I'm very passionate about the site, but not because I necessarily want to make my own ticket-buying experience better. I like TS because it's a useful service for other people, presents challenging work, and has been an opportunity to work with very large volumes of data, among other reasons. I may not find tickets or sports exciting, but not once since the start of this project have I thought to myself, "I really wish I was working on something else."
Edit: Once we have concert listings I suppose I can meet the artificial requirement of building something I would use because there's little I'm more passionate about than music.
This is the reason open source software so often sucks - because people want to solve the difficult technical problems (to prove themselves or why, I don't know), and they are not solving the most important problem - which is knowing all the different ways users want to use your site and making sure each and every way is so smooth it's sweet.
That's a core of passion - you create a little baby, and you want that baby to be perfect, so you do the little things - smooth out the icons here, make sure that the window pops up just right, test it 30 different times to see if the flow is smooth and obvious, you ask people what they think of it, and how exactly it can be made better.
It's like when you finish a painting, then you take a step back, look at it to see how a stranger would look at it. Then you squint your eyes to see how the colors look on their own. Then you go up close to see how the shadow on the little corner box looks, then you think what color of frame would properly offset the color on the inside....
TS is "my baby". I want it to be perfect. I have tested it way more than 30 times, probably 3 million, but whatever. We have gotten countless amounts of feedback in writing, in person, over the phone, in every possible way. We ask people to nit-pick. Then, we take what they say, and implement the things that will make us better.
You've assumed that because I don't have a passion for the subject of my work, I therefor do not have passion for my work. You've assumed incorrectly. I take pride in all the projects I create and I strive to make them as good as they can be. I may never use TS to compare and find sports tickets (never mind; hockey season is starting soon), but that doesn't mean I can't be passionate about making such an experience as good as it possibly can be, and better than anyone has done before.
I'm glad you've found some unannounced projects that you have extreme passion for or whatever but you can't really apply that to other individuals' tastes, hobbies and desires. It varies.
Good luck with your projects - nothing is more fulfilling than doing something you enjoy working on all the time (as Tom and I and many of the HN crowd have done).
Success is when a creation achieves the goal of what it is supposed to be. Being great in what you do is the ability to create something that achieves that goal.
Software applications are like paintings. It's easy to create a mediocre painting, and the difficulty in the magnificent paintings lie in the attention to detail.
If you really think usability is not the CORE of any software application, then you are not just on the wrong path, you are going in the opposite direction.
Similarly, a painting's artist cannot objectively determine how beautiful/emotional/successful the work of art is, because he has an innate sense of what it is trying to convey to the viewers. Just because the artist sees the subtles details, nuances, allusions, etc, does not mean that other viewers will be able to glean the same information.
And to drive the nail home a third time, an engineer could not possibly be an objective judge of how easy a car is to operate (usability), because they already know where everything is and how it works. They need to have a real person sit in the seat to realize that putting the cigarette lighter and cup holders inside the center console is a bad idea and not at all intuitive...