The difference between your job and your hobby


There was an internal discussion about what Microsoft employees should be doing that do not directly relate to their job responsibilities, such as what text editor programmers should be using to write and edit code. Should anybody who uses a programming editor other than Visual Studio be branded a traitor? How about somebody who prefers a smartphone made by a certain Cupertino company? (And for some reason, this discussion took place on the Microsoft bloggers mailing list, because many people consider it a mailing list whose members are bloggers, as opposed to a mailing list for discussing blogging. I happen to adhere to the second definition.)

These sorts of discussions generate far more heat than light, and I felt compelled to chime in:

If it doesn't result in a bigger number in my bank account, then it's a hobby. It's noble that many people have Microsoft-focused hobbies. My hobbies are knitting and modern Germanic languages.

Comments (34)
  1. John says:

    I don’t get paid for it, but I consider nitpicking to be a profession.

  2. Paul Williams says:

    @John – So your profession is "nitting"?

  3. Bill says:

    The openness of the Microsoft platform is one of the biggest drivers of its success. Anyone can write an app and distribute it, without any interference from MS.

    The use of 3rd party apps and devices, even when they are direct competitors to MS offerings, should be encouraged for the health of the Windows ecosystem.

    (IMHO ;) )

  4. J. Pierpont Finch says:

    "I feel sorry for men who don’t knit, they lead empty lives."

  5. Nick Lamb says:

    Two groups meet in a local pub on the first Monday of every month.

    One group is software developers

    The other is knitters

    So far there doesn’t seem to be any overlap which would cause a conflict. I guess this wouldn’t be a problem for Raymond either (except I don’t know if he’d be able to sit there knitting while across the other side of the pub someone is loudly arguing that LLP64 was a terrible idea…)

  6. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    I would mandate that all developers at MS used the new Visual Studio 2010, instead of competing editors. With its new help system. And were prohibited from used previous help system, such as Win7 SDK doc viewer. Don’t go to web for help, it’s verboten.

  7. Chriso says:

    Though you could sell your knitted stuff and make money with it. Or you can participate knitting contests and win a prize?

  8. Kevin says:

    "If it doesn’t result in a bigger number in my bank account, then it’s a hobby".

    Or, you have spending problem ;-)

  9. Michael G says:

    I tend to agree with you, but in the US, the IRS has provisions to tax you if you make income from your hobby.  I always wondered exactly what they meant, so your post finally motivated me to find out.

    Here’s the IRS’s take on what’s makes a hobby.  Mostly it boils down to "If you make money by accident, it’s a hobby, if you do anything to make money on purpose, it’s a business":

    http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=172833,00.html

  10. Nathan_works says:

    So can we find Raymond on etsy ? An afghan by Raymond on e-bay ?

  11. Alex says:

    We do also have some "holly wars" between .net devs (windows, c# VS2008), ruby on rail (MacOSX) and Java devs (Windows/Linux Eclipse)

    It’s not like there is big rush about it, but it’s nice to know opinion from the "other side of the camp" :)

  12. Yuhong Bao says:

    “How about somebody who prefers a smartphone made by a certain Cupertino company?”

    Anyone remember when Steve Ballmer smashed an iPhone?

    [Yes, we all remember it. -Raymond]
  13. Gabe says:

    Nitpicking is not only a profession, but it also pays quite well (according to an article I once read about it). I find it hard to believe anybody would want that as a hobby. Fortunately for me I’ve never need to seek the services of one who picks nits, though, so I don’t know how well it pays.

  14. day job says:

    Don’t sell your knittings.

  15. Chris Lineker says:

    I have to go with the first definition. If it was supposed to be about blogging it would be called "Microsoft Blogging" rather than "Microsoft Bloggers"

  16. Grant says:

    "Anyone remember when Steve Ballmer smashed an iPhone?"

    Actually, I don’t remember him ever doing that, Raymond’s response to the contrary.

    http://gizmodo.com/5357235/ballmer-busts-microsoft-staffer-taking-his-photo-with-an-iphoneuh-oh

    "Ballmer then PRETENDED to stomp on it and walked away…" (emphasis added).

    "Ballmer also JOKINGLY teased the poor employee during his speech afterward…" (emphasis added).

    "What have we learned? Well, Steve Ballmer actually has a sense of humor."

  17. Joe says:

    When I run into someone over 40 who still does programming as a hobby, I think there’s something wrong with them.

  18. Marquess says:

    The bloggers mailing list is for people who blog, while a mailing list about blogging would be the blogging mailing list. Makes perfect sense.

    “The use of 3rd party apps and devices, even when they are direct competitors to MS offerings, should be encouraged for the health of the Windows ecosystem.”

    Which is, as far as I heard, one of the main reasons why Visual Studio isn’t free.

    Also, the new help system isn’t so bad. The only thing I’m really missing is the index. But I’d rather bitch on *their* blog.

  19. ulric says:

    I keep re-reading the first phrase of the article and I can’t make sense of it.  isn’t there something wrong with it?

    "internal discussion about what Microsoft employees should be doing that do not directly relate to their job responsibilities, such as what text editor programmers should be using […]"

    it’s around the word "that"

  20. Maurits says:

    s/do not directly relate/is not directly related/

  21. Cheong says:

    Here’s another kind of dogfooding that’s essential for an OS developing company – try to get people run as many kind of application running on the operating system your company develop as possible for daily usage.

    This alone should be sufficient reason to encourage employees to use all other kinds of tool running on Windows.

  22. Worf says:

    I suppose the irony of competition is well, sometimes people prefer first-sourcing.

    Like I install Windows 7. Need a virus scanner? I’ll put more faith in Microsoft Security Essentials (given how bloated and nagware the other free ones are…).

    Backup and restore? Well, Vista/Win7 Complete PC Backup/Restore seems more trustworthy than other imaging software. After all, if I can boot the install CD, I can restore. (Any idiot can make a backup program. However, doing the restore is much harder.)

    Irony, for there is plenty of competition in both fields. Yet the Microsoft tools feel "better".

    And my text editor of choice is gvim. Which unfortunately the OLE integration broke as of VS.net, and my company refuses to get ViEmu. Sob I code with a pile of open Explorer windows and gvim.

  23. 640k says:

    When I run into someone over 40 who still does programming as a hobby, I think there’s something wrong with them.

    No, it’s wrong with YOU!

  24. Marquess says:

    @640k

    Only in Soviet Russia.

  25. danielye says:

    When I run into someone over 40 who still does programming as a hobby, I think there’s something wrong with them.

    So you thing something is wrong with Raymond? I think is over 40 -:)

  26. David Walker says:

    Alex:  Holly wars?  Aren’t those usually around Christmastime?

  27. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    @David Walker:

    No, those are mistletoe wars, with participants warmed by spiked eggnog. In a holly war, the participants are pushing each other to holly bushes (ouch, prickly leaves).

  28. gencha says:

    A Microsoft programmer working on Visual Studio (or Windows), who doesn’t like using Visual Studio (or Windows) when working on his hobby projects…

    There are so many things wrong with that, I wouldn’t know where to begin. It would explain some of the poor user experiences I had in the past though.

  29. Cooney says:

    A Microsoft programmer working on Visual Studio (or Windows), who doesn’t like using Visual Studio (or Windows) when working on his hobby projects…

    Maybe he does iPhone stuff for a hobby – doesn’t work too well in VS.

  30. Stephen Jones says:

    —–"A Microsoft programmer working on Visual Studio (or Windows), who doesn’t like using Visual Studio (or Windows) when working on his hobby projects…"——

    VS might not be the appropriate tool for the job. And even if were, the version he would be working on wouldn’t have come out yet.

  31. Joel says:

    Odd how many knitting programmers there are.  I guess it’s because to truly appreciate knitting you need to have a technical mind and an income for pricey yarn. But, I digress.

    "A Microsoft programmer working on Visual Studio (or Windows), who doesn’t like using Visual Studio (or Windows) when working on his hobby projects…"

    The typical hobbyist is working on something for fun, and, while C#, C++ and Visual Basic are productive, they’re too much like work to be a hobby.  I use my hobby computing time to try new languages, new interfaces, in general, new ideas.  Not that there aren’t new vistas in C# (see what I did there), it’s just more fun to get out of the box.  So when there is a Lisp or ML or Haskell or Ruby mode built into VS, then I would consider that as a text editor.  Right now though, there are better options available.

  32. 640k says:

    I think many hobby projects starts in fury & anger of the general mediocre software quality.

  33. slapout says:

    Usually hobbies lower you bank account…

  34. Danny says:

    I have my job as my hobby, and yes, you guess it, it’s programming. Oh, and yes I do it at home with my wife and kids hanging around me.

Comments are closed.