favorite hangout: Uh, Google+ hangouts? I don’t really have a regular real-world one.

Favorite cause: Childrens’ Medical Missions West ( This Ohio charity brings children from third world countries to the United States for critical surgical procedures.

Most important technology of 2011: Social networking APIs – and more importantly, the widespread realization that the web is now about people, so there is ample will to apply them.

Most important technology of 2015: Carbon-neutral, consumer-appealing personal transportation. The electric car or its successor hits a tipping point with the US and growing Chinese and Indian middle classes.

Words of advice for your fellow geeks: Take an improv class. Its performance anxiety-conquering, spot problem-solving tactics mark one of the easiest risk/reward bets you’ll ever make on your own potential as a professional.

Site: My own? links to everything that matters to me.

Geek of the Week is a regular feature profiling the characters of the Pacific Northwest technology community. See the Geek of the Week archive for more.

Does someone you know deserve this distinguished honor? Send nominations to

[Geek of the Week photography by Annie Laurie Malarkey,]

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