[Homeroast] Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists

Ryan M. Ward silvercro_magnon at hotmail.com
Sat May 1 15:51:53 CDT 2010

I agree with your basic premise here, that skill at anything comes from interest and love of the craft. I do agree completely that love/interest/ambition/(insert favorite appropriate word) is the primary root here.
As far as generalizations, I am not quite certain exactly what you mean by generalizations, if you mean classifying members of a group into subgroups based on common characteristics with the intent to draw inferences about the members of the group based on those common characteristics, then what's to hate. Generalizations in and of themselves are not bad things. If fact, I argue that the ability to generalize is very important to us as humans. 
Take two Huskies- different dogs, different DNA,etc... but many common traits- they are both huskies. The breed huskie is in fact a generalization. Two different huskies have an astronomical amount of dissimilar traits, but the few that are common between them make them huskies. 
Instead of the need to consider every single individual member of the dog species, we have grouped together large chunks of the species into subgroups which share common traits(we call these subgroups breeds). This gives us the ability to make certain assumptions about the breed as a whole. 
Generalizations become unhealthy when we cling to them too tightly and take them seriously to an inappropriate level or if we over generalize or inappropriately generalize (Such as racial stereotypes).
In this discussion, we noticed a trend- speaking typically, amateur baristas tend to do a better job at making coffee than professional baristas (or whatever each particular person's take was on it, I am using this one for illustrative purposes- and yes I acknowledge that this was not, strictly speaking, the original topic of discussion). We then began to discuss why this is the case. We then determined what was different between amateurs and professions- namely pay. When then attempted to determine how this might affect different in cup quality and end product. 

So, my point here is that yes we did use some generalizations but none of which we took too seriously (See Mike's point, in which he used a counterexample to the generalizations we used). Generalizations allowed us to consider all members of the coffee craft simultaneously- but broken up into broad categories, without the need to consider individual members (unless appropriate to do so). Generalizations are our friend. They are why biologists have a job (and most scientists for that matter).

Your point, however, is well received in that often times we fail to see generalizations for what they truly are: tools- we either take them to heart too much or we apply them inappropriately (Logicians recognize a logical fallacy called a 'hasty generalization' basically you apply a generalization argument before establishing that such a generalization is appropriate). What we were interested in during this discussion was not individual baristas, we were interested in the traits associate with broad groups of baristas and how those traits affect their work. We need a thought tool to do this. Generalizations are the appropriate tool. If you can think of a better one to use to have such discussions, I would love to hear about it because I would really like to win the Fields Medal, but have not come up with any good ideas yet to do so :)

Ryan M. Ward

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> From: djgarcia at improbablystructuredlayers.net
> To: homeroast at lists.sweetmariascoffee.com
> Date: Sat, 1 May 2010 14:09:44 -0400
> Subject: Re: [Homeroast] Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists
> Frankly, in my book we're talking apples and potato chips. How good one gets
> at doing something is much more dependent on a person's inner convictions
> and character. Whether they are getting paid or not to do it may be a factor
> for motivation, as are the expenses involved, training or not, how much you
> learn (or how disinterested you get) from doing something repeatedly, etc.
> But again those are heavily dependent on a person's character and goals.
> The No. 1 Barista, currently owning his own coffee shop / roasting facility,
> gets married and decides to accept a lucrous management position so he can
> make more money and spend more time with his family. He's still the No. 1
> Barista, but no longer a coffee professional. Hmmm, I think that would make
> a cool movie "The Barista", with ... Paul Rubens???!!!
> I don't believe miKe is a super-competent roaster / barista because he's a
> professional. Quite the contrary, he's now a professional because he loves
> this type of work and is truly adept at it (or is heavily addicted to coffee
> and really picky, not sure which :-).
> Generally speaking I hate generalizations because they change so much by
> geography, demographics, seasons, mosquito population, planetary alignment.
> And remember kids, we're trained professionals, DO try this at home ...
> DJ
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