the Art of Making
By Phillip Torrone, Open Source Enthusiast
LATELY I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT
how much fun it is when you’re a beginner
at something as opposed to being an expert.
At some point, we all become experts at one
thing or another. I really want to avoid being
an expert in some things, only so I can continually look forward to learning more without
the burden of being an expert. Being an expert
means your journey is somewhat over.
A beginner can imagine more than an
expert because a beginner doesn’t see constraints yet. Kids are the same way — they
approach things with an open mind because
they haven’t been told “you can’t do that” yet.
Beginners aren’t billing someone for their
time — it’s not a job, and time doesn’t matter. Beginners (and kids) usually have more
time than money. Beginners aren’t collecting
trophies (yet) — they’re exploring. If you don’t
know the boundaries of something, for a brief
time your ideas are boundless.
Experts stay still; beginners are constantly
moving. An expert can point out the difficulty
in every project, while the beginner can only
see possibilities (and later, many ways to
make mistakes). The reward for beginners
is not the stuff they make, it’s the person
they become because of the stuff they make
and share. Beginners need to practice a lot;
experts need to talk more than practice.
Beginners do very simple things before they
understand what they are doing. Experts
struggle to make things simple because they
want to put everything they know into something, to demonstrate their expertise.
Beginners share their mistakes; experts
hide them. Knowledge is one of the few things
that doesn’t diminish the more you share it.
I probably read about 1,000 messages a day
across mailing lists, forums, customer support
emails, Google+, Twitter, and more. Beginners
can celebrate failure while experts rarely
admit it. For a beginner, all the obstacles,
failures, and challenges are the path ahead.
Beginners usually don’t have any fear; they
just make things — maybe it doesn’t work out,
maybe it does — but they don’t have the same
risk aversion experts tend to have.
Beginners get the satisfaction of solving
many small problems that are wonderful milestones to keep motivated. Experts build bigger
and for longer, so when something goes wrong
it can really crash hard. The little problems a
beginner solves are like weeds in a garden: you
find them and use them for mulch — they’re
fuel. Eventually you might have a manicured
estate, but I think the small garden is more fun
and approachable. More people can participate
because the fence is lower, or not there at all.
Once you get enough experts together,
that’s when the infighting usually starts. Even
The Beatles fought with each other about who
was the best. Experts start to see the tiniest
differences between each other and (usually)
fork their efforts. It might be, over the phrasing or titles of efforts, what licenses they use
or don’t use, who is more pure than someone
else. Beginners don’t know enough to care
about these things yet — it’s the freedom
beginners enjoy, even if it’s just for a short
while. Beginners tend to see what they have
in common with each other; experts can only
see the differences. Many experts don’t want
to share their knowledge, and beginners don’t
have anything to share yet other than encouragement and enthusiasm for other beginners.
Experts like to defeat each other, often publicly; beginners conquer themselves and their
own challenges, and the experience cannot be
taken away by anyone. Beginners don’t have
strong opinions — they can’t effectively bother
each other yet.
28 Make: makezine.com/30