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The Tyranny of Convenience - The New York Times
"Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.

For all its influence as a shaper of individual decisions, the greater power of convenience may arise from decisions made in aggregate, where it is doing so much to structure the modern economy. Particularly in tech-related industries, the battle for convenience is the battle for industry dominance.

Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows.

Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country. I don’t want to suggest that convenience is a force for evil. Making things easier isn’t wicked. On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.

But we err in presuming convenience is always good, for it has a complex relationship with other ideals that we hold dear. Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.

It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much."



"By the late 1960s, the first convenience revolution had begun to sputter. The prospect of total convenience no longer seemed like society’s greatest aspiration. Convenience meant conformity. The counterculture was about people’s need to express themselves, to fulfill their individual potential, to live in harmony with nature rather than constantly seeking to overcome its nuisances. Playing the guitar was not convenient. Neither was growing one’s own vegetables or fixing one’s own motorcycle. But such things were seen to have value nevertheless — or rather, as a result. People were looking for individuality again.

Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that the second wave of convenience technologies — the period we are living in — would co-opt this ideal. It would conveniencize individuality.

You might date the beginning of this period to the advent of the Sony Walkman in 1979. With the Walkman we can see a subtle but fundamental shift in the ideology of convenience. If the first convenience revolution promised to make life and work easier for you, the second promised to make it easier to be you. The new technologies were catalysts of selfhood. They conferred efficiency on self-expression."



"I do not want to deny that making things easier can serve us in important ways, giving us many choices (of restaurants, taxi services, open-source encyclopedias) where we used to have only a few or none. But being a person is only partly about having and exercising choices. It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.

Convenience has to serve something greater than itself, lest it lead only to more convenience. In her 1963 classic, “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan looked at what household technologies had done for women and concluded that they had just created more demands. “Even with all the new labor-saving appliances,” she wrote, “the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more “easy” tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.

An unwelcome consequence of living in a world where everything is “easy” is that the only skill that matters is the ability to multitask. At the extreme, we don’t actually do anything; we only arrange what will be done, which is a flimsy basis for a life.

We need to consciously embrace the inconvenient — not always, but more of the time. Nowadays individuality has come to reside in making at least some inconvenient choices. You need not churn your own butter or hunt your own meat, but if you want to be someone, you cannot allow convenience to be the value that transcends all others. Struggle is not always a problem. Sometimes struggle is a solution. It can be the solution to the question of who you are.

Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him.

Such activities take time, but they also give us time back. They expose us to the risk of frustration and failure, but they also can teach us something about the world and our place in it.

So let’s reflect on the tyranny of convenience, try more often to resist its stupefying power, and see what happens. We must never forget the joy of doing something slow and something difficult, the satisfaction of not doing what is easiest. The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity."
timwu  convenience  efficiency  psychology  business  2018  inconvenience  effort  technology  economics  work  labor  conformity  value  meaning  selfhood  self-expression  change  individuality  slow  slowness  customization  individualization  amazon  facebook  apple  multitasking  experience  human  humanness  passions  hobbies  resistance  struggle  choice  skill  mobile  phones  internet  streaming  applemusic  itunes 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Learning Despite School — LifeLearn — Medium
"While organised education and deliberate, goal-oriented practice has its place, and is indeed critical, it needs to be balanced with the development of social competence and intrinsic motivation. The vast majority of learning happens in informal social situations within communities of like minded people, where individuals take initiative and learn to work with other people in meaningful settings. Schools may hinder this important avenue of growth and increase stress and anxiety.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu.

The role of informal learning

The importance of informal learning in all areas of life cannot be overstated. For anyone observing people going about their life, it is obvious that every waking moment (and indeed, also sleeping moments) presents experiences which shape our brains, and thus, learning happens. Historically, informal learning has been off the spotlights since it is more difficult to study than organised forms of education. However, during the 21st century, surveys have shown that the majority of learning happens in informal settings[1], and even governmental policies have changed to encourage informal learning[4].

Learning within workplaces can be divided into non-formal and informal learning. If these terms are unfamiliar, here are short definitions:

• Formal education is highly institutionalised, bureaucratic, curriculum driven, and formally recognised with grades, diplomas, or certificates.[1]

• Non-formal learning is organised learning outside of the formal education system.[1]

• Informal learning occurs in community, where individuals have opportunities to observe and participate in social activities.[2]

The clear majority of learning within workplaces is informal[3], even though companies spend huge resources on non-formal training of their employees.

Likewise it can be argued that a large portion of learning that happens in schools stems from informal activities, such as social interactions during recess. The magnitude of this informal learning clearly depends on how strictly pupils and their time use are controlled by the faculty. Most resources in educational systems are spent in the advancement of formal education.

How Finnish schools enable informal learning

Finnish primary schools consistently rank high in various international studies, and produce excellent educational outcomes. While there are several reasons behind the success of Finnish schools, one of their typical features is the large amount of free time pupils are given.

• For every 45 minutes of class time, 15 minutes of recess are provided. Recess is free undirected time, usually spent outdoors.

• 30–45 minutes are reserved each day for lunch, provided by the school.

• Children enter school the year they turn 7, giving them more years of free childhood than in most other educational systems.

• School days are short, starting with 4–5 hours in the lower grades, and growing to 6–8 in higher grades.

• The amount of homework is light, usually between 0–4 hours per week.

• Classroom time often includes group work, project work, and personalised learning activities.

All this generates lots of time in children’s lives where they can independently (or with partial guidance) decide what to do, explore their surroundings, and experience new things. All of this is informal learning and it can cultivate skills such as independence, critical thinking, accountability, social competence, self-efficacy, metacognition, time management, planning, and emotional intelligence.

Balancing academic, social and physical development

Finnish studies on pupils’ hobbies and free time use show that the constructive and positive spirit in classrooms increases as pupils spend more of their free time with each other; as their classmates become closer friends, motivation to attend classes increases; and continuing into higher education is more likely. Results also highlight the importance of non-programmed time, where teens are not supposed to do anything or achieve something. Exploration and experimentation are important. Creative crossing of boundaries of accepted behaviour is also important for the teens’ ethical development.[5] Social competence even as early as age 5 has been shown to be connected with adult life quality and productivity[8].

The effects of physical exercise to cognitive capacity and ability to focus are clear and are changing even workplace practices (e.g. walking meetings). Studies of Finnish students have shown that physical exercise has a positive effect on learning and cognitive functions, such as memory and executive functions, and can possibly affect academic achievement[6].

On the other hand, it is clear that to develop top talent in any field (including sports), young people need a balance of training, competition, and free play and exploration. Focusing too early on serious practice activities that are not enjoyable will damage intrinsic motivation[7].

In countries where schools control their pupils more strictly, opportunities for informal learning are diminished. Children then tend to focus their interests and motivation on their hobbies that happen after school. In some countries, children spend nearly all their waking hours on formal learning tasks, which may produce good academic outcomes, but limits severely the benefits that informal learning could provide. Finnish schools show that an approach that emphasises children’s natural tendencies for exploration and learning, can also provide excellent academic results.

Summary

A clear majority of learning for any individual happens in informal settings. While formal education and on-the-job training play a role, they will be more effective if they can acknowledge and accommodate informal learning that individuals will engage in regardless. In practice this means at least giving time for non-directed social activities, reflection, and physical activities. In addition, utilising learners’ own life interests in making formal training more engaging and relevant will increase learning outcomes significantly. Combining formal and informal is at the core of learner-centric approaches."
education  unschooling  deschooling  learning  informal  informallearning  schools  social  training  finland  play  competition  freeplay  howwlearn  howweteach  teaching  hobbies  constructivism  experimentation  2016  schedules  time  independence  timemanagement  planning  criticalthinking  accountability  metacognition  laotzu  tarmotoikkanen  competence  motivation  stress  anxiety 
july 2016 by robertogreco
15min in the morning: Homework is Bullshit — Technology Musings
"One of the pain points of parenthood is knowing that every choice I have for sending my daughter into school is likely going to grind out much of her enthusiasm for learning, bit by bit, through shitloads of homework.

The phrase you often see is that schools have an “academic focus.” Avoid those like the plague.

All of it is total fucking bullshit.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up” — Pablo Picasso

My gut feeling is this started sometime in the late 1990s, as the quest for higher academics was misconstrued by parents and schools into “giving the kids lots of homework will equal mastery in every subject.”

I still remember the news stories from the early 2000s, about gradeschool kids taking home backpacks so filled with books for completing homework that they were developing back troubles. By the mid-2000s my first friends with kids entered schools and talked about two to three hours of nightly homework at the “academic” schools. My own child hit kindergarten around 2010 and I hoped the thirst for mindless drudgery had dissipated but sadly, it did not.

Looking back (and acknowledging it’s through deep shades of nostalgia), I loved my childhood including school. I grew up in Southern California, so weather wasn’t a variable in my life and I could work all day at school and play all evening at home. I didn’t have nightly homework until high school, and it was fucking grand. I rode my bike for hours every night, visited local parks, played in the woods, played Atari 2600 at home, ran on cross country teams, and generally had a good time palling around my neighborhood with friends for hour after mindless hour. In my younger days, I spent as much time behind a desk at home as I was in the community pool, and I think I turned out alright.

College is mostly about the work you do outside the classroom lectures, so homework is required and expected, but we’ve lost sight of high school serving as college prep, which is a good time to teach study skills and introduce homework to students. But asking 8 year olds to spend two hours every night doing repetitive math worksheets? What the fuck is the point of that?

Kids today only have time for one or two sporadic hobbies. I know more than one twelve year old that can’t play guitar because of homework loads. Sports require huge blocks of time that are hard to work into after school schedules, despite our pushes to get kids moving and be less sedentary.

We’ve spent the last 15 years pushing kids through punishing homework regimens which would mean those young kids of the early 2000s are entering college now. Did we raise an entire generation of math super students crushing standards at levels never seen before? Or did we pulverize most kids’ curiosity and love for learning along the way? A high homework load seems like we’re preparing kids for boring, repetitive behavior, like those found in many factory jobs. Will there be any factory jobs ten years from now?

Kids need downtime. Play is important. Kids can love learning, pursue any hobby they like, and fill idle time with their imagination. These are the things I fear we lose every time we ask children to spend hours every night on what basically amounts to busywork."
homework  sfsh  schools  matthaughey  2016  parenting  children  hobbies  academics  education  learning  busywork  play  downtime  howwelearn  howwelern  curiosity  loveoflearning  deschooling  unschooling 
july 2016 by robertogreco
A man and his hobbies: If you want to be a better person, find something to do outside of work — Quartz
"Our hobbies tell a great deal about us and our world: about how we choose to present our lives to others; about the burdensome, expectation-freighted nature of free time; about our slippery relationship with the exigencies of productivity in late-capitalist society. Hobbies are a corner of our existence over which we have the impression of control, a sphere in which we feel we can achieve a kind of mastery usually denied to us in our wider personal and professional lives. In All the Names, José Saramago says that hobbyists act out of “metaphysical angst, perhaps because they cannot bear the idea of chaos being the one ruler of the universe, which is why, using their limited powers and with no divine help, they attempt to impose some order on the world.”"



"Reading Veblen strips hobbies of much of their pleasure. You suddenly catch a glimpse of yourself in the third person, tending your bonsai trees, or knitting, or perusing your collection of Cape of Good Hope triangle postage stamps, and you recognize that you are merely conforming to the exigencies of economics, indulging in conspicuous leisure as a way of tying yourself ever-tighter to the capitalist machine. You work in order to make enough money to indulge your hobby, the obsession grows deeper and more compulsive, and requires more time than you have, more money than you can earn. Leisure time is tainted by its symbiotic existence with labor.

There’s a different interpretation of hobbies, though. We’re increasingly recognizing that Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs got it wrong when it relegated hobbies to a distant corner of “self-actualization” (the fifth and least important of the needs.) Hobbies are of central importance to our psychological well-being. A recent study by Kevin Eschelman at San Francisco State University found that workers recovered more quickly from the demands of their working lives if allowed to indulge in hobbies in their free time. Similarly, Google discovered that its 20% rule–allowing employees to spend 20% of their work time pursuing projects of their own choosing–led to more focused, productive employees.

Even these examples fail to break the linkage between labor and leisure time, though. Tom Sawyer said that “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and… Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” Our hobbies should be a form of dissent, a radical expression of our individuality, a celebration of doing things that we’re “not obliged to do.” In a world in which our work lives and non-work lives are Venn diagrams with ever-growing areas of intersection–part of me dies every time I read a Twitter profile that states that the user’s views are not a reflection of those of his or her institution–hobbies should celebrate their independence from labor."
hobbies  leisure  production  work  2016  balance  life  living  alexpreston  josésaramngo  industrialization  abrahammaslow  labor 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Why telling kids to dream big is a big con – Leslie Garrett – Aeon
"Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of How to Raise an Adult (2015) and a former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, routinely counselled students whose dreams were less lofty than what their parents expected – students who wanted to be nurses, not doctors, or high‑school teachers, not university professors. ‘I sat with those students and listened to them going through the motions of doing the work in the fields they felt were legitimate or expected or required, and I was interested in what this human in front of me actually wanted to do with their life, and how can I support them in listening to that voice in their own head?’

The problem, she says, isn’t telling kids you can be anything, it’s our narrow idea of what ‘anything’ is. ‘We’re equating it with prestige, power, title, money, certain sectors. If we could shift, over the next decade, toward high achievement being the equivalent of knowing your skills and your values and your passion, and living accordingly, imagine what a different world we’d be living in.’

Cleantis says the issues must be reframed: our dreams are more often about what we hope to feel than what we want to do. ‘There’s a kind of unspoken narrative: if I become this, if I do this, if I achieve this, then I will be loved, I will have self-acceptance,’ she says. By deconstructing what we hope to achieve emotionally, ‘it’s possible to find other ways of achieving that.’

Cal Newport, the author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You (2012) and a computer science researcher at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, adds that we have got the passion/purpose equation backwards. ‘It misrepresents how people actually end up passionate about their work,’ he says. ‘It assumes that people must have a pre-existing passion, and the only challenge is identifying it and raising the courage to pursue it. But this is nonsense.’ Passion doesn’t lead to purpose but rather, the other way around. People who get really good at something that’s useful and that the world values become passionate about what they’re doing. Finding a great career is a matter of picking something that feels useful and interesting. Not only will you find great meaning in the honing of the craft itself, but having a hard-won skill puts you in a position to dictate how your professional life unfolds.

Newport’s recommendation begs examination of another aspect of the ‘you-can-be-anything’ framework: should we expect to pursue a passion within our career or is it wiser to try to satisfy it outside of one? Sure, it’s convenient (and nice!) to be paid for something we’d love to do anyway. But is it realistic?

Marty Nemko, a career counsellor in the San Francisco Bay Area and the public radio host of Work with Marty Nemko, offers up a resounding ‘no’. He’s all for people pursuing their dreams, as a hobby. ‘Do what you love,’ he says, ‘but don’t expect to get paid for it.’ Of course, he says, there will be those who can – and do – make it in fields that are highly competitive. Maybe your passion for computer programming, or for splicing atoms, brushes up against career fields that offer plenty of opportunity. But, if like many, making a career out of your passion is a long-shot, instead of giving it up, incorporate it into your free time.

Lythcott-Haims encouraged her students to look at three things: what am I good at; what am I passionate about; and what are my values? Then, she told them to ask: ‘How can I spend a meaningful part of my week – whether career or hobby – living at the intersection of those things?’

Maybe our parents and grandparents had it right when they pursued their passions and hobbies – which offered up meaning and mastery – in their free time. Like Krznaric’s father, who made music outside his job. Or like Nemko himself who gave up working as a professional pianist for psychology.

Krznaric suggests a slightly different model – that of the ‘wide achiever’ who does several jobs at the same time, such as someone who works as an accountant for three days a week and a photographer for two. It’s a smart approach in an unstable economy where, he says, ‘the average job lasts four years’. It also recognises that ‘who we are changes throughout our lives. We’re really bad judges of our future selves.’

‘You can be anything you want to be’ is pithy advice that isn’t helping most of the young launch careers or find satisfaction in life. If we really think about it, few of us mean it literally. Twenge has told her daughter that ‘when people say you can be anything, it’s not true. For example, you can’t be a dinosaur.’ Perhaps what we’re really trying to say to our children is that we trust in their ability to build a meaningful life.

‘[Adults] should say: be what you’re capable of,’ says Gwenyth, ‘not you could be anything. I’m not very good in dance. That’s like telling me I could be a professional dancer. No. No, I couldn’t be.’"
children  parenting  teaching  howweteach  julielythcott-haims  calnewport  lesliegarrett  careers  hobbies  passion  romankrznaric 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The best art criticism shouldn’t even talk about art – Steve Cottingham opens the door, but can’t walk through | Lebenskünstler
"I would not so humbly offer my own “practice” (which of course isn’t one, or can’t be called one without scare quotes) as a partial solution to some of the quandaries posed. Take the conversation out of the hands of the art journals, the symposia, the universities, and into all the disreputable, trivial places like facebook, blogs, and bars. Maybe the best art criticism shouldn’t even talk about art. Be polite. Be mean. Be drunk. Be angry. Be respectful. Be a fucking jerk. Each is an appropriate tactic at certain times. But above all, don’t take yourself too seriously especially if you insist on continuing to talk about art. We must truly address the “problem with professionalization” (something I’ve posted about extensively on this blog) as Cottingham puts it [emphasis added]:
Art criticism is in crisis because we have a problem with professionalization. We are steeped in the vernacular of capitalism, and we are afraid to leave it. Our world is rife with administration, mimicking the bureaucratic processes of the corporations so many of us profess to hate. We are content to let our artistry cease as soon we begin writing proposals, drafting business letters, and carefully collating our résumés. We push limits and subvert expectations everywhere except on the back-end, that realm which increasingly dominates artistic practices.

Too often, we seek to industrialize our passions. We simultaneously demand creative and financial nourishment from what my grandmother’s friend once dismissively called “a hobby.” Art critics laud artwork that resists capitalist pressures, but rarely does the criticism equally embody the form of this resistance.

I have also talked incessantly about monetizing passions and what that, along with adopting a language and culture of work implies for such passions. So, I would offer the same advice to art critics, that Kaprow offered to artists: “Once the task of the artist was to make good art [criticism]; now it is to avoid making art [criticism] of any kind.” Or: “Artists [art critics] of the world, drop out! You have nothing to lose but your professions!” And finally: “…the idea of art cannot easily be gotten rid of (even if one wisely never utter the word). But it is possible to slyly shift the whole un-artistic operation away from where the arts customarily congregate, to become, for instance, an account executive, an ecologist, a stunt rider, a politician, a beach bum. In these different capacities…[art] would operate indirectly as a stored code that, instead of programming a specific course of behavior, would facilitate an attitude of deliberate playfulness toward all professionalizing activities well beyond art.” So rather than being art critics, become unart critics. Congregate in those uncustomary places, use your creative/critical/empathetic/poetic/agitational powers in every nook and cranny – sometimes, if you insist, in the mausoleum of art , but don’t be “afraid to leave it” either because I “can’t imagine a more thrilling place to be.”"
randallszott  2015  art  artcriticism  criticism  professionalization  unart  stevecottingham  capitalism  work  hobbies  artleisure  leisurearts  resistance  bureaucracy  careerism 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Episode Forty One: When You're Part Of A Team; The Dabbler
"The thing is, a lot of this behaviour is very easy to mistake for cult-like behaviour from the outside. Apple frequently gets described as a cult - not only are its employees members of the cult, but its customers are described in terms of being followers, too. And you see this cult behaviour in terms of the reverence expressed toward dear leaders (Messrs Wieden and Kennedy, for example, or the brain trust at Pixar, or Steve at Apple) but also in terms of the transmission of the values of those leaders. Wieden prides itself on a number of maxims ranging from a thousands-of-thumbtacks installation done by members of its advertising school of the slogan FAIL HARDER (with requisite misplaced thumbtack) to pretty much every employee being able to understand what's meant by "the work comes first" even if they do need a bit of re-education as to how, exactly, the work comes first (ie: it is not a get out of jail free card when you disagree with the client about what counts as good work). Then there are the Other Rules, the ones practically handed down from the mount (or, more accurately, discovered in an office scribbled in pen) that state:

1. Don't act big
2. No sharp stuff
3. Follow directions
4. Shut up when someone is talking to you

and turned out to be a parent's note to their child but actually not that bad advice when you think about it.

[See also: http://wklondon.typepad.com/welcome_to_optimism/2005/02/words_from_wied.html ]

And now, another nascent organisation, another one that I constantly harp on about: the UK's Government Digital Service. I don't think it's a coincidence that from the outside two of the people (but certainly by no means the only people) influential in the success of GDS and its culture are Russell Davies and Ben Terrett, both of whom have been through the Wieden+Kennedy, er, experience.

Russell is an exceedingly smart, unassuming and humble person who has a singularly incredibly ability to be almost devastatingly insightful and plain-speaking at the same time. It feels rare to see both at the same time. But what he's articulating at the moment in terms of GDS strategy and implementation is the thought that "the unit of delivery is the team" and when you're building a new organisation from the ground up, and one whose success is tied directly to its ability to embed within and absorb the culture of an existing massive entity, the UK civil service, it feels like watching a (so far successful) experiment in sociology and anthropology being deployed in realtime. A note (and thanks to Matthew Solle for the clarification because it's an important one): while the GDS works with the civil service, it's not actually a part of it, instead being a part of the cabinet office and being more tied to the government of the day.

So there are macro-level observations about Pixar that you glean from books and other secondary sources, but it's not until you visit the place and start to talk to the people who work there that understand starts to feel that it unlocks a little more. I'm lucky enough to know one person at Pixar who's been gracious enough to host me a few times and while we were talking about the culture of the place and how, exactly, they get done what they get done, one thing that struck me was the role of the individual and the individual's place in the team.

You see, one of the things it felt like they concentrated on was empowerment and responsibility but also those two things set against context. My friend would talk about how every person on his team would know what their superpower was - the thing they were good at, the thing that they were expert at - and everyone else would know what that superpower was, too. And the culture thus fostered was one where everyone was entitled to have a reckon or an opinion about something and were listened to, but when it came down to it, the decision and authority rested with the expert.

Now, this might not sound like a stunningly insightful revelation. Allowing people to have opinions about the work of the greater team and then restricting decision-making to those best qualified to make it sounds on the surface like a fairly reasonable if not obvious tenet, and maybe even one that because of its obviousness would seem reasonably easy if not trivial to implement. Well, if you think that, then I'm sorry, it sounds like you've never been a good manager before: it turns out to be exceedingly difficult.

At this point the narrative begins to sound rather trite: Pixar, and the companies like it that consistently achieve "good" results and are able to marshall the resources of large teams to accomplish something greater, are simply trying harder than all the other ones. And in the end, it may well be as simple as that. It's easy to have a mission statement. It's easy to have values. It's significantly harder to try as hard you can, every single day, for thirty years, to actually live them.

In the same way that one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply say that one has a set of values or culture and it magically happen.

This is perhaps best illustrated in the blindness of the new wave of stereotypical valley startups that rail against bureaucracy and instead insist that their trademarked culture of holocracy inures them to the requirement of bureaucracy. That the way they instinctively do things is sufficient in and of itself. Well: bullshit to that. That simply doesn't scale, and the companies that think they're doing that - and I'm looking at you, Github, winner so far of the Best Example Of The Need To Grow Up award of 2014 and we've not even finished the first quarter of the year - are living in some sort of hundred-million-dollar VC-fueled fantasy land. Which, I suppose, goes without saying.

I began this part by implying something about teams, and I sort of alluded to it when mentioning the GDS maxim that the unit of delivery is the team.

I think it's becoming clear that the type of delivery that is expected in this age by its nature requires a multi-disciplinary team that works together. It's not enough, anymore, to have specialisms siloed away, and one thing that jumped out at me recently was the assertion in conversation on Twitter with a number of GDS members that there isn't anybody with the role of "user experience" at GDS. Everyone, each and every single member of the team, is responsible and accountable to the user experience of delivery, from operations to design to copy and research.

The sharpest end of this is where digital expertise had traditionally been siloed away in a sort of other. In a sort of check-boxing exercise, organisations would recruit in those with digital experience and either for reasons of expediency or for their own good, would shepherd them into a separate organisational unit. Davies' point - and one that is rapidly becoming clear - is that this just doesn't make sense anymore. I would qualify that and say that it doesn't make sense for certain organisations, but I'm not even sure if I can do that, and instead should just agree that it's a rule across the board.

Of course, the devil is always in the detail of the implementation."



"The thing about hobbies in the networked age is that it's incredibly easy for them to become performative instead of insular. That's not to say that insular hobbies are great, but the networked performance of a hobby comes with seductive interactions built not necessarily for the hobbyist's benefit but for the benefit of the network substrate or medium. As a general reckon, hobbies in their purest form are nothing but intrinsic motivation: whether they're an idiosyncratic desire to catalogue every single model of rolling stock in the UK or increasingly intricate nail art, before the hobby becomes performative it is for the self's benefit only, a sort of meditation in repetitive action and a practice.

The hobby as the networked performance, though (and I realise that at this point I may well sound like a reactionary luddite who doesn't 'get' the point of social media) perhaps too easily tips the balance in favour of extrinsic motivation. Whether that extrinsic motivation is in terms of metrics like followers, likes, retweets, subscribers or other measurable interaction with the hobbyist the point remains that it's there, and it's never necessarily for a clear benefit for the hobbyist. You could perhaps absolve blame and say that such metrics are intrinsic properties of the enactment of a social graph and that they're making explicit what would be rendered as implicit feedback cues in any event, but I don't buy that. They were put there for a reason. Friend counts and subscriber counts were put there because those of us who are product designers and of the more geeky persuasion realised that we could count something (and here, we get to point the finger at the recording pencil of the train spotter), and the step from counting something to making visible that count was a small one and then our evolutionary psychology and comparison of sexual fitness took over and before you knew it people were doing at the very least SXSW panels or if you were really lucky TED talks about gamification and leaderboards and whether you had more Fuelpoints than your friends.

So that's what happened to the hobby: it moved from the private to the public and at the same time the dominant public medium of the day, the one that all of us had access to, marched inexorably to measurement, quantification and feedback loops of attention."
danhon  leadership  administration  management  pixar  wk  gov.uk  russelldavies  benterrett  authority  empowerment  collaboration  teams  2014  hobbies  expertise  trust  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  motivation  performance 
march 2014 by robertogreco
A Thing Worth Doing [Gilbert Chersterson]
"Chesterton consistly defended the amateur against the professional, or the “generalist” against the specialist, especially when it came to “the things worth doing.” There are things like playing the organ or discovering the North Pole, or being Astronomer Royal, which we do not want a person to do at all unless he does them well. But those are not the most important things in life. When it comes to writing one’s own love letters and blowing one’s own nose, “these things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly.” This, argues Chesterton (in Orthodoxy) is “the democratic faith: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves – the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state.”

As for “the rearing of the young,” which is the education of the very young, this is a job not for the specialist or the professional, but for the “generalist” and the amateur. In other words, for the mother, who Chesterton argues is “broad” where men are “narrow.” In What’s Wrong with the World, Chesterton forsaw the dilemma of daycare and the working mother, that children would end up being raised by “professionals” rather than by “amateurs.” And here we must understand “amateur” in its truest and most literal meaning. An amateur is someone who does something out of love, not for money. She does what she does not because she is going to be paid for her services and not because she is the most highly skilled, but because she wants to do it. And she does “the things worth doing,” which are the things closest and most sacred to all of humanity – nurturing a baby, teaching a child the first things, and, in fact, all things.

The line, “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” is not an excuse for poor efforts. It is perhaps an excuse for poor results. But our society is plagued by wanting good results with no efforts (or rather, with someone else’s efforts). We hire someone else to work for us, to play for us (that is, to entertain us), to think for us, and to raise our children for us. We have left “the things worth doing” to others, on the poor excuse that others might be able to do them better.

Finally, and less heavily, we should also point out that the phrase is a defense of hobbies. This was confirmed by Chesterton himself."
gilbertchesterson  via:sebastienmarion  teaching  expertise  generalists  specialists  life  living  children  parenting  hobbies  amateurs  professionals  cv  daycare  love  money 
july 2013 by robertogreco
jaggeree /Blog : : User centric design and real stories in hobbies
“We should own less but with more value – Things we own need to perform better for us”– Assa Ashuach

"The stories that anyone apart from an experienced practitioner could tell are only ones of failure and disappointment, not a way to encourage more people into the hobby."

"There seem to be a group of people missing currently in the world of making kits for hobbies; the “user”. All too often the kits I encounter are designed for the manufacturer not the customer. We’d like through the project we’re starting to fix that.

The other thing we’re going to try and fix is designing for more than one. I want to build kits which are designed all around the experience of the customer and for them to tell a friend/peers/others what they’ve done. It is all about, to use a phrase from Matt Locke, about designing for at least two."
storytelling  stories  modification  needs  wants  possessions  value  qualityoverquantity  modelmaking  3dprinting  sharing  experience  designingfortwo  hobbies  design  user-centered  users  user  2012  tomarmitage  mattlocke 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Keynote by Sumana Harihareswara - Open Source Bridge wiki
“It can be pretty tough to decide that free is better than safe.”

"When you do outreach, help these kids fight their parents. And of course that's a bit strong -- we don't actually want fights. We want to help kids persuade their parents that we're legit and that this hobby is worthwhile."

"Providing random low-key social time is important ... and it's worthwhile to work towards diversity in the participants, so that girl can tell her mom, yes, there will be other girls there.”

“Empowerment is like turtles, it goes all the way down.”

“maybe you can start by giving them a tiny, tiny task that they can start with. That first free taste. Manager time versus maker time…”

“I'm asking you for the kind of hospitality that my parents showed new arrivals, sometimes on zero notice.”

"[T]his work of hospitality, of disciplined empathy, is how we get to a more perfect union."
hobbies  wikipedia  meaningmaking  meaning  permission  soacesofpermission  socialtime  low-keysocialtime  openstudio  cv  empowerment  risktaking  risk  safety  safe  society  deschooling  unschooling  freedom  gender  girls  culture  hospitality  makertime  2012  community  welcome  empathy  teaching  opensource  learning  sumanaharihareswara  makerstime  makersschedule 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Focused dabbling - Neven Mrgan's tumbl
"The hardest thing for humans to persuade each other of is priorities. Should you be an exercise freak? A computer wiz? A classical-literature buff? A badass hiker? A game maker? A dedicated volunteer? A great cook? These are all worthy activities, each enriching your life and likely the lives of others. Our pasts lead us to a mix of a few obsessions, and hopefully we keep our minds open to many more. Those of us who commit to honing that one art may index excel at it. But for my doomed attempt at convincing you of how to arrange your life, I suggest a solid interest in, oh, three or five Big Things. They will compete for your attention, and the vagaries of fate will lead you toward one, then another. Things you learn in the first will improve you in the second, then bring you to a whole new third. You will be a happier and better person for branching out a bit."
howwework  work  attention  meaning  creativegeneralists  generalists  interdisciplinary  learning  hobbies  dabbling  focus  2011  nevenmrgan 
december 2011 by robertogreco
How To Steal Like An Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me) - Austin Kleon
"All advice is autobiographical.

It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past. This list is me talking to a previous version of myself.

Your mileage may vary…

1. Steal like an artist… 2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things…  3. Write the book you want to read… 4. Use your hands… 5. Side projects and hobbies are important… 6. The secret: do good work and put it where people can see it… 7. Geography is no longer our master… 8. Be nice. The world is a small town… 9. Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done… 10. Creativity is subtraction…"
glvo  howto  wisdom  austinkleon  design  creativity  writing  work  howwework  calendars  routine  life  kindness  invention  make  making  do  doing  geography  location  boring  boringness  sharing  cv  projects  sideprojects  hobbies  manual  starting  via:steelemaley 
april 2011 by robertogreco
American English Dialects
As Michal Migurski puts it: "Completely ludicrous dialect superpage:"<br />
"This is just a little hobby of mine, that I thought might be interesting to a lot of people. Some people collect stamps. Others collect coins. I collect dialects. Please let me know what you think of this page. - Rick Aschmann (Last updated: December 27, 2010.)"
language  linguistics  metafilter  dialect  maps  mapping  english  northamerica  us  canada  hobbies  hardcorehobbyists  location  regional 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Coudal Partners: a film by steve delahoyde: I Have A Few
"As a company that gets totally excited about shiny new ideas, only rarely see them through to completion, we're right in tune w/ Hobbies, 5th film in our SD's "Regrets" series" via:http://www.brightcove.tv/title.jsp?title=1457712577&channel=1305319453
coudal  film  humor  hobbies  generalists  curiosity  cv 
march 2008 by robertogreco
HobbyPrincess: Draft Craft Manifesto
"I’ve been trying to pin down what is driving the increasing popularity of crafting for a while now. This is what I’ve got so far"
activism  crafts  craft  diy  manifestos  making  make  sustainability  society  skills  selfpublishing  hobbies  hacks  hacking  community  gadgets  fun  gamechanging  trends  interaction  opensource  longtail  glvo  build  design  culture  creativity  create  howto  self-publishing 
november 2007 by robertogreco
157 Home Workshop [from A Pattern Language]
[Wayback: http://web.archive.org/web/20080206191755/http://www.ahartman.com/apl/patterns/apl157.htm ]

"As the decentralization of work becomes more and more effective, the workshop in the home grows and grows in importance."



"Make a place in the home, where substantial work can be done; not just a hobby, but a job. Change the zoning laws to encourage modest, quiet work operations to locate in neighborhoods. Give the workshop perhaps a few hundred square feet; and locate it so it can be seen from the street and the owner can hang out a shingle."
christopheralexander  design  change  homes  housing  work  hobbies  learning  society  urban  lcproject  glvo  apatternlanguage  unschooling  deschooling  studios  studioclassroom  decentralization  schools  education 
july 2007 by robertogreco
Gazette | First Person: Essays - "Forget everything you’ve heard about work/life boundaries."
"Carrie wasn’t the only one building a career with a slash in the middle of it. It was happening everywhere. From banker/novelists to lawyer/chefs and mommy/CEOs, the slash had graduated from a mere punctuation mark to the new must-have resume accessory
careers  work  hobbies  passion  life 
march 2007 by robertogreco
Creative Generalist: Leonardos
"From this article about science-culture hybrid champion Seed Media Group's foray into a blog network [also something Maisonneuve pioneered early (but, sadly, appears to have neglected lately)] comes mention of a new target group: "Leonardos". Yeah, as in
generalists  culture  science  interests  hobbies  careers  life 
february 2006 by robertogreco
Worthwhile: ADD, Dillettante- or Renaissance Soul?
"A Ben Franklin with many passions (as opposed to a Mozart with a single, driving one,) the Renaissance Soul may job-hop so quickly it seems like a jig and have trouble staying on task - but may also be incredibly innovative, creative and successful, espe
generalists  life  careers  hobbies  interests  ideas 
february 2006 by robertogreco

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