Generative hobbies | Seths blog

Some people say “hobby” as if it is a bad thing. In a race for more, it seems like doing something you are not paid for, something that requires patience and skill – yes, some people do not understand. They would rather troll around on social media or watch a rebroadcast.

A generation or two ago, hobbies were things like paint by number or candle making or maybe a lumber mill. That is about to change. Not just because computers allow us to be far more professional, but because the very nature of the output is different.

This may be the golden age of a new kind of hobby, one that is about community, leadership and the production of public goods, not private ones.

Because it’s so much easier to connect, and because ideas multiply, the generative hobby gives us a chance to make a contribution, even (especially) when we’re not at work. Sharing ideas, leading, connecting …

Wikipedia is the result of 5,000 people working together to produce a resource used by one billion people. The people who have contributed the most do not work there, they’re working on it.

Jeff Atwood transforms a long-lost and influential book into a modern tool for a new generation. Github is a professional tool, but it has also become a clearing house for projects that simply exist to make things better.

It’s magical when it works. I’ve spent the last three months working with a cadre of people on a community project, and it’s been a highlight of my career.

Perhaps “generative contribution” is a better name for it. But I’m all for recycling “hobbies” because the way we spend our time is the way we spend our lives.

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