by Simon St. Laurent

The longer I stay in computing, the more I think that the motivation which first drew me in is important. What was it? Fun.

Last week, at a mapping conference that seemed largely focused on enterprise-this and mission-critical-that, I asked what effect the fun factor of Google Maps and other aspects of mapping might have. The responses I got and some of the followup questions suggested that even the driest of enterprise solutions providers might have some genuine interest in making things exciting, to drive user and programmer interest.

When I first got into XML, it also seemed to have a substantial fun factor, if not one so immediate as the pleasures of maps. XML offered vast flexibility for structuring data the way I wanted it, not just the way one organization saw things. XLink offered a chance to create a more powerful Web with many more linking possibilities - even some that might be construed as graffiti. Unfortunately, that excitement's dimmed over the years, not just because XML itself is simple but because people seem genuinely uninterested in perspectives that might not square with the dullest of dull business logic.

Now, I see that even a story once told as Just for Fun is now being retold as if it was always about the enterprise. Fortunately, there are still things you can do with Linux that are lots of fun, even if the promoters of dull and stolid prefer not to see them.

It's strange to me that people would want to drive the fun out of technologies. Even though it may help them make some sales now, it doesn't seem healthy in the long run. What's going to inspire the next big discovery? Dollars are necessary to promote innovation, but I can't say that staring at a pile of cash exactly spurs creative technical thoughts.

How much does fun matter in your choice of what you do? Or is fun so lost for you that the cash is all that keeps you going?


2005-05-15 11:05:03
I remember when I first got into my digital mapping career - it was fun to learn some new tools, etc. The fun took the back seat when I realised I could never play at home with the proprietary tools I used at work.

Thankfully, it became fun again when I got into the open source mapping world. It's encouraging to see what people are doing, what is possible and what promise the future holds.

Thanks for the weblog, Simon, it reminded me of where I've come from too.