Dabblers and enthusiasm doesn’t make it so

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Doug from Creative Karma sent me a link he found at Stefan Tilkov to a writing that’s been making the rounds of weblogging: Maciej Ceglowski’s Dabblers and Blowhards. In it Maciej takes on Paul Graham and his popular book and series titled, “Hackers and Painters”, and does so in a manner both pointed and funny. In the process, Maciej also exposes so much of the hyperbole and hooplah that underlies much of the “hip talk” that pervades our environment:

I blame Eric Raymond and to a lesser extent Dave Winer for bringing this kind of shlock writing onto the Internet. Raymond is the original perpetrator of the “what is a hacker?” essay, in which you quickly begin to understand that a hacker is someone who resembles Eric Raymond. Dave Winer has recently and mercifully moved his essays off to audio, but you can still hear him snorfling cashew nuts and talking at length about what it means to be a blogger . These essays and this writing style are tempting to people outside the subculture at hand because of their engaging personal tone and idiosyncratic, insider’s view. But after a while, you begin to notice that all the essays are an elaborate set of mirrors set up to reflect different facets of the author, in a big distributed act of participatory narcissism.

…shlock writing onto the Internet. There is, indeed, an abundance of schlock, or jumping up and down writing on the internet; writing where metaphorical descriptions of the most mundane of categorization is stretched–thinly!–to cover the next, best version of the web. Where solid science and technology and even common sense is pushed aside in a breathless rush to discover something, anything, new in the one aspect of technology that seems to provide us so much gratification–the almighty link. It is a joining of words to cover a big, black space on the chalk board saying, “a miracle happens here”.

It’s not that I begrudge anyone their enthusiasms; it’s just enthusiasm does not, by itelf, make good technology–no more than computer hacking makes one equivalent to a great painter.

Anil Dash also focused on these elusive transitive equalities that seem to thread their ways through so many of the ‘jump and down’ conversations; while I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, I found the following to be appealing:

* Loud != Persuasive
* Gets other people to stop talking != Persuasive
* Writes a lot != Writes well
* Funny != Correct
* Similar to me != Correct
* Well known != Respected
* Rude != Honest
* Polite != Honest
* Fast != Smart

I haven’t done justice to either Anil’s or Maciej’s writing, and *recommend you read both whether you’re a technologist or not. These writings really aren’t about technology so much as they are about those who walk the talk, and those who just talk.

*With one caveat — not all painters want to get into women’s pants…because not all painters are men or gay. And we can safely assume the same about hackers. Or:

painter != male
hacker != male
blogger != male

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