[Homeroast] Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists

Chad Sheridan sheridan.home at verizon.net
Sat May 1 11:54:23 CDT 2010


Good post.  The word that hits it for me regarding my obsession and 
journey with coffee is that it's my avocation.  Some day, it may 
transition to something I do full time (I around 10-20+ hours a week 
now).  I hold no illusions--to me, there's never a point of 
arrival--this is a lifelong journey.  The more I learn, the more that I 
learn how little I truly know.


Ryan M. Ward wrote:
> I too question the validity of the statement: "In most cases the non paid person who is performing a task will have a higher competency level than a comparable paid person" a great example is mathematicians (also a pathelogical case I know). I have know many "amateur" mathematicians- many of whom are pretty good what they do. I am only familiar with two amateur mathematicians in history that ever published anything significant. your brain surgery example is also great, although if I ever met someone claiming to be an amateur brain surgeon, I would start running away very quickly!!
> ""Holding a job" in our society commonly means being paid to work for someone else. "
> I am not so sure of this either. 
> First off, I looked up the word 'job' in the dictionary and the definition is a little vauge but did not seem to preclude working for oneself. I am sure the Oxford English Dictionary would hold the definitive answer here- I do not own a copy.
> Speaking personally (acknowledging that I alone do not represent society as a whole), I agreed with Rich's definition with a slight exception (that being that I don't feel that being paid to do something is enough, that payment should be significant, and constitute a significant portion of one's livelihood. I would not consider someone who works in a coffee house one hour a week to be a professional barista, that is an amateur barista with an allowance).
> "I highly doubt many if any would have the skill to come close to matching any of the six finalists in the recent US Barista competition, all professionals."
> Well, I imagine you are right, but again these people are almost pathological cases. Rich stated: "In most cases" This does not mean, amateurs are better than professionals always. It means take a random amateur, and a random professional and compare them. Statisitically, I doubt any of those six, or any of your Baristas would be chosen at random. Most likely a Starbucks employee would get drawn honestly. Although I think you do have a very valid point in that there appears to be some kind of an upper limit to the skill levels of amateurs that has been exceeded by the skill levels of professionals- considered as one large set. Its just this apparent exceeding of skill is being done by a very small subset of the professional population.
>  Think what it boils down to is interest and ambition. Amateurs make coffee because the are interested in coffee- this is their hobby, so they tend to get good at it if they approach it correctly. They start tinkering in the kitchen and coming up with come really cool ideas. 
> Some baristas are interested in coffee but honestly, many are just holding jobs(This is what I have noticed working in coffee). They know that if the customer does not complain, they are home free. Maybe they like coffee, but minimal work is sufficient for them. They have little ambition to advance their skill. I think this is the phenomena we are noticing. 
> Those baristas who are interested; however, have the financial support, and the equipment to take their skills to the next level, beyond the typical amateur. They can afford to make coffee all day and practice their art. Most of us amateurs have other professions. We get to make coffee when we get home from work.

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