To say that there are differences of opinion in the old school community is to state a truism. Yet, sometimes, it's worth looking at some of those differences to see what insight might be gleaned from them. A good case in point is what I've come to see as the "hobbyist vs. professional" debate. You see, a lot of us -- correctly, I think -- believe that, somewhere along the line, the industry part of the roleplaying world went off the rails, to the detriment of the hobby part. There are naturally many divergent points of view on precisely when this derailing occurred, but, regardless, I don't think this perspective is controversial among the vast majority of us promoting old school gaming these days.
Where the controversy often appears concerns the question of professionalism and indeed the very idea of "the industry" itself. Understandably, there are some gamers who feel that the industry that grew out of the hobby lost its way when it "went professional." They equate the amateurish look of those great early games and adventures with the term "hobbyist" and see the move away from that look toward a more "professional" one as the source of the derailing they decry. I think there's some truth in this, but I'm not sure the derailing had anything to do with production values or "professionalism."
For me, "hobbyist" refers not esthetics so much as origin. That is, whence did game X or module Y come? Was it created to fill a slot in a production schedule or did it arise out of play? That's the big difference between, say, Gygax's Giants-Drow series and the Dragonlance modules. The former were professional write-ups of adventures based in actual play, whereas Dragonlance was conceived from start to finish as an effort to sell modules. Certainly Dragonlance borrowed elements from adventures and campaigns that were actually played (like Jeff Grubb's deities), but there was no such thing as a Dragonlance campaign prior to its being written up for sale, unlike nearly adventure Gary Gygax wrote during his time at TSR.
I won't go so far as to say production values or esthetics are irrelevant to this question. However, I will say they're of secondary importance to me the origin of the content being sold. If someone is selling a rules set or an adventure or a campaign setting, I always think it better if it has some connection to actually having been played rather than merely being an ivory tower brainchild of a writer or designer looking for something to sell. So, I don't see hobbyist and professional as necessarily opposite qualities. I can imagine lots of very slick, professionally-made hobbyist products. That doesn't bother me and, given the tools technology have given us over the last few years, it's easier than ever to make hobbyist products that look every bit as good as something made by "professionals." What I don't want, though, are products made solely as consumer goods. When that started happening in the RPG industry, that's where things started to go off the rails.
This is a more rambling and open-ended question than usual, but I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on this. What does "hobbyist" mean to you and do you see it as antithetical to "professional?" Do you care if a RPG product is just someone's thought experiment and has little or no connection to actual play or is that not an issue for you? As ever, try to remain polite and respectful in the comments. This could be a potentially contentious topic, but there's no need for it to be acrimonious.