On passion

I’m a passionate person. I’m passionate about the people that matter to me, the ideas I believe in, the things that I enjoy. And I make no secret of this. Just read the About Me page on this blog and you will get what I mean. Or for that matter the Kernel For This Blog page.

For a while I had no idea what “moderate” meant, and I’ve spent years learning to temper my passion with patience. Now I do “in moderation”, but I still don’t do “moderate”. Too close to “mediocre” for my liking.

One of the things I really like about the web is that it lowers the cost to me of pursuing some of my passions. I can find out more about them, develop and enhance them. Enjoy them. Savour them, relish them, bask in them. Immerse in them, joyfully, lazily, fully. Share them with others.

Some of these passions are offbeat and strange. What people would call Long Tail. Which is why I find it bemusing that some would seek to disprove Long Tail altogether. Just because you haven’t found a way of making money from it, it does not mean it doesn’t exist. That’s like saying gravity doesn’t exist unless it has an associated “business model”. [What an appalling phrase. People make shoes, not money.]

Anyway, indulge me. Humour me. As I list some of my favourite sites, places where passionate people share their passions with others.

Let me start with someone who needs no introduction, whose illustration adorns the top of this post. Gapingvoid. Hugh Macleod. Someone who’s really passionate about everything he gets involved in; a wonderful amalgam of quiet soft-spoken and hyper-energetic full-on engaged. So I spend time with Hugh whenever I can. Count him as a friend. And one day soon a business partner as well, I hope. Think for yourself. What made Hugh start each of his “acts of futility“? Passion. Pure unbridled passion, without a business model in sight.

Let’s move on to crosswords, another of my passions. Just take a look at this: Yet Another Guide to Cryptic Crosswords. Peter Biddlecombe’s personal paean to his passion. [Well, one of them anyway.]

What strikes me particularly is the first thing you encounter on Peter’s site, where he says:

Like many solvers of cryptic puzzles, I want more people to enjoy them. In these pages, I try to tell you enough about cryptic puzzles for you to start having fun by solving them.

He wants more people to enjoy them. He has found something good, and he’d like to share it. Now that is part of what marks Peter out for me. Passionate people share the things they’re passionate about.

That’s what made reading Kathy Sierra such a joy, as she shared her beliefs and knowledge and wisdom in Creating Passionate Users. The illustration above is an example of the stuff she used to share with us. [Kathy, it’s time to start writing again. What can we do to encourage you? Start a twitter group?]

How can I explain what was in Ian Fieggen’s mind when he started Ian’s Shoelace Site? Just one word. Passion. Here’s an excerpt:

Yes, I’m fascinated by shoelaces. By the act of tying shoelaces. Something a five year old child learns to do simply and easily, and yet something that is not trivial to program a robot to do. [Who knows, it may become part of course 101 at the Singularity University.]

There are still many Deadheads around, the Grateful Dead continue to be a very popular performing band. As I’ve confessed many times, it was their attitude to taping and to bootlegs that opened my mind, not only to different models for the music industry, but also for opensource thinking as a whole. Given all that, just take a look at this: The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. Delve into it, go read something like The Annotated “Sugar Magnolia” or The Music Never Stopped (which I wrote about here). Here’s an excerpt from his notes, just focused on the phrase “jump like a Willys in four wheel drive”:

David Dodd is passionate. And enjoys sharing his passion with others. Others like you.

Passionate people don’t just act singly, they can operate in groups. As in the Wolfe Pack, an assembly of people who appreciate Nero Wolfe, the orchid-loving corpulent stay-at-home detective created by Rex Stout 75 years ago. Here’s an example of passion: Tony Auth’s letter to the Pack requesting membership:

Passion abounds on the Web, and here are some further examples of places I love:

I could have written for hours about the things I am passionate about, things that others have invested time in so that I can indulge my passions. My thanks to all of you, wherever you are.

Sometimes the level of detail astounds me. Take for example chess. I’m not quite sure where my love for chess originated, but one thing is certain: it became a passion when I saw this game: Edward Lasker versus George Alan Thomas, “Fatal Attraction”, again something I’ve written about before. I’ve played out the first few moves and taken it to the point where, to me, the sheer joy and beauty of chess began to reveal itself:

What makes someone put in the time to take thousands of games and load them on to the Web so that others can go through the games move by move, using software that’s fit for purpose? Passion. Unbridled passion.

I couldn’t possibly write a post about passion without marking the passing of “Bearders”, Bill Frindall, who gave me, and people like me, decades of joy by sharing his passion for cricket freely and unreservedly. Thank you Bill.

Passion is an intrinsic part of the web. Passion is an intrinsic part of life. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. So, whatever your passion is, indulge it. Find others who feel similarly about it, because they’re they’re. If you need help finding them, comment here, or use human search on Twitter. [ If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @jobsworth there.]

Whatever you do, be passionate about it.

17 thoughts on “On passion”

  1. JP,

    Joy of joys, Kathy Sierra is
    on Twitter.

    There’s nothing on the net I’ve missed more than reading CPU.

  2. Although one of the antonyms of passion is indifference, that word usually has negative connotations, such as a lack of importance. Instead of indifference perhaps unbiased, impartial or objective might work better to describe taking a step back or looking at a situation from another perspective or from the “outside”, although no one is free of these later two. Perhaps simply “listening with humility” might also work as might “unselfish passion.”

    From: http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/12/why_indifferenc.html

  3. Brendan, you make an important point. When I spoke of passion tempered with patience, that is what I was trying to get at. You’ve said it much more powerfully :”Listening with humility”.

    Thanks for the comments, Ciaran, Bill. I haven’t yet caught up on all the TED videos as yet.

  4. I loved the Passions. I have been tying my shoelaces using method 5 for years and everyone laughs at me!! Now I know it’s valid..
    I was wondering if you’d ever read a short story by Stefan Zweig about a chess game. It is am amazing piece of writing – well worth the 50 odd pages. It’s known as either ‘Chess’ or ‘The Royal Game’.

  5. JP – Honored by the mention! Putting your Passion on the web is a leap of faith, without certainty of how it will turn out or who will notice! Thank you for finding Blogden worth visiting.

  6. Thanks for mentioning the “YAGCC” page. One day it will get its long overdue revamp and update. My excuse for neflecting is is moving onto a “Passionate people don’t just act singly, they can operate in groups” site – the Times for the Times blog, about one of the world’s best cryptic crosswords, which is produced by a team of enthusiasts.

  7. john, thanks for the Stefan Zweig pointer. Always happy to receive such suggestions.

    John H: I’d read that, thanks. You know, I think I used to envy you for living where the Curry Club was located all those years ago.

    John B, keep it up. Let me know how I can help.

  8. Peter, when I was growing up we used to be a four daily newspapers family. The Hindustan Standard. The Amrita Bazar Patrika. And TWO copeies of the Statesman, which carried the Times Crossword.

    Strangely enough we used to send people in the UK copies of the crossword from Calcutta during the strikes in the late 70s.

    I used to do the Cutty Sark and the Langs Supreme in the early eighties, best was a mid-thirties finish. Coincidentally John H, who commented earlier, is also a crossword enthusiast.

  9. Your article on passion has stuck with me for two days now. I feel so strongly, you might say passionately, that I am resisting my initial inclination not to comment. It is wonderful to hear about all the fervor on the web; yet there are many more enthusiastic people who are too busy living their passions to take time to sit, reflect and write about them on the internet ( I have used up my entire lunch time to write these short paragraphs and I still feel anxious that my essence will not be conveyed properly). Maybe this is not ideal because general populations/communities aren’t aware of what is happening in these zealous lives. Maybe this is an excuse, for me personally… I am not a writer, I am more a doer. Yet, I think I have been inspired to start a blog and get my thoughts out, despite my lack of interest in writing. I understand there is intrinsic value with sharing ideas through blogs, much of which is certainly marketing oriented. If one is accomplishing things, and only those directly involved are aware, are these accomplishments any less important? The media might have one think so. I am currently debating this with myself as I (and therefore my team) stand on the precipice of the blog world ready to jump into the blog/marketing/media abyss.
    So let me share again – there is a company I need to get you in touch with (a nod to your connections article, I have tried BT and mac emails, I will use work/cell phone numbers, but not yet sure about twitter). There is so much passion in this boot-strapping start up that people who have been laid off from the BT project with which the company is involved, continue to participate in project meetings for the sake of seeing it through (no paycheck)… Others involved work long, over the top hours because they enjoy, nay, love what they are doing. And the founders, myself included, have been boot-strapping for 7 years – a certain dedication to this technology “movement” they believe in. I will try again to contact you about this company/product/movement: ion objects, at your mac email. I won’t give up until I get twenty minutes of your time on the phone, because yes, I am passionate about this.

  10. Sandy, give me a call between 630am and 730am GMT tomorrow on 07918 644525. If that doesn’t suit text me with an alternative time.

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