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Doing the the thing v. talking about doing the thing v. talking about the technique for doing the thing

🔗 The Four Hobbies, and Apparent Expertise - Marc’s Blog:

Kit and tools are another imperfect signal for expertise. Clearly, in our field, there’s a significant benefit to knowing a set of tools well, and being able to use these tools as an extension of our minds. On the other hand, it is very easy to confuse the work of getting vim just-so with actual productivity, and the emacs expert as an expert on the larger field6. Observationally, I would say that there’s little correlation between expertise and kit-optimization in our field, positive or negative.

The lesson here is to be careful with the signals you use as proxies for competence. “Has the perfect Visual Studio config”, “has spoken at loads of conferences”, and “visible on Hacker News” seem like strong signals, when the reality seems to be that they are weak ones, at best.

Having just run across this post, I am finding it to be helpful way to frame a lot of what I have been thinking about the past few years regarding hobbies and creative pursuits. I find Booker’s matrix of hobbies and gear v. doing and discussing to be especially useful.

In the bit I quoted above, he is talking about coding toolsets but he opens the post with a focus on hobbies like photography. I think his arguments holds true for just about any pursuit—there is the doing of the thing on one end of the spectrum while at the other end there is the talking about the tools and techniques you use to do the thing.

There is a middle ground between those two but they are definitely gravity wells and in our current culture at least, the gravity well of talking about the tools and techniques seems to exert a much stronger pull.

I have grown deeply suspicious of just about anyone pushing advice online about creativity and creative pursuits. Even those that start with seemingly good intentions always end up being more about pushing their own channel and brand. That, in turn, affects the advice and recommendations they provide.

While I have always had this vague sense, I have struggled to put my finger on exactly what it is and I always end up feeling kind of bad, like these people are just trying to get their idea out there and here I am shitting on it. Booker’s matrix finally helps me frame in more concrete terms this vague sense I have had.

It’s the slow and then fast slide down into the gravity well of high visibility.

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