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When to Copy Ideas, When to Steal Ideas (davnicwil.com)
173 points by davnicwil on March 18, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

There's even more to this. davnicwil says just use the same sponge cake and excel in your area of expertise: the icing. Good advice.

Alternatively, if you are a "fast follower": after the other company has evangelized the new feature (sponge cake) and started to build an audience for it, you can see what features seem to really matter and either make a simplified one or one that addresses the limitations of it.

A great example is the iPod, the famously lame latecomer ("no wifi, less space than a nomad. Lame"). Apple launched into a market which was already developing (tiny MP3 players), and not only put their own "icing" on it (e.g. design) but addressed a couple of the fundamental problems with the existing ones (the complexity of getting music into them and navigating to find what you want). So they weren't even really competing with the other players.

Agree, and to dive in a bit more to the icing, one of the most important and least remembered ingredients in that icing was the 1.8" Toshiba hard drive. That allowed for the miniaturization of the iPod relative to other, clunkier players like the Nomad that used much larger 2.5" laptop hard drives [1], or flash-based players that could store only 25-50 songs.

Combined with iTunes, they solved for the end-to-end experience: easy to use, easy to carry around, easy to manage your library. Other players only solved for the narrow experience of playing music.

To be honest, though I do like the industrial design of the first iPod, it was perhaps the weakest part of the icing. The click wheel hadn't even been invented. It was all about the three pillars of iTunes, compact size, and '1000 songs in your pocket'. Despite the subject of the post being about copying, on iPod they actually copied very little from existing products of the time, in style and substance.

[1] http://www.iretron.com/blog/posts/technology-flashback-creat...

iPod is a wonderful example, and Apple in general too - They stole the idea of what devices to build (existing categories), copied the tactics and methods of actually building them (commodity parts) but extended the ideas sufficiently to not simply make yet another variant, but something truly new and much better.

> Copy [means] to borrow an idea for its known useful results; steal [means] to take ownership of an idea and extend it to create some novel result.

> Copy the same sponge any cake could use, then using your own creative talents as icing to make something uniquely great (steal) in the areas that make a difference in your product's niche... Steal strategy! Copy tactics

As an engineer working on product, this is good advice. It's often appealing to reinvent the wheel and succumb to "not-built-here" symptom. Especially when it comes to questions like "what stack and language to use", often, the best answer is "whatever has worked before." Rather, what's worth reinventing is the actual features or user-facing aspects of the product.

Don't go crazy making your own global Javascript store: just roll Redux or MobX. As someone who loves engineering challenges, I find myself reining myself in a lot on this at Wanderlog (https://wanderlog.com). But I realize whether we're successful or not isn't going to be our technical infrastructure. That needs be solid, but what really matters are the little things we can do to wow travelers

Why do people always plug their companies in their comments? It turns me off completely.

WanderLog is a YC company. This is a YC website.

It also shows that where their experience comes from, adds validity. In this case, I can go directly to their website and see the results of them "reining themselves in" on a production website.

I’m more inclined to dig into his company if his comment offers insights but when you just plug your company in, it just makes your comment feel insincere like pr speak.

Am Googler, ex-FB, Uber, want me to list my resume?

I think his plug was only about a 4th of his post, I would have expected a little bit more shamelessness if that were really his goal.

I think since most of the people reading hackernews are the startup type most people here just sort of tolerate the shameless plugs out of understanding

I would guess for SEO as links from HN are probably high value for google rankings.

Not this one:

<a href="https://wanderlog.com" rel="nofollow">https://wanderlog.com</a>

That appears to be a YC company, possibly club-behavior?

"I am not bothered they stole my ideas, but that they have not had any of their own" -- Nikola Tesla

>"Good artists copy. Great artists steal"

Who said that? Steve Jobs? It seems so.

The tireless Quote Investigator[0] locates many sources, including a progenitor from the 19th C, but can't find Picasso (who Jobs credited) saying it.

I was familiar with the T.S. Eliot version "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal", or in its context:

"One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest."

The point of that is, in part, that good artists don't copy. Copying/imitation of the greats is how you learnt to make art, but it's part of learning, part of becoming an artist–not part of being one, let alone a good one.

I always think of the way Shakespeare took a plot, say King Lear, from historical sources, and made it his own. It's akin to a "cover" (in the rock music sense), but made so completely his own that every other version is forgotten.

[0] https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/06/artists-steal/

To start, how about South Korea's approach to testing corona virus.

I fully accept that this is a low effort and mostly off topic comment.

That implies having the technical competency required to copy. You can't copy another project's code when you can't even find the power button.

Nationalism is a mental illness probably rooted in excessive pride unchecked by logic.

The faster we can get to a Star Trek future or something similar the better.

If all you ever do is copy and steal, you'll never learn how to develop the skills necessary to innovate and create.

That's the theme of my post :-)

I used copy and steal in the same deliberately ironic way they're meant in the famous quote "Good artists copy, great artists steal" - i.e. wrt the creative process of reusing and extending existing ideas to innovate and create new things!

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