TITLE: Collaboration and Passion
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: November 01, 2004 8:15 AM
DESC: Thinking about mid-life crises in hopes of avoiding them.
As many of you know, I turned forty last week. If you
are the last to know, I apologize. You must not know
If I should have suffered through a mid-life crisis by
now, I am sorry to disappoint you. To be honest, I hope
that I have not yet reached the middle of a long and
I am not now in the midst of a crisis, but recent events
bring such thoughts to mind. I spent last week at
amidst the intellectual, professional and personal passion
of folks like Brian Marick, David Ungar, and Alan Kay.
Then, on the flight home, I finally got around to reading
article on group think,
which describes the passion that often infuses groups
of creative minds working in fertile intimacy.
I certainly crave that sort of passion but often find it
lacking in my daily life.
Mid-life crises may well happen when people realize that
they've lost their passion. Perhaps they come to fear
that they've lost their capacity to feel
passionately. The steady drip-drip-drip of real life
has a way of wearing down our sharp edges, leaving us
just tiredly waiting for tomorrow.
One way to combat this erosion is to surround yourself
with the right people.
Gladwell reports (from the work of such folks as
and OOPSLA reminds of the power -- and critical need --
of groups for nurturing passion and driving greatness.
Many people, especially Americans, subscribe to the
myth of the solitary genius, the lone pioneer. But
history shows that nearly all of the great advances
attributed to individuals grew out of remarkable
circles of creative people pushing each other, driving
and feeding off of each other's passion.
For academics, large universities have an advantage
over smaller skills like UNI when it comes to
gathering the critical mass of the right people in
the right place at the right time. Academic centers
like Boston and technological centers like Silicon
Valley offer the same possibilities. But such groups
can form and grow over space and time, too, especially
in this era of easy travel and electronic communication.
For me, in the last decade the software community that
grew out of the
has played that role. So have amorphous groups of
creative and ambitious software developers and educators
in the OOPSLA and SIGCSE communities. These groups
intersect in interesting ways, with enough folks
outside the core to inject new ideas occasionally.
Unconsciously, I drew my program committee for the
recent OOPSLA Educators Symposium from these groups.
Their ideas and passion helped me to shepherd the
symposium to success.
But sometimes the passion of distributed groups wilts
in the heat of a long semester. At OOPSLA, a friend
shared his recent bout with this malaise, and I know
the feeling well. But it's good to know that making
and maintaining connections with good people -- which
I have been fortunate to do throughout my career --
is one way to keep passion within my reach. I need
to work to develop and maintain relationships if I
wish to develop and maintain passion.