Empathy is: “…the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand him better; intellectual idenfication of oneself with another.” (Webster’s 1979)
A lot of geeks, while growing up, feel a gnawing need to differentiate one’s self and be special. This passion for being unique and differentiating the self contributes to interests ranging from languages to art to programming. One could go as far as saying it is an essential key to being better than average at any of these interests. However, on the flip side is the fact that becoming accustomed to being different could be detrimental to having a normal perspective on things. The aspects where one is different are inevitably the same parts which lead to a loss of empathy and being unable to understand what others need (which is rarely OpenID.)
If one has any plans of building applications which would be useful to “normal” people, it is important that one not lose touch with what others find important and focus solely on technical brilliance. It is important to go outside the tech industry and talk to to people. Being able to observe how people work in life, and unobtrusively augment these processes with technology… that is where the key lies.
We need genius to shape the future, yet we also require a capacity to understand those who might be less inclined to our ways.