Additive Hobbies

Some people say “hobby” like it’s a bad thing. In a race for more, it seems as though doing something you don’t get paid for, something that requires patience and skill–well, some people don’t get it. They’d rather troll around on social media or watch a rerun.

A generation or two ago, hobbies were things like paint by number or candlemaking, or perhaps a woodshop. That’s changing. Not simply because computers allow us to be far more professional, but because the very nature of the output is different.

This might be the golden age for a new kind of hobby, one that’s about community, leadership and producing 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 that’s used by a billion people. The people who have contributed the most don’t work there, they work on it.

Jeff Atwood is transforming a long-lost and influential book into a modern tool for a new generation. Github is a professional tool, but it’s also become a clearinghouse for project that simply exist to make things better.

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

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