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Amateur Revolution? 320

Ant writes "Fast Company's article mentions that networks of amateurs are displacing the pros and spawning some of the greatest innovations from from astronomy to computing. Rap inflects global popular culture from music to fashion. Linux poses a real threat to Microsoft. The Sims is among the most popular computer games ever. These far-flung developments have all been driven by Pro-Ams -- committed, networked amateurs working to professional standards. Pro-Am workers, their networks and movements, will help reshape society in the next two decades."
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Amateur Revolution?

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  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:18AM (#10404059)
    Rap, for one, started as do-it-yourself music among lower-income black men from distressed urban neighborhoods, recorded by artists on inexpensive equipment and distributed on handmade tapes by local labels. Yet within two decades, rap has become the dominant popular music across the world. In league with Pro-Am music distribution made possible by Napster and Kazaa, it has turned the entire record industry on its head.

    And it has now become the same money-hungry scheme that the rest of music is. Silver teeth, 80 gram bling, expensive cars, big houses, "hoes", problems with the law, etc. I don't see the difference between rap stars and more "traditional" music. I give this one 0/100.

    Likewise, according to one estimate, 90% of the content in The Sims is created by a Pro-Am sector of The Sims ' playing community, a distributed, self-organizing group whose players are constantly training one another and innovating.

    I suppose you could say that's why it is successful. I honestly believe that Quake was so very successful because people could play it the way they wanted to but I still think that the original game had a lot to do with it. If the base gameplay isn't all that great why would people be interested in building on that? I give this one 50/100.

    Some professionals will find that unsettling; they will seek to defend their monopolies. The more enlightened will understand that the landscape is changing. Knowledge is widely distributed, not controlled in a few ivory towers. The most powerful organizations will enable professionals and amateurs to combine distributed know-how to solve complex problems.

    More importantly the corporations find this unsettling and they have the backing to make it financially impossible for the "amateurs" to compete.

    Pro-Am activity will continue to expand. Longer healthy life spans will allow people in their forties and fifties to start taking up Pro-Am activities as second careers. Rising participation in education will give people skills to pursue those activities. New media and technology enable Pro-Ams to organize.

    Perhaps it has to do more with intelligent people understanding that they don't appreciate what's going on in the coporate world and they realize that they can at least do a little bit to start change in motion. I am not saying that they will get very far before the corporations do what they can to make the "amateurs" lives miserable but at least it gets the ball rolling.

    Pro-Ams could fuel mass participation in formal politics and in social entrepreneurship.

    No they most certainly will not. Not unless these "amateurs" get the election process changed to a reality TV style format. People just don't care enough about politics and social entrepeneurship. They want to sit at home and drug their brains with TV. That's all they want out of life. House, two SUVs, a jetski, and 2.75 kids.

    Plus, if amateurs were so great the flood of high quality home-made porno would be a ton better than what Vivid puts out. Personally, I'd rather watch the oversized men fuck women with over-sized Nip/Tuck'd boobs and airbrushed looking bodies than watching a fat, hairy, man fuck some underaged looking dark-circle eyed skank on the floor of a Super8 hotel room. That's me though ;)

    From the blurb:

    Pro-Am workers, their networks and movements, will help reshape society in the next two decades.

    Corporations, their money, and their slaves will continue to reshape society via their direct control over multiple media outlets (solidified TV/news, radio, Internet) not the public. Grass-roots campaigns have always existed on the fringe and while their causes are noble the masses love to be sheep while thinking they aren't.
    • "Corporations, their money, and their slaves will continue to reshape society via their direct control over multiple media outlets (solidified TV/news, radio, Internet) not the public. Grass-roots campaigns have always existed on the fringe and while their causes are noble the masses love to be sheep while thinking they aren't."

      Jon Katz? Is that you in there??

    • by Swigger ( 740524 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:27AM (#10404145)
      And it has now become the same money-hungry scheme that the rest of music is. Silver teeth, 80 gram bling, expensive cars, big houses, "hoes", problems with the law, etc. I don't see the difference between rap stars and more "traditional" music. I give this one 0/100.

      It doesn't matter what genre you're talking about, there are going to be groups that exploit their popularity the way you said above (bitches and hoes), and there are going to be genuine artists. My roomate forced me to listen to one of his favorite hip-hop groups last weekend. Their entire album was freestyle, but I didn't hear anything about "bling", "ho's" or cars. He was a genuine artist more interested in the realities of life than hip hop fame, which is what it boils down to for every genre.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Plus, if amateurs were so great the flood of high quality home-made porno would be a ton better than what Vivid puts out. Personally, I'd rather watch the oversized men fuck women with over-sized Nip/Tuck'd boobs and airbrushed looking bodies than watching a fat, hairy, man fuck some underaged looking dark-circle eyed skank on the floor of a Super8 hotel room. That's me though ;)


      I've wondered about this, too.

      I mean, if I had the access to people willing to act in an amatuer porn movie, the first thing
    • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:36AM (#10404232)
      Rap, for one, started as do-it-yourself music among lower-income black men from distressed urban neighborhoods, recorded by artists on inexpensive equipment and distributed on handmade tapes by local labels.

      And it has now become the same money-hungry scheme that the rest of music is. Silver teeth, 80 gram bling, expensive cars, big houses, hoes, problems with the law, etc. I dont see the difference between rap stars and more traditional music. I give this one 0/100.

      I was just thinking about this yesterday, when I didn't recognize 1 of the top 5 songs in the country. A radio show was listing them and playing clips, and I knew a couple of the names, but the songs didn't ring a bell. I thought they were all terrible, and I happen to like nearly all kinds of music including rap.

      But here is my take on rap - it is in its "disco era". Think about it - Rock and Roll had its roots in the 50s. The 60s were rebellion, and what some consider to be the heart of rock music. The 70s started to slide, we then got Disco. The 80s was an attempt to rebound from that, and alternative music was born.

      Rap has its roots in the early 80s. I would call the late 80s/early 90s the "60s" of rap. It really showed that it wasn't going away and made a mark on the world. But I think that we are now in the Disco age of rap, where it is all just posing and people trying to cash in. For the most part, the art and creativity is out the window. I just wonder what the "80s" of rap will bring.

      But you cannot discount rap any longer. It truly comes from the grassroots and I think fits the intent of this article. Now the STATE of rap is questionable, but I don't think you can question its legitimacy and power.

    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:37AM (#10404238)
      "People just don't care enough about politics and social entrepeneurship."

      I think you'll find that's because their voices are unheard. In America, in Britain, your vote doesn't count. Turnout and engagement is correspondingly low.

      If you take a look at the democracies of Europe however, people are far more engaged in politics and the turnouts during elections are on average far higher than the US or UK. That's because their voice can be heard, every vote counts...

      The difference is proportional representation:

      http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/Beginnn in gReading/howprwor.htm

      • by arudloff ( 564805 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @12:35PM (#10405531) Homepage
        Your vote doesn't count? The last election was decided by hundreds of votes.

        Say what you will about the electoral college or even make the argument in regards to florida (but of course, we can't have digital voting machines to increase accuracy, thats to insecure!... sigh. pick a side..). Just remember that these are not mainstream issues in the rest of our government and those elections are just as important.

        Don't like the sitting president? Don't wait four years and sit around bitching. Get off your ass and vote accordingly for your congressional races. Republicans swept up two years ago while all the dems sat at home and whined about what was going on. Their votes mattered then, it matters this November, and in two years, those votes will still be important.

        You think after Clinton we would have learned.. the best presidents are presidents who are gridlocked by an opposing congress ;) (I say that in jest, but in my short lifetime it does seem to hold a bit of water).

        All that being said, I don't care who you vote for or what you base your vote on. Majority (of the union as a whole, not just the cities) rules. Get out and vote.
        • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @01:18PM (#10406066)
          "The last election was decided by hundreds of votes."

          Yup, a few thousand votes in swing states. There are millions of people in other states though who might as well not bother, and basically, they don't.

      • If you take a look at the democracies of Europe however, people are far more engaged in politics and the turnouts during elections are on average far higher than the US or UK. That's because their voice can be heard, every vote counts...

        The difference is proportional [mtholyoke.edu] representation:

        All three of the proposed methodologies are either overly party-centric or complex.

        In both Party List and Mixed Member, the party controls access, at least in part, to the ballot. Many of the more interesting and effective

        • "In both Party List and Mixed Member, the party controls access"

          Anyone can start their own political party. Don't like an existing one, create your own. A party is needed to campaign effectively, nobody can do it on their own these days. The UK Independance Party is a good example, it is made up of those disaffected by the other main parties policies on joining the Euro. Under FPTP they are nowhere, 0 representatives, under PR they have 16% of the UK's seats in the European parliament and are using them ef
    • People just don't care enough about politics and social entrepeneurship. They want to sit at home and drug their brains with TV. That's all they want out of life. House, two SUVs, a jetski, and 2.75 kids.

      Well, not all people ...

      http://www.gospelcom.net/ [gospelcom.net]

    • fat, hairy, man fuck some underaged looking dark-circle eyed skank on the floor of a Super8 hotel room.

      You know, there's a web site that addresses this spcific fetish...

    • by mr_z_beeblebrox ( 591077 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:18AM (#10404663) Journal
      No they most certainly will not. Not unless these "amateurs" get the election process changed to a reality TV style format. People just don't care enough about politics and social entrepeneurship. They want to sit at home and drug their brains with TV. That's all they want out of life. House, two SUVs, a jetski, and 2.75 kids.

      Stop getting all your facts about the population from the internet, step out of your moms house and look around the big blue room (no not IBMs wiring closet). Politics is fronted by the elected officials they make the decisions we want or they do not. Organized groups can have a HUGE impact on those officials starting with the not so good example of the 'flash mobs' at the RNC. People will learn though what is and is not effective. I am on several political lists and when issues I care about are mentioned I and other like minded souls respond. I have written enough times to my congressman that when I met him at a public library luncheon he recognized my name. He told me that writing a congressman with your views is like casting more than ten votes...why because less than one in 10 people write them (and yes that is write as in on paper). Imagine if in your hometown you organized 20 people to write your congressman on issues. That would carry real power and influence.
    • by SoupIsGoodFood_42 ( 521389 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:47AM (#10404990)
      More importantly the corporations find this unsettling and they have the backing to make it financially impossible for the "amateurs" to compete.

      Yeah man! Just like Microsift did to Linux! Oh wait...They haven't crushed Linux dispite having billions of dollars and a huge company of full of highly-paid professionals.
      I guess it's pretty hard to compete with people who don't need any backing.

  • It's about passion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesuperbigfrog ( 715362 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:21AM (#10404083)
    People who are passionate about their work and love what they do aren't working, they're doing what they love.

    It just goes to show that while money can motivate people, passion for the work is a better motivator.

    • by i7dude ( 473077 )
      People who are passionate about their work and love what they do aren't working, they're doing what they love.
      It just goes to show that while money can motivate people, passion for the work is a better motivator.


      You are absolutely right passion for work does motivate better and innovation will most certainly follow...but, as much as I'd love to live in an idealistic bubble, the sad truth is that there are simply not enough people in this world that are wired that way...through simple evolution the majorit
  • Professional (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stevie-boy ( 145403 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:23AM (#10404095)
    For me the difficult part is this - how do you define "professional" and "amateur"? Do you have to be an MCSE to be considered a computing professional? Do you simply have to be paid to do something to be considered a "professional"?
    • Re:Professional (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:28AM (#10404150) Journal
      If I've learned anything from slashdot, an amateur is one who begins with "I Am Not A Laywer/Doctor/Baker/Candlestick Maker" and then proceeds to pretend that he is.
      • Are you implying that doctors are butchers? ;-)
      • Re:Professional (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Ignignot ( 782335 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:49AM (#10405011) Journal
        Well I am not an amatuer (IANAA) but I think that being an amatuer is a lot more complicated than that. You have to know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to really know what you're doing. You have to talk down to people and arrogantly believe that you are funny / insightful / interesting / informative. You have to think that even though you aren't a professional at what you are talking about, and that professionals of that type do post on slashdot, that your amatuer opinion somehow matters. Also, The mods give you points for it.
      • Re:Professional (Score:4, Insightful)

        by infinite9 ( 319274 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @12:37PM (#10405550)
        If I've learned anything from slashdot, an amateur is one who begins with "I Am Not A Laywer/Doctor/Baker/Candlestick Maker" and then proceeds to pretend that he is.


        It's this kind of professional elitism that makes me crazy. Knowledge is not all or nothing. I am not a doctor, but I know as much or more about my own skin/autoimmune disease than many dermatologists. How can this be? I haven't been to med-school! I've done the research, that's how. Since this problem affects me, I focus on it in ways that a dermatologist can't. He's trying to be all things to all people, whereas I'm only researching the specific things that matter to me. This is true for all subjects. With sufficient interest, you can learn about anything. Who the fuck cares what piece of paper you have on your wall? This is not to say that I should be operating on people. But at the same time you can't discount my own opinions on the subjects which I actually know. I've never been formally trained, or worked as a mechanic. I guess I better stop fixing my own cars too! Sheesh!
        • Re:Professional (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cavemanf16 ( 303184 )
          Heh. I whole-heartedly agree, but I think a word definition and clarification is necessary. The only real thing that classifies someone as a "professional" is that they get paid for 'it', whatever 'it' is that they do. However, just because you are a professional, you're not necessarily the expert. There are many experts who don't get paid for their expertise. There are many professionals who could never claim to be an expert at any one thing - and never will be, they just have a diploma that somehow "quali
    • Re:Professional (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ImaLamer ( 260199 ) <john...lamar@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:29AM (#10404163) Homepage Journal
      Do you have to be an MCSE to be considered a computing professional?

      Geez, not at all. At best I'd say 1% aren't amateurs...

      ...this coming from a person who is attending a two year tech school taught by MSCE certified amateurs.
    • by generic-man ( 33649 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:41AM (#10404291) Homepage Journal
      If you have a .pro domain [nic.pro], you're a professional. If you have a .am domain [amnic.net], you're an amateur. It's that simple. :)
    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:43AM (#10404317)
      That's it. That's all there is to it.

      There's the implication of better quality work or a better attitude, but in reality that has nothing to do with professional/amateur status.

      • Which kind of contradicts TFA's statement:
        "Linux is the product of mass participatory innovation among thousands of Pro-Am technologists. Many of them program commercial software for a living but work on Linux in their spare time because the spirit of collaborative problem solving appeals so powerfully."

        How can you be an "amateur" working on Linux if you are paid to write code?

        I can see how Linux STARTED as an amateur project. Linus was still in school.
    • Re:Professional (Score:2, Insightful)

      by khakipuce ( 625944 )
      The term professional comes from the fact the professionals (used to) profess an oath. There are only three professions in this sense, Doctors, Lawyers and Clergy.

      I don't believe that getting paid is enough to make one a professional, for two reasons,

      1. getting paid is no indication of competance
      2. a professional may do some work for no fee, this does not alter the professional's status

      Most countries have recongnised "Professional Bodies" who confer professional status on members who demonstrate that th

  • by FatSean ( 18753 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:23AM (#10404100) Homepage Journal
    ...where does this guy pull this crap? A few isolated events and he's predicting a world-changing trend? Geeze...
  • Possibly but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DarthStrydre ( 685032 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:23AM (#10404105)
    I realize that many fields are easily accessible to amateurs, yet others remain obviously out of reach. Compare this to selling lemonade on the street corner.

    In many fields there is independent innovation. In electronics, for instance, people have been home-brewing radios, amplifiers, computers, etc.. for seemingly forever.

    Hoewever, it is technologically and physically impossible to build a cyclotron in your back yard. (Though if memory serves me properly, people have tried to build nuclear reactors from smoke alarm materials in the past).

    As always there is a limit to what independents can do by themselves, but that limit is always expanding with newly available tech.

    - Strydre -
    • Re:Possibly but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Viking Coder ( 102287 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:42AM (#10404304)
      Hoewever, it is technologically and physically impossible to build a cyclotron in your back yard.

      No [fnal.gov] it's [umich.edu] not. [umich.edu]
      • Re:Possibly but... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by simishag ( 744368 )
        The umich.edu links belong to Fred Niell, who I went to high school [lausanneschool.com] with (I'm '94, he's '95). I can attest to the success of his cyclotron, which was initially completed when he was a sophomore (!) and then improved when he was a junior. At least 1 version, maybe both, I can't remember, won a well-deserved national science award.

        It was truly embarassing to be forced to enter a science project against his in our high school science fair. I offered to write a research paper instead, but our physics teache
    • Though if memory serves me properly, people have tried to build nuclear reactors from smoke alarm materials in the past

      It works, too, but the damn things eat so many batteries it's hardly worth it.

    • That defines the situation pretty well. It's getting where the areas remaining out of reach to amatuers are largely irrelevant in this context, like cyclotrons. In home brew audio, to take your example, the number of 'free beer' software design tools, suppport forums and web information is staggering, well beyond that available to most corporations less than twenty years ago.
    • Re:Possibly but... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AJWM ( 19027 )
      it is technologically and physically impossible to build a cyclotron in your back yard.

      Not at all. There are limits to energy levels you can reach with a small cyclotron, but you can make one that fits on a desktop. Lawrence's first cyclotron [rutgers.edu] was only four inches in diameter.
  • The Sims (Score:5, Insightful)

    by generic-man ( 33649 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:24AM (#10404109) Homepage Journal
    The Sims is created and supported by EA, a company which has become like the Microsoft / Cisco / Computer Associates of the gaming world: they buy up as many companies as possible so they can profit off the licenses.

    The Sims is an excellent game and has a very large fanbase, but don't discount the influence of its very powerful parent company.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:24AM (#10404114)
    The article says that in the past a lot of amatuers where displaced by people who had the right bits of paper to say they could do it. Today a lot the amatuers actually have those bits of paper, for example how many Linux programmers have computer science degrees or even some lower level computing qualification.
  • DIY (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    We anarchists have been talking about this phenomena for many years. We refer to it as DIY: Do-It-Yourself. Linux and amatuer astronomy are examples of anarchism in action--international networks of volunteers and hobbyists cooperating together and providing mutual aid and solidarity to each other. It's interesting that Fast Company has finally gotten around to providing a capitalist spin on this phenomenon, but otherwise we're talking about anarchism in action. Which is one reason why major corporations fe
    • Re:DIY (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrogers ( 85392 )
      Linux isn't anarchic - its success depends on copyright law. Without copyright law and licenses such as the GPL, corporations would be able to combine the efforts of amateur coders with the efforts of their own professional coders, without making any contribution in return. The result would be a one-way flow of effort from amateurs to corporations. The GPL ensures a two-way flow, so the commons is enriched by everyone's efforts. Using the law to ensure that everyone who benefits from the commons also contri
  • Amateurs? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bokmann ( 323771 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:28AM (#10404151) Homepage
    I sppreciate the sentiment of the article, but many contributors to open source are hardly 'amateurs'. Plenty of OS contributors are paid for their work.

    I'll take this mean 'amateurs' in the same way that the atheletes at the olympics are 'amateurs'. Amateurs, sure... but they are also at the top of their craft.

  • by ancice ( 817863 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:29AM (#10404164)
    An edge which an amateur has is that he/she is not ingrained with the "standard" -techniques, -thoughts and -perspectives. This nonstandard way of thinking is by definition "unique". And more often than not, a quantum leap in any field is done from a different viewpoint.

    But of course, amateurs do at times spawn some totally unfeasible and fairy-tale like ideas.

  • They will co-exist (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bludstone ( 103539 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:29AM (#10404168)
    Until some major type of revolution happens, the two will co-exist... assuming the small-fry want to keep their independance.

    Take homestarrunner.com, my favorite example. They have turned down offers for tv shows and the like, simply because they want full control. I havnt seen any major corp go after them for, well, anything!
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:31AM (#10404182)
    That amateurs can contribute is, in large part, due to the steady price deflation of equipment, especially equipment based on semiconductors. Declines in the cost of a near-studio quality audio rig, software engineering workstation, or a good quality CCD astrophotography camera make these tools accessible. Low cost chips that enable the networking of the amateurs (remember when 2400 baud dial-up was charged by the minute?) so they can work together.

    Thank You Gordon Moore!
    • That amateurs can contribute is, in large part, due to the steady price deflation of equipment, especially equipment based on semiconductors.

      And this is due to massive multinational corporations spending billions on R&D and infrastructure. The amateur computer geeks would be virtually nonexistent if giants like MS, Intel, and various Asian chipmakers weren't commoditizing the industry. I don't think that I've ever seen anybody making semiconductors in their garage...
      • That amateurs can contribute is, in large part, due to the steady price deflation of equipment, especially equipment based on semiconductors.

        And this is due to massive multinational corporations spending billions on R&D and infrastructure.

        How does that change anything, or diminish the point that the contributions of amateurs are increasing?

        It does disprove the claim that multinational corporations are irrelevant, but no one is making that claim, so I don't see the need to disprove it.

  • Many people, myself included, participate in processes outside of their normal career function at the "amateur" level but at the "professional" standards level as a release from what they do as a normal profession. There are sometimes more rewards to this function of operation than what money can bring and that is the case for me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:33AM (#10404210)
    At least not any more amatuer then Windows developers. There are plenty of people that develope applications for windows AND linux in their spare time.

    But characterizing Linux developers as amatures is deceptive.

    There are quite a few that do it for free, but for the vast majority they actually do get paid for the work that they do. One way or another.

    Of course people like the kernel developers get snapped up to go work for big companies, and Linus is a millionare...

    Think about it. Say you have a large company that depends on a free database app for your core. Like, say, MySQL or PostgreSQL.

    Now if your working with MS for MS SQL you have tech support, if something goes wrong you talk to person after person as your problem gets escalated. Eventually, if you pay enough, you may actually have a very knowlegable MS person come out and do hands on help with you. However if you hire a Linux hacker, you have part of the team that does the actual developement on the software that you use working for you. Just a phone call away and he is probably almost personal freinds with the rest of the team and can contact other developers for you.

    Not only for problems, but for functionality.

    Stuff like that is why many do get paid.

    But there are plenty that don't get paid for their work, directly....

    Depends on what exactly you mean by "Pro". Many people devote their life to hacking, lots like Olympic athlets devote their time to being amature althets.

    Not to say that Linux developers are the cream of the crop, nessicarially. They range the whole gammat from the weekend warrior, to the 15 year old kid that sits on the computer all day, to the professional highly skilled and specialist hacker working on breakthru stuff.

    What I think is more of the "amature" revolution, is more about the regular guy standing up and getting noticed for their contributions for the first time.

    People tend to think that it's all big business, or government research or university studies that get progress done. That's wrong. 75% of business is small business in the US,and I'd bet that 90% of everything new in the US comes from individuals persuing their dreams.

    Artists, programmers, athletes, businessmen. Working on their own for their dreams.

    Linux is just one of many examples of this happening.
  • Not new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tindur ( 658483 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:33AM (#10404211)
    I don't think this is something new. Think about punk music. I think it was a reaction to professionalim.
    • Re:Not new (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RLiegh ( 247921 ) *
      Think about punk music. I think it was a reaction to professionalim.
      Almost. Mostly that was a reaction against overly long and slick songs and a movement towards shorter and less pretentious music. But part of the point was the now-dead rock-n-roll ethos that anyone could have a band and go out and play music.
  • "Copernicus, who moved the sun to the center of the universe, was only a sometime astronomer."

    the sun is in the center of the solar system, not the universe.
    • Even so, moving the Sun is pretty impressive. I wonder where he got his lever.

      Yes, I know it was Archimedes who said "Give me a lever and a place to stand..."

  • by Rahga ( 13479 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:36AM (#10404235) Homepage Journal
    "Rap, for one, started as do-it-yourself music among lower-income black men from distressed urban neighborhoods, recorded by artists on inexpensive equipment and distributed on handmade tapes by local labels. Yet within two decades, rap has become the dominant popular music across the world."

    Two decades ago... when Run DMC "walk this way" with Aerosmith, right? Can't get much more amateur than that.

    Rap? "... the dominant popular music across the world." I don't think so. Maybe if you include the various ins-and-outs of hip-hop and pop-hop, you get closer... but still, I wouldn't call it dominant.

    "Likewise, according to one estimate, 90% of the content in The Sims is created by a Pro-Am sector of The Sims ' playing community."

    I'd guess at least 90% of the worlds video games are created by amateurs. Doesn't mean that they have 90% of the audience, not by a long shot.

    It doesn't help that the article's author is a one trick pony... For months, years, whatever, Charles Leadbeater has been doing this "Amareur Revolution" crying, just check google. I'm not sure what would make this article stand out.
    • Way back in the 1970s when rap first rose to popularity it was actually more like a form of poetry to a rhythmic beat. The content, while far from intellectually earthshaking, was at least authentic in a folk-poetry way.

      Since then, though, all it seems to be is a lot of noise, and it actually just seems to represent the dumbing down of music to a series of grunts and thumps, and nothing more than an expression of the basest of instincts. Which isn't surprising, considering the cast of convicted felons in
  • conventional wisdom (Score:2, Interesting)

    by enjahova ( 812395 )
    "Amatuers" have been displacing "Pros" forever. Whenever someone does something good, other people will come along and make it better, its not bad but its not something new to our generation.
    50 years ago the FEC railroad took on the entire US.

    The Florida East Coast has demonstrated how much you can do if you allow yourself not to be constrained by the way things have been done. You see all kinds of things done unconventionally on the FEC, at all levels-in the mechanical department, in operations, in the ya
  • by ArsSineArtificio ( 150115 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:39AM (#10404252) Homepage
    Rap inflects global popular culture from music to fashion.

    The submitter appears to have misspelled 'infects'.

  • Pro-Ams (Score:3, Funny)

    by revery ( 456516 ) * <charles@cac 2 . net> on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:39AM (#10404254) Homepage
    Rap inflects global popular culture from music to fashion. Linux poses a real threat to Microsoft. The Sims is among the most popular computer games ever. These far-flung developments have all been driven by Pro-Ams

    <sigh> and then there is Slashdot...

    --

    Was it the sheep climbing onto the altar, or the cattle lowing to be slain,
    or the Son of God hanging dead and bloodied on a cross that told me this was a world condemned, but loved and bought with blood.

  • by RLiegh ( 247921 ) * on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:39AM (#10404257) Homepage Journal
    In much the same way that over-paying 20-something year old ameteur html coders did not create a "new economy" so this too will fizzle.

    Most notably, Rap has not been an ameteur medium since the time when public enemy became big and the labels decided to push it. Unless you are an affancido (sp?) of Rap, none of the people you have heard of are 'ameteurs' except in the artifically created sense that eminem, vanilla ice, the village people and the monkees are 'ameteurs'. Rap has been a slick, professional and tightly-controlled form of expression for almost two fucking decades now.

    Mod me flamebait if you like, but as someone who's lived through the "grunge", the "alternative" and the "internet" revolutions this -to me- stinks to high heaven of yet more masturbatory and self-congratulatory hot air.

    Which is appropriate, as the "revolution" being touted signifies nothing.

  • When I first saw that list, I was thinking all of things were at one time amateur (and still may be at some level) but are now more or less commercial. We're runnign redhat, essentially a fork of Linux that gets a lot of upstream stuff. Rap is now big time commercial (I knew it was gone when I heard a radio commercial for a local micro-brewery with the "German Brewmesiter Rap"). Russel Simmons and Puffy have no qualms about saying they want to create rap empires, super commercial. THe only change is the

  • "Amateur" is sometimes used as an insult, to mean something isn't very good, and many companies tout themselves as being "professional" i.e. good.

    But is the distinction really true? There are many artists that failed to make a living from their art during their lifetime. Does that make them amateurs?

    And I think that some of the MS certified "professionals" I've met really don't deserve the name...
  • Apples and oranges (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:41AM (#10404283)
    There is no way you can compare many of the tech folks working on various projects (e.g. Linux) as "amateurs". Most of the developers on these projects are indeed professionals, the simple act of working on a non-corp sponsered app doesn't make one an amateur. That's like saying the the NBA "dream team" members are amateur's by virtue of them playing on a non-professional team at the time.
  • You know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fizban ( 58094 ) <fizban@umich.edu> on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:42AM (#10404300) Homepage
    After reading that article, the question arises: What exactly is the difference between a "professional" and an "amateur?"

    In my view, there is none. Both groups are comprised of people devoted to their crafts, with the knowledge and passion to succeed. It may be that professionals are more likely to have learned their crafts under the tutelage of a master craftsman or through some sort of schooling, while an amateur is more likely to have learned his trade "on his own" but in most cases, there is a large crossover. Many professionals learned their trade themselves without much tutelage and many amateurs actually have some formal training in their field.

    Rather than say it's a professional vs. amateur situation, I'd be more likely to term it as a for-a-living/on-your-spare-time type of thing, because oftentime, being labeled an amateur means that you somehow don't know as much as a professional, but that is often wrong. It's more that they are all professionals, but some do it just for a paycheck or recognition, some do it just because they love it, but (hopefully) most do it for both.
    • I would agree with you entirely ( in fact I do agree with you entirely ) but just add that really is no difference between amateurs and professionals except that professionals are funded to do what they do whereas amateurs are not.

      Like you say the true test of quality work is the dedication and motivation of the person rather than anything else.
  • by painehope ( 580569 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:42AM (#10404309)
    come on people :

    "Rap inflects global popular culture from music to fashion"

    is somehow a sign of the world being caught up in a revolution? Rap is a sign that easy-to-manage concepts go over well with the populace. Hip-hop? Yeah, some of it is tolerable, but none of it will be viewed as masterpieces in years to come. There is no skill or effort in most of it. The people that create and listen to it are not capable of the introspection necessary to create masterpieces or even view them in the proper light later.

    You can call it racist, elitist, or whatever you want, but rappers, rap "music", and rap fans are not leading any cultural revolution. They are enforcing the status quo. They buy their CDs, their videos, their jerseys, their 200 dollar sneakers, and keep the fatcats laughing all the way to the bank. The only social activities that they participate in are the ones espoused by their idols, namely drinking, getting high, killing each other, and in general being a goddamned moron. They are not like the 60's and 70's, where the music reflected a movement ( be it anti-war, civil rights, whatever the fuck ). They are cashing in on their stupid fans, promoting ignorance, all under a guise of a movement. If you think the corp execs haven't figured out a whole new level of subterfuge and manipulation, you're kidding yourself.

    We're not dealing with the people who thought American Bandstand was about as wild as it would come. We're dealing with MBA-touting, marketing-aware, bloodsucking weasels that are more than willing to take a crack dealer who can string together a few rhyming compositions, give him world-class studio time, and sell him and his merchandise to a bunch of fools. They'll tell you it's a revolution, that you're changing the world, but you know what, money talks, bullshit walks. You're still making the same old conservative power mongers, they've just got their monkey-dancing rappers and dumbshit teen-idols out there turning tricks for them. I suppose I'm happier seeing conservative old white men running things than I am seeing crack-dealing uneducated rap stars, but it's still a far cry from a real option for progress.

    We've already lost the media. It's a cash machine, nothing else.

    The revolution will not be televised. And it will not be led by anyone named after currency.
    • "If you think the corp execs haven't figured out a whole new level of subterfuge and manipulation, you're kidding yourself."

      Assuming for the sake of argument that I accept your proposition that Rap/Hip-Hop/Teeny-Boppers are nothing more that cashing in, I still fail to see how there has to be some manipulative corporate fat-cat behind it.

      At what point do we accept that the great unwashed masses are in fact stupid? I have no doubt that the record execs are, by and large, slimeballs who care about no

  • by justanyone ( 308934 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:47AM (#10404349) Homepage Journal

    In a larger scale analysis, the speed of targeted communications has always determined the speed of advancement throughout history.

    Examples abound:
    • Greek military advancements (Phalanx) - after city-states bonded, writing popular
    • Renaissance - after plague's social dislocation allowed workers to travel, talk
    • Renaissance (multiple causes)- after Guttenburg / printing press allowed/instigated mass literacy
    • Galileo's experiments - after mail is regularly possible between him and many other scientists
    • Industrial revolution - after enough discoveries, shared by scientists mailing each other, built on each other's work to create steam power and other major inventions
    • Edison's "invention factory" putting bright minds and enough tools all in one Menlo Park building complex
    • FireFly TV show - computing machinery advanced enough to simulate other worlds coupled with good writing (though, the Profoundly Evil (Murdoch's) Fox 'targeted' communication with NeoCon fundamentalists means 'advancement' sometimes == social regression / repression)
    This list is incomplete but gives an idea.

    When people can talk with other people interested in the same things, easily, quickly, and in an organized manner, the rate of change (advancement, usually)(viewed through their eyes) can really increase.

    This is a danger as well as a blessing. Every society has malcontents / miscreants / criminals, and (just remember junior high school) sometimes the only thing holding them back is the encouragement of one really inventive and charismatic bad guy/gal.

    I, for one, welcome our newfound Pro-Am Inventor Overlords!
  • Many of these people are not really amateurs. Some of them are making a living at these pursuits, although admittedly not as good a living as the so-called professionals.

    What is happening is that cheap technology is negating the advantage that Big Corporate Money gives to corporations or to business people who have some serious capital, either personal monies or loaned monies.

    I cannot overstate how great this makes me feel or how important it is.

    I see much of human interaction in the economic marketplace, in the world of employment and jobs and commerce, as akin to interactions in animal society, especially the way that social animals interact, and in animal sibling interactions.

    In America, at least, it all comes to nature, red of tooth and claw.

    What happens is that the more powerful entities use current advantage, monetary advantage, to snuff out competition, and then, ironically, they call it the "free market."

    You see many examples of this: one young male in the lion pride was get bigger than the others, and use that advantage to drive off the other males, and then mate with the females.

    But cheap technology is like some sort of vitamin supplement that evens up the competitors.

  • Perhaps, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frobozz0 ( 247160 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:48AM (#10404364)
    I think the conclusions the author comes to are a bit far fetched, but their premise may be accurate. While I'm sure it's true that amateurs are making an impact and performing to "professional" standard, I think the term "professional" is used a bit loosely. There's nothing professional about the lackluster UI slapped on every distro of Linux.

    Don't get me wrong, though. That gripe aside, I think what amateurs offer a professional industry is insight and thought that is outside the box. Many professionals in IT, for example, have horse-blinders on. They can't see anything but Microsoft.

    But this is nothing new, folks. This has happened throughout history. Almost all great inventors and thinkers have come from a rebellious non-traditional background. There is good reason for this. Their ideas and throughts are not so strictly bound by the instruction they would have received going through normal channels. I'm not advocating we all forget our professional training, but I think we can learn from those who offer "revolutionary" ideas-- not be threatened by them.
  • In ignorance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:53AM (#10404403) Homepage
    Obviously I haven't bothered to read the article but I am fairly sure that whatever field you care to mention was built from the work of dedicated amateurs or professionals in one field developing others as a hobby in their spare time.

    The designations "amateur" and "professional" are fairly meaningless anyway, do the amateur's ( presumably ) discussed in the article dedicate any less time to their work or are they significantly less intelligent ?

    In fact I think the real distinction is purely financial, professionals are funded for the work they do which when things move beyond a stage where normal people can't afford the tools to continue working in it it is obviously going to be dominated by professionals. I suspect the real driver behind this "Amateur revolution" is simply that the tools required are either very cheap or free for use by anyone who wants to use them.
  • by Vague but True ( 804899 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:54AM (#10404418)
    Here's what I've been told the difference between a "professional" and an "amateur" is.

    A professional does the job, even when they don't want to do. An amateur does it whenever they feel like it.

    Being a professional doesn't mean you're any good at it (e.g. look at all the "professionals" in our fields (IT/Med/Law/Bus/etc) that have degrees, yet they're as dumb as a box-of-rocks).

    Getting paid to be a professional is strictly a bonus.

  • I agree! (Score:5, Funny)

    by aasania ( 613612 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @10:58AM (#10404444)
    I've always thought amateur porn was WAY better than the professional stuff!
  • by mrogers ( 85392 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:00AM (#10404465)
    So you're saying that corporate stuctures somehow ruin productivity, stifle innovation and creativity, and turn the skills you once loved into the job you dread from the first moment you wake up in the morning? It's news to me but OK, if you say so...
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:05AM (#10404513) Homepage Journal
    We're in the early stages of the transformation of civilization greater than that which occurred after Guttenberg's press started churning out books without the intervention of the Church's infrastructure of monks to scribe them.

    First to fall away is control of the flow of ideas. That flow has been bottlenecked by the recentralization of control of mass media in the 20th century leading to a new form of theocracy.

    The events following this release of theocratic control over thought occur with a great deal of interrelationship including all manner of "amateur":

    • religions (protestantism)
    • governments (the US Constitution)
    • exploration (the Dutch East India company, for example, was far less about theocracy and governmental control than was the financing of the early Spanish expeditions to central and South America)

    Liberalism in its original form from the Reformation and Enlightenment, meant human experimentation (e.g.: "laboratory of the States [laboratory...states.com]") but experimentation requires experimental controls. Therefore the prime cause for concern was not that there be agreement between parties but that disagreeing parties find ways to separate from one another to form experimental groups [indiana.edu], allowing control groups to preserve older ways. The Age of Exploration was therefore consequent to the Enlightenment.

    In the present instance we can take a not too emotional issue such as cloning as a probable "heresy" over which such issues are arising. (There are other, far more motional issues such as homosexual marriage, racial separatism, pedophillia, infanticide, etc. that we can address similarly.) There are attempts in the UN to ban cloning globally under protocols similar to bans on nuclear weaponry. Like most other social experiments people are conducting or wish to conduct, the various entities are proposing that they have world-wide jurisdiction. The conflict isn't over the technologies but over the social experiments allowed or disallowed.

    This is a legitimate concern as the globe becomes smaller due to transport and communications technologies. Preemptive controls will increasingly impose on all aspects of life for security's sake. Liberty will dissipate just as it has been with the increase of all forms of centralized control. Soon there will be no more experiments in social forms save those dictated by the sort of individuals attracted to the centers of power, hence the only legacy of humanity will be the destruction of the planet.

    The solution is to make the globe bigger and leave earth to the true control groups.

    Humanity must find ways of dispersing life to lifeless environments, there to take up residence and leave the earth to the true conservatives -- perhaps limited to hunting and gathering with stone-age technology. Anything else would continue the destruction of vital control groups, not just hunter-gatherers but entire species such as great apes, while depriving humanity of the liberty to conduct its experiments.

    The real question of legitimate use of central power isn't over whether to allow this or that experiment but whether the central power is doing everything in its power to disperse life.

    By this criterion there is not a single legitimate central point of power in the world, but the worst offenders of all are those nations of European diaspora who are destroying their pioneering heritage with supposed "liberal" policies that dictate universal open borders, "diversity" via EEOC regulations down to the granularity of small mom and pop businesses, by subjecting such an enormous proportion of a family's income political redistribution that all are forced to focus their energies on politics rather than pioneering. All of these things are dictating the social experiments that are politically correct for those pioneering populations and are endangering not just those populations, but life itself as technological civilization is bottled up in an increasingly dangerous pressure-cooker.

  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:14AM (#10404621)
    You see in the normal world, as you use and learn technology - you build a foundation that becomes more and more valuable and needed over time.

    But we do not live in the normal world - we live in a world where there is proprietary and non proprietary technology, and for the short term there is always intense pressure to use and learn the proprietary stuff. But this stuff always makes you obsolete, and gives you nothing to build on over the long term.

    The truth is that it is always in peoples best interest to know the non proprietary stuff that they can build on over the long term. Traditionally we have had college to build a non proprietary foundation to bypass the problems caused in a proprietary society - but now thanks in part to the internet - we have things like unrestricted free access to information, we have access freely to things like Linux.

    The rules have changed, and this is just one of the symptoms. The barriers to bypass the proprietary problems have dropped, and the effects will likely shake the system to it's knees.
  • by phyruxus ( 72649 ) <jumpandlink@NoSpAm.yahoo.com> on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:15AM (#10404639) Homepage Journal
    The Wright brothers were bicycle enthusiasts who turned to flight research. The UCLA IMP team (designers of the protean "switch") expected to be replaced by "the real experts" any day, only to discover there were none but themselves. The fathers of the American revolution were educated, but I don't think it'd be appropriate to call them "professional revolutionists". Steve Jobs was a Homebrew Computer Club member - so was Steve Wozniak.

    Charles Lindbergh was a mail pilot before he made the first flight ever across the atlantic (L.I. to Paris).

    All the original "elite hackers" of the early information age were total amateurs.

    Every "professional" was once an amateur. Our culture has come to identify a slick suit, fancy title and wad of cash with skill and ability. Being a "pro" means you have proven yourself to the mainstream, maybe that you were a better amateur than some others, maybe that you were in the right place at the right time. Years of experience are good, yes. So is imagination, fresh perspective, and untapped potential.

    A point? uh... (digs furiously) uh...raincheck?

  • Blogs left out (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CosmicDreams ( 23020 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:16AM (#10404647) Journal
    You forgot to mention the blogosphere. Blogs dramatically lower the cost of entry into journalism. This has led many professionals and a bunch of arm chair quarterbacks to contribute the media cycle. In a nation that prides freedom of press, freedom of speech, and fairness, this is a good thing.
  • by AnalogDiehard ( 199128 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:28AM (#10404785)
    • David slays Goliath
    • Daniel topples the gods of Babylon
    • Martin Luther rebukes the RCC and sparks the Reformation
    • Steam locomotives prevail against canal boat makers
    • Oil lanterns threatened by newfangled light bulb
    • Horse-n-buggy cart makers lose out to automobiles
    • Natural gas gains home heating advantage over king coal
    • JVC's VHS wins the video format war against Sony's Betamax
    • Punk Rock rebels against pompous prog rock and mirror ball disco freaks
    • Nirvana puts 80's metal hair, preppie girl, and boy bands out of business

  • by kakapo ( 88299 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:46AM (#10404973)
    Amateur astronomers have always had a big impact, there is nothing new going on here. Many comets are found by amateurs, as (until recently, when the process was automated) were many extra-galactic supernovae. Likewise, many amateurs have devoted a great deal of time to monitoring variable stars.

    In many cases, these observations are not done by professionals because the return on each *individual* observation is small, and they could not justify the time. But there is singificant synergy, since a researcher interested in (say) variable stars has access to many different light curves from each star thanks to the work of amateurs.

    The technology used by amatuers has improved, with cheap CCDs and computers -- but the same technology has also made professional instruments much more effective than they were in the days of photographic plates and clockwork drives.

    To my mind (as a theoretical physicist who started out as an amateur astronomer in junior high) an analagous activity is bird watching: professional ornithologists use a huge amount of use of data gathered by amateur "birders", who are often exceptionally knowledgeable about the species they look at, and who gather data from a love of observing the natural world. But this is not high tech, so Fast Company didn't see it.
  • AdidasNet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @11:49AM (#10405018) Homepage Journal
    Rap music wasn't promoted by "Pro-Ams -- committed, networked amateurs" unless you mean sneakerNet [amazon.com]. Decidedly low-tech, ghetto kids invented rap with turntables from garbage cans, because they couldn't afford any instruments, and no one in the Bronx was throwing away guitars. They couldn't even get on the radio for years, so playgrounds and cassette tapes were their medium. By the time even analog FM radio started playing them, they were already a cultural institution, which radio and video networks (like MTV and ClearChannel) have largely destroyed, transforming cool smartass party kids into glossy spokesmodels product for global consumer brands. Some "rap" is still bubbling underground, with its original spirit, riding both social and digital networks [nappyg.com].
  • by tin foil hat dude ( 791617 ) <queeg@searPOLLOCKust.com minus painter> on Friday October 01, 2004 @12:03PM (#10405175) Journal
    What the stories author failed to understand is that these Pro-Ams have always been around, its just that now the author is an adult and has opportunities to join adult organizations.

    Take for instance Ham radio operators, one of the more interesting things to do is joining huge worldwide networks to "pass traffic" (messages) from place to place. MARS, the Military Affiliate Radio System is Amateurs used to pass personal messages from military personnel to their families back in the US. This still is used but has really fallen by the wayside with cell phones and e-mail and the like.

    Starting in the 60's Ham radio operators launched a series of satellites constructed by unpaid amateurs (www.amsat.org) AMSAT-OSCAR 7, launched in 1974 still being listed as semi-operational. These amateurs have since 1961 launched a series of 50 other satellites.

    Amateurs and groups of amateurs a century ago in the 1910's fostered a world wide revolution called the aeroplane. Some of their groups like the Aviator Club in France still exist.

    Voulunteer organizations run by people that I guarantee look at the organization in a professional light are nothing new. Fraternal organizations like Elks or KOC or OddFellows, or any of a thousand others (http://www.exonumia.com/art/society.htm) all have declining and aging memberships. This is not because people are not doing the same kind of joining or voulunteering, Its just that instead of putting on the goofy hat and going to the lodge on friday night, everyone is putting on the goofy hat and joing the rest of their StarCraft clan on-line on friday night.

    Even the authors own point that some of these Pro-Ams are astronomers is foolish. Perhaps 99 percent of all astronomers EVER have been amateurs, and many comets have been discovered over the past 100 years by amateurs or groups of amateurs. Are these amateurs working any less professionally than somone being paid for the work?

    There are millions of small groups of unpaid amateurs producing research and journals and inventions and discoveries. To think that there is anything unique or new about this is just plan wrong. The author of the article has made the fatal error that many young people make of believing that they have discovered some truism of the human condition that their and only their generation has come up with, and that anything more than 20 years old is worthless. Perhaps the author should remember how his own industry came to be and remember that no one got paid to run the Homebrew Computer Club.

  • Time and Tools... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PetoskeyGuy ( 648788 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @12:06PM (#10405204)
    The only difference between pros and amateurs is the amount of time they spend on something and the price of their tools. Telescopes are becoming commodities just like computers. The internet allows people to collaborate and check out the same object and keep up to date on the latest developments.

    It doesn't matter much if your being paid, it's how much time and work you put into what your doing and how much it costs to have the proper tools to help you out.

    Astronomy and Programming now have very low barriers to entry and are easy to collaborate. It just broadeds the base of those fields. To get the the top you still need super computers or things like the Keck Observatory that are very hard to come by - for now.
  • dobsonians and CCD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @12:11PM (#10405258) Journal
    About astronomy...
    I am sorry but with a dobson, you can take picture of the moon and a few planets, holding your digital camera, but that's all... to take pictures of DSO (deep space object), you need a very stable equatorial mount and automatic tracking motors, to allow e.g. 10 minutes CCD exposure. (Or a heavy fork mount and a field "de-rotationner")
    But it's true that now this is open to a lot of people, a > 10" SCT and a good CCD will cost more than 10000$, but hardcore amateurs can afford that, and share information and pictures on the net.
  • by Natedog ( 11943 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @12:13PM (#10405282)
    I think most libertarian minded people would agree that artificial barriers to entry into segments in society are a BadThing (eg like the guilds of old). The idea that amateurs would be excluded from science, music, medicine, or any field just because they don't belong to a group goes against the grain of modern free society. So I agree with the author in spirit.

    That said, however, I disagree with the author on most points because the article assumes that such artificial barriers exist across most of society. IMHO, for the most part, they do not. In the case of science and medicine -- these are *very* hard and critical professions -- the barriers to entering these professions are not artificial; they are nessecary. I for one don't want a doctor-on-the-weekends treatmenting me. Likewise, I don't think most people can train themselves to research and develope nano-technology. I'm not saying that most people can't go into such fields if they choose, it just requires a life-long commitment. Nor am I implying that one needs to pay huge $$$ to pursue such a career -- many of the state funded universities offer the same opportunies as the ivy leage schools.
  • by angst_ridden_hipster ( 23104 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @01:02PM (#10405854) Homepage Journal
    Well, perhaps democratization is not the precise word. But the *means* of doing professional level work is more widespread than ever before.

    In general (despite a recent local trend away from these achievements), people are more educated, people have more leisure time, and people have the means to acquire higher-quality tools and equipment. This is mostly a result of technology becoming ubiquitous and cheap.

    Consider making movies: before the late 70s, a home movie maker could affordably use Super-8 format. The cameras were moderately expensive and had limited functionality. Professionals were shooting 35mm or 70mm on cameras that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Today, even some of the studios shoot on high-end video, and the quality difference between the high-end and the consumer low-end is not huge (since the "ama-pros" don't necessarily distribute on film stock, I'm willing to call video and film equivalent, even knowing the differences). But I haven't even mentioned the most important part: the editing. Nonlinear editing? Even ten years ago, that started around $20k. Today, it comes with any iMac.

    Similarly, anyone can get an acceptable recording studio in their house for under $2k.

    People can afford to own power tools that my father's generation could only dream about.

    I could go on, but I think the point is made. Of course there are amateurs doing pro-level work. There always have been! But now the means are readily available to open up the opportunities to far more people; it should be no surprise that more people are taking those opportunities. That these same people are having ideas that hadn't been thought of by the "Pros" seems almost self-evident. The more minds on a subject, the more ideas.
  • Love and delight (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hammerbot ( 809952 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @01:10PM (#10405951)

    According to my Oxford dictionary, the original meaning of amateur was "One who loves or is fond of" - from the French amare (to love). I like this definition - I think that an intrinsic love for the subject is what distinguishes an amateur from a professional. An amateur could be paid, but would keep working even if they are not.

    A similar word, usually used in a derogative way is dilettante - "A lover of the fine arts; originally one who cultivates them for the love of them rather than professionally, and so = amateur as opposed to professional ... later applied ... to one who interests himself in an art or science merely as a pastime and without serious aim or study." (OED)

    It is based on the French word dilettare - to delight.

    Compare this with the word Professional which my OED tells me is based on the word Profession - "The declaration, promise or vow made by one entering a religious order; hence the action of entering such an order; the fact of being professed in a religious order."

    So we have two pictures - the professional who has made a serious, solid, institutional commitment; and the amateur/dilettante who is in it purely for the love and delight. It is not surpising that the professionals look down on the amateurs and mistrust their pleasure. It is also not surprising that the history of science and technology is full of breakthroughs made by amateurs.

    I agree with the premise of the article - as we become richer and live longer lives more and more of us are able to spend time indulging our love and delight and make significant contributions as amateurs.

  • Sherlock Holmes... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hogger@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday October 01, 2004 @01:36PM (#10406307) Journal
    The greatest detective ever, Sherlock Holmes, was an amateur...
  • by museumpeace ( 735109 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @01:37PM (#10406316) Journal
    I tend to agree with the many posted comments which judge the Fast Company article a bit overblown. There is enough to be gained even from the failures of the amateurs and nobody dies if their collaborations are stiffled by the interference of for-profit operations. ONE good effect of all the open source ferment has been to teach a lesson to the biotech industry. We are all hurt by the huge delays that patent litigation introduces into the process of biotech drug and therapy commercialization. The day before the Fast Company article and with a more fact-based report, the current issue of Nature [nature.com] had an article on "Open Source Biology [nature.com] about how biotechnologists who are willing to share their tool discoveries partly for the synergistic benefit that will have on the collective advancement of research and largely at frustration over the mire of patent litigation that gums up biotech research programs. [NPG charges for access to their content] The effort is spearheaded by Biological Inovation for Open Society [bios.net] and with the support of of the World Intellectual Property Organization [bios.net] are ushering in a new paradigm for science research.
  • by fred fleenblat ( 463628 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @01:48PM (#10406469) Homepage
    The advantage that amateurs have is that they don't have managers in their face 8 hours a day telling them what to do; they don't need to brown nose or participate in other corporate-specific games; they are free to take more experiemental risks since there is no capital wasted on marketing, advertising, stock options, etc; amateurs are free to focus their time on interesting projects, not just what the focus group says they will pay for.

    In the end, the talent the professional has isn't what pays the bills--it's simply his willingness to practice his craft in a corporate environment that adds value.
  • by ahodgkinson ( 662233 ) on Friday October 01, 2004 @02:21PM (#10406895) Homepage Journal
    I'm not so sure that the Pro-Am movement is all that new. I think talented amateurs have been having a profound impact on society for a long, long time. There's been always a cutting edge of innovation separate from large corporate interests. This is probably better explained by the stifling behavior of large organizations and the passionate individual's willings to risk all, than any Internet and/or technology aspect.

    That said, the cheaper and improved communication enabled by recent technological developments, notably the Internet, has allowed talented amateurs to exchange ideas and cross motivate each other without physically have to be in the same place.

    In most periods of intense innovation, the innovation itself takes place in so-called clusters, where there is a critical mass of the talented and passionate individuals driving the creation and development of new technology.

    This pattern has existed for hundreds of years. Consider the following (incomplete list):

    • The development of the decorative arts industries in Venice during the renaissance.
    • The industrial revolution in the early 19th century in the midlands of England.
    • The silicon revolution in the 70s in the Bay Area.

    In each of these periods, outsiders managed to start entire industries, often becoming household names and rich in the process. The barriers to entry were initially low and, as time went by, the rich and powerful would naturally attempt to raise them to preserve their comfortable status quo. Generally, this led to a period of stagnation and then another bout of innovation would occur, often in different place and involving different technology.

    What's different is that now, with the Internet, being in the same places physically isn't a necessary condition for the formation of a cluster.

    In observing the development of personal computers and the introduction to electronic communications that led to the (widespread) Internet you might want to consider the steps that led to where we are now. They are not listed in any particular order, but rather to show that we have had stages of evolution prior to today's Internet that enabled Pro-Ams:

    Ham radio

    Bulletin Board Systems

    Usenet news groups

    Desktop publishing

    Wide spread availability of e-mail

    Browsers and static web pages

    Blogs

    Each of these steps allow communication to occur and in its way helped the like-minded talented amateurs find their 'cluster'.

    Like the song says: It's all just history repeating ..just with a new twist.

    P.S. I'd also like to point out the use of rap music to bolster the argument is false. As pointed out in some of the other comments, Big Business has controlled popular music since before the 80's and has largely stifled or co-opted all innovation since then. Not by choice, rather through greed and by attempting to reduce risk. There is some Pro-Am innovation in music, but because of Big Business' control of the existing distribution channels, it has yet to reach any mainstream audience. Perhaps the Internet will change this.

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet.got@net> on Saturday October 02, 2004 @09:22AM (#10412662) Journal
    Until the middle of the last century, brilliant ameteurs had always made a critical contribution to science and technology. In fact, Before the middle of the 19th century, nearly all scientific discovery was made by men whose primary "job" was outside of science.

    It was only when the nature of scientific discovery, exceeded the grasp of most common men (requiring may years of esoteric study or incredibly expensive aparatus), that professional scientists forced the ameteurs to virtually disappear.

    The advent of cheap manufacture, cheap and plentiful advanced digital devices, and powerful information processing on a desk top, made it possible for curious ameteur to once again participate on dozens of levels of science, that were closed to public access only a decade ago.

    I'm not certain whether home brewed nanotech, might be a blessing or a curse, but these are indeed interesting times.

    Genda

"Mr. Spock succumbs to a powerful mating urge and nearly kills Captain Kirk." -- TV Guide, describing the Star Trek episode _Amok_Time_

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