Beyond the hamster wheel

I’ve added Paul Robinson to my aggregator. (Funnily enough, I only found him when he announced he was going to stop reading my blog regularly.) Paul’s a coder and I don’t run into many of them socially, and it’s interesting to get his craftsman’s perspective on his work.

He said this recently which I liked:

Strangely, some of the best code I’ve ever seen out there is open source, which feels counter-intuitive – it’s a bunch of people doing hobby code, not something they are being paid to produce. I think it’s because there is no deadline with open source that makes it better. It has been said that programmers work on open source projects in the evening because it’s relaxing. Without the deadlines, pressures and insistence things are done a certain way, developers can revel in the intellectual nature of development. As a result, they take the time to unit test, to comment, to document to re-factor properly.

This reminds me of my speculation that the net is allowing us organise around our passions, rather than trying fit our passions around organisations. It makes complete sense to me that work done for its own satisfaction, outside the hamster wheel of deadlines and pavlovian rewards, is going to be better. That’s part of the genius of Linux.

3 thoughts on “Beyond the hamster wheel

  1. Steve

    I’ve never understood why people seem so surprised by people coding for a hobby. How many folk cook for a hobby, or take photographs or garden, or woodwork, rebuild cars and and and and!

    They’re all real professions with people who make real money from them. But those who do it for a hobby are able to put in a effort that is totally disproportionate to any economic ROI. No professional could hope to spend as much loving care and time that the hobbyist can put in.

    And that’s where I disagree with your 2nd final claim. I don’t think the ‘Net allows us to organise around our passions, rather it opens up new passions for us.

    Ain’t it grand! 🙂

  2. Paul Robinson

    Hah. Now you’re linking to me, you might have to go back into my subs. Isn’t this fun?


    I think there is an interesting point about love, passion, craftsmanship and the relationship with work. Most people work in an office they don’t like, with people they don’t like, doing work they aren’t interested in. I work from home or a coffee shop, on my own ideas, bringing in experts when needed who inspire me – as a result, I think the quality of what I produce should be higher. As to whether it is or not will be up to other people to judge in time, but I know I’m happier.

    The net does allow us to organise around our passions, and it does also open up new ones to us. The real power though comes from the fact that people who can articulate their passion and share it can benefit financially from it. In the last 45 days since my blog went live, I’ve connected with more people, more customers and more like-minded developers, than I had in the previous five years. There is something about that I want to articulate, but can’t.

    Thanks for the link, and the kind words.

  3. Johnnie Moore

    Steve, you say “I don’t think the Net allows us to organise around our passions, rather it opens up new passions for us.” Nice build. Actually I think it does both. Or new passions emerge between us…

    Paul: I think working at home changes the way we see work, and must surely increase the informality with which we engage. BTW your post reminds me of the brilliant insights of Alfie Kohn in Punished by Rewards: “Promising goodies to children for good behavior can never produce anything more than temporary obedience. In fact, the more we use artificial inducements to motivate people, the more they lose interest in what we’re bribing them to do. Rewards turn play into work, and work into drudgery.”


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