Fact is, one guy cloned what was a closed platform (that had been openly announced and displayed) based on the idea and screenshots alone in about 11 hours (based on the HN submission interval).
If someone can do that--and does--you really haven't invented or created anything (substantive).
This just leaves the issue of whether the design and the assets (CSS, images, etc) are substantive and have been used without permission. Based on other comments, there seems to be no issue of asset "theft".
So does the minimalist design copy warrant outrage? Honestly, no. Someone has basically invented what amounts to a Wordpress theme.
If dcurtis can create a scalable, reliable platform for hosting it then great. It worked well enough for Wordpress.
Exclusivity and invite-only are time-honoured ways of scaling controllably and--let's be honest--creating hype and desire but if you're not ready for the copycats and it takes the copycats so little time that their HN submission makes it to the front page while yours is still there... that's your problem.
Let's attempt an analogy to bring these worlds together. You need an algorithm to process some specific data faster than any generic off-the-shelf algorithm can. Something like this: . You post the results to HN, explaining exactly what you came up with as a result of 10 years of experience and 2 days of solid thinking on the subject. It actually turned out to be possible in relatively little code. You haven't implemented it yet, but intend to.
11 hours later, someone has already implemented and open sourced it. People argue you aren't being ripped off: after all, if someone can do that in so little time, "you haven't really invented or created anything (substantive)".
I would disagree with such an appraisal: it's your experience that made it possible for you to come up with this solution. That someone can implement it in a couple of hours once explained, does not reduce the value of the solution. You could probably charge an employer $10K for this expert solution, independent of how long it took you to come up with it. It's the same with expert designs. Once they are shown to you, they are obvious. It's coming up with them, and fine-tuning them, that's the hard part.
Now I'm not arguing that this is instance of expert design (I wouldn't recognize it if I were slapped with it) and I'm not arguing anything about this specific case (and I specifically do not think it is relevant to argue about whether you lose rights by publishing a design/solution). I'm merely arguing that the general argument that gets thrown around here just seems wrong and insufficiently appreciative of how hard it is to properly design something.
We can banter back and forth about morals and time and effort, but what this argument (or dcurtis' plight) really comes down to is ego. That's fine. Everyone likes to have their time under the spotlight, but that's what this is all about. Exclusivity? Invites? A list of high-profile people to show off on the front page (not needed at all, btw)? "You're welcome" strewn on the footer? Yep, you're in ego territory.
As far as I know, WordPress has a few clones, so this isn't really a new thing. Obtvse put the power in your hand when someone else was trying to make you beg for it. Sorry, but it's really hard to feel bad for the designer. I think if the concept was more open, had less obvious egotistical elements, I could see some reason to be legitimately upset. At this time, it feels like someone's longing desire to be a rockstar, not a legitimate strategy (exclusivity?) to make things better for users.
- Exactly. Ego drives so much of human behaviour in everything we do, it's just sad.
I can't give an authoritative answer to that hypothesis but my sense is that while it won't be absolutely true there probably (IMHO) is some (probably even significant) correlation.
You'll note I raised the question of whether the design itself (in concept) is substantive. I don't think it's clear cut (either way) but my opinion is largely "no".
> 11 hours later, someone has already implemented and open sourced it.
Here I think it is clear cut. An algorithm is nothing more than a mathematical formula (with or without heuristics), as much as the US court system seems to not understand. If you describe in English how to that formula works to the point that someone can reproduce it then you've already given it away. The actual implementation is nothing more than details.
I suspect you're right: designers will be outraged and see this as theft. Programmers won't. I see the true value of this in the platform and the tooling not the aesthetics. IMHO there are good reasons why design is largely work-for-hire.
I am not a designer, but I feel I need to stand in for the designers of this world here. Good design is not about the aesthetics at all, it is about the way the product feels. User Interface design is a big part of it as well. There are very subtle issues here, that you don't even notice unless you are professionally trained to do so.
People here often complain about these Business guys, who think they have a great idea and are looking for a code monkey to code it up. Please, don't be the programmer version of that guy.
I'd suggest that every programmer, who hires or works with a designer should at least know a little bit about design. This is for the same reason every business guy should at least know a little bit about technology. For one, so that you know how to hire a designer, who can do more than just beautiful mockups.
I raised the question of whether the design itself (in concept) is substantive. [My] opinion is largely "no".
What is your opinion about iPhone ripoffs from China then?
I think it would be fair to claim it is the same thing on a smaller scale, because in both cases, it takes much more resources (and creativity) to come up with the original idea/design than to create a copy.
I'd like to add that I think Dustin wanted to share ideas in his blog post. I think his copy got in the way of what was important - the ideas that made the blog engine facilitate his writing. In this case, these ideas are somewhat analagous to the algorithm. They were nothing more than an idea; dustin recognized this and he was giving them away.
But when the whole product has been copied from a visual perspective down to the tooling and platform, you've effectively replicated the whole experience. It goes a bit further than aesthetics in this case and is wholly under-appreciated by those who do not have 'respect' design, so to speak.
Edited: missing a word.
Let's be honest here - there is nothing inherently special about the application except the hype and branding surrounding it. It's a blog. The design is good but it's just some text and a couple of buttons.
I don't think Obtvse should have used the same visual styling as Svbtle but this whole situation is clearly about more than just the application. Obtvse is a form of rebellion against egotism and exclusivity in a community founded on openness and transparency. When viewed in this light, I think the entire 'copied or not copied' debate is kind of meaningless.
Do I have the same problem? No. Do most of HN's users? Probably not. Do I agree with his approach on sharing things? Not particularly, but he wrote the code and came up with the design, and is entitled to do whatever he'd like with that. To me, this clone comes across as a personal attack trying to trivialize someone's work. If it added new functionality, improved upon flaws, or in some way was actually different I'd think otherwise, but I click through and read "hey, I can code too, give me karmaaaaaaa!"
I definitely dislike Curtis' attitude on a lot of things, but he has a lot of insightful things to say (and plenty of inciteful things, too). I try and take the personal stuff out of it - regardless of how I feel about him, I may or may not find the posts interesting, but from what I've read they appear to be pretty accurate and well-reasoned.
If someone wants to make it personal, I can't stop them. But I'd much rather see it presented as "Curtis made XYZ but didn't let everyone in. I made a copy that the rest of the world can use." rather than "Curtis is a jerk for not letting everyone in, and his work is such a joke that it only took me half a day to copy it"
(I'm also a fan of dcurtis' work, including Svbtle, by the way).
You're arguing for software patents, basically.
As a community, we may have differing points of view on copyrights, and patents in other fields, but "we don't take kindly to software patents 'round here", as much as I can tell.
If all it takes is two days to dream up an answer to something, you can rest assured that other experts in the same situation will likely come up with a similar solution. You shouldn't get the rights to that solution for 10 years just because you thought it up. If you shared it, you would expect people will code it up, and probably congratulate them for doing that hard work.
My idea is that coming up with a good design is as much work, and requires as much expertise, as coming up with a good algorithm. To me, viewing it like that makes the feeling of 'being ripped off' much easier to empathize with. Which is not the same as agreeing that that is indeed the case.
When I said I disagree with
People argue you aren't being ripped off: after all, if
someone can do that in so little time, "you haven't really
invented or created anything (substantive)".
If supporting software patents is something you can't say here (and it seems very much like it is), then we are weaker community because of it. Even if software patents are in fact terrible.
Implementation is usually the easy part. It's figuring out what needs to be implemented that takes the real skill. It's like the plumber that charges you $200 to turn a screw 1/4 turn. Of course you could have turned the screw yourself, but would you have known which one to turn and by how much (and do so without spending six hours researching different models of garbage disposal)?
But, like pg controversially suggested, maybe if it can't easily be protected, it shouldn't be protected. I'm not sure I agree; but the practical problem is: how to protect such a thing?
The legal system (patents, copyright); withholding secret sauce (closed-source webapp); or component in a larger system that's harder to copy, because of technical difficulty, commitment/resources; network effects (many users; mindshare)... or my favourite, continuously improving it faster than the copiers (like Apple). Unfortunately, many things don't admit of improvement - they're "done" (as here); or copying is much faster than improving (as here).
You can do other things, like not target a technical audience that is able to copy it quickly (as here) - instead, target a mainstream audience, for whom the idea of copying it has no interest. A related, very dangerous, one is to stoke demand without satisfying it (as here) - this is one argument for serving every market (e.g. price point): not for maximizing profit or market-share, not even for being nice, but simply denying oxygen for a competitor to get a foothold (to mix metaphors).
Unfortunately, thinking about competition is quite machiavellian, and a long way from the work (and values) of actually creating something that's really cool. But if you want to live from creating, it's important. I dunno, it's a bit of a dilemma for me.
If they are indeed 'goods', more copies/variations/etc. makes them more available. Why stop that?
One might say that the creator loses exclusivity and so can charge less. That would be a reason for the creator -- it would be good for them. But the restriction would be bad for everyone else (and creators themselves are 'everyone else' to other creators). Only being good for one set of people does not make it a good rule in general.
The only plausible reason seems to be that the work would not otherwise be done without such exclusive control -- and so we would all lose it. Is that the case here? It seems not: the first sentence of the original blog-post describes that the work had already been done from another impetus.
And if one seeks appreciation, surely any restrictions of exclusivity will do the exact opposite. The more copies the better: more credit, more links, more recognition.
(As a fundamental baseline: if we all share what informational-goods we have produced, and all grant everyone freedom of use of them, we all gain -- we all gain more freedom and we all gain more good stuff.)
Reminds me of a story about Picasso: A woman asks Picasso to paint a painting of her, five minutes later there's a wonderful painting of her. When she asks Picasso how much she owes, he quotes her 5,000 francs. She's surprised by how much it is and tells him that it only took him 5 minutes. He responds with "No, it took me my entire life."
This is an extreme comparison but I just want to highlight that there's a value to the experience that people have. As hackers we tend to underestimate that since we focus on the more visible tech skills.
The OP likewise spent his life (or some substantial part thereof) honing the skills required to do this (and do it in a short space of time) then give it away for free including source code.
At that point you have to acknowledge either the significant charity of that act or the relatively small nature of the original idea (not to belittle or impugn dcurtis's abilities, motives or skills in any way).
Look, I would take this as a relatively cheap entrepreneurial lesson: if your idea is extremely reproducible it can still be a business but you need to be first and you need to be ready to scale. Invite-only works for things that are hard to reproduce and/or have some kind of lock-in or network effect.
Definitely a good lesson and that's why one needs to view the product with a wider perspective which should dictate the right strategy to take.
It's a complicated issue without a clean or simple answer. Arguably this is why different people have different thoughts on the software patent issue. Most people have a very black and white view of it but there's a lot of nuance that makes the issue shades of gray.
I also suspect the reaction would be entirely different (I think someone mentioned it in this thread) if Nate didn't open source it. I wonder why that's the case.
I absolutely agree with you. I think for a lot of people, including myself, however, the best marketing approach would have been to say "check this out, I did something cool, and I've open sourced it." This is what dcurtis probably should have done. He didn't do any groundbreaking rails code, and there was very little value in having a new workflow of blogging exist only on his servers. I think the value of Nate open sourcing it is much higher than if he had just built a clone and kept it to himself.
Basically, the community response supporting Nate is strong because he did something that benefits the community as a whole, where as dcurtis did something that benefited only himself and then shouted about it.
That's my (pretty myopic and polemic) take on all this.
But as the story is not about copyright, but about perceived entitlement, its also completely irrelevant.
Fact is, if Dustin hadn't done anything innovative (ie, worth cloning), we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Let me make a better parallel: a lemonade stand. Dustin thought "wow, the weather is nice. I'd like some lemonade." He made some especially good lemonade, added a little cranberry, and wrote about how good it was. Someone else, who hadn't previously wanted lemonade thought, "hey, I would also like some lemonade. Hadn't thought of cranberry before, I wonder if that's any good..."
And now we're having a conversation about how anyone who makes cranberry lemonade is stealing from Dustin.
I think the conversation is being had more because of the way Dustin presented what he did rather than what he presented.
Many successful have had both. You can make the case that Steve Jobs drove the Apple ideas but Tim Cook was the one who made sure the entire production chain was as efficiently run as possible.
On the other hand, we just witnessed what bad-marketing could cause, especially if your target customer-users are smart people like HN readers. You need to be carefull about every word you use to market your product.
By supporting Obtvse, you're stating that a composer's work (the act of creating beautiful music) has no value.
I honestly don't understand how someone can say that stealing a design is fine but code isn't.
I'm extremely disappointed with the reaction of the HN community on this, and even more concerned about how designers will look at our community moving forward. Why would any designer participate if they know the community believes their work has no value?
In fact, after reading the original article, I felt a bit slighted and thought to myself "fine, I'll just build it myself".
Building something with similar functionality is one thing; building a stem-to-stern carbon copy is just low class.
When the second restaurant opened, promoting its inclusionary nature and affordable prices, I'd eat there every day for a week, because fuck those first guys. Fuck 'em for thinking that their making something halfway interesting entitles them to superiority, and fuck 'em for thinking the right way to show off something interesting is to emphasize how you're not allowed to try it out.
David Karp wanted a blogging interface that made blogging easier and more beautiful and more diverse. Several years later, Tumblr is one of the largest sites on the Internet. I don't like the direction it ultimately took, but I admire the hell out of David for releasing his cool idea to users who then turned it into something incredible and wholly unpredictable.
I also find it amusing that we're calling Svtble "great", when it's just a simple, well-made tool with one neat organizational technique – it's like Quietwrite with a todo list attached. Simple and well-made is much appreciated, but you don't get to be a douchebag until you've actually made something significant. Or you can make that thing and remain a nice and humble guy, because the two are not mutually fucking exclusive.
Whether he wanted to open it to the public is another question though.
Exclusivity is not a license to, nor a justification for, outright copying.
Not that I fault either designer. I think they've both taken previous work, improved upon it (or at least altered it), in some way before releasing it as their own. I suppose I have trouble feeling sorry for Dustin after reading he planned to open it up to those he thought worthy of its use.
Fact is, life gives you no guarantees about "fairness". You can try stacking the odds in your favor, e.g. don't announce your easily reproducible idea before you have a significant head-start over competitors. Relying on notions such as "fairness", "ethics", "class" etc., all based on personal beliefs, to protect your idea is quite simply naive. Somewhere out there will be somebody who subscribes to a different set of beliefs.
I mean, he announces the platform and his intentions to make Svtble be the online equivalent of a newspaper but without all the bad parts, suggesting in the process that he doesn't have a clue how hard it is to be a good writer or even what newspapers do (hint: it's not all editorial). Then he markets his service as being somehow for the "elite" (read: "people who design pretty email apps") and when people complain about the tone his response is, "but it got a reaction and that's all I wanted I AM A MARKETING GENIUS".
If he'd even been a degree less douchey (say, announced Svtble as a "private beta" or said that he wanted to promote good writing without suggesting that a minimalist blogging platform was gonna change the world), then maybe nobody would have felt the need to insta-replicate his code, and if they had, they wouldn't be receiving the support they're receiving in this thread.
I know we geek types like to turn everything into statistics and easily-parsed data, and I know that "being a nice person" is a little bit tricker to analyze than "you should follow me on Twitter here", but I promise that there's a reason people try to be decent and nice, and it's not just that they're too weak to appreciate Ayn Rand.
In my opinion, if Dustin is showing off his thing with a key "feature" being "invitation only", then it seems open season for someone else to think "Fair enough, if you think curated bloggers is a key differentiating feature, then me launching a similar service _without_ that key feature seems OK".
In one sense - people seem to love having their ideas "validated" by new startups claiming "We're $existingThing for $newMarket". "We're HipMonk for dogs!" We're GoogleAnalytics for yoga retreats!" "We're Svbtle for non-celebrity-bloggers!"
What Dustin made is very nice. He may very well be able to curate bloggers in a way that makes it wildly successful - I hope he does, I'll cheer him on. Maybe though, Obtvse will gain a bigger or different userbase. Maybe someone wil be able to take the Obtvse codebase and do a better curating job than Dustin - with the right code ready to roll, I'd bet on Maria Popova or Cory Doctorow or Rob Malda or even Nick Denton to win at the blogger-curating role over Dustin…
Not that I see this as a clone at all, just disagree with this as a general rule.
As good as Dustin is, neither his ideas or implementation of his blog/cms platform are that unique.
And I'd like to think that being open-source is a huge feature of Ovbtuse, and something certainly worth noting when comparing the two.
Dustin's got a flare for minimalist design: he's good at making things simultaneously simple enough that you can grasp them and loud enough that they stand out. Sometimes I come close to admiring him, but he's so smug for so little reason that I can't appreciate him for his talents. Tim van Damme did the superhero thing first and with a tenth the ego; his http://timvandamme.com/ is better-made than anything Dustin's ever touched, spread further than anything Dustin's ever designed, and he never let it go to his head. He's also capable of designing a web site with more than five elements on it at once.
Simple is nice; elegant is better. Dustin seemingly doesn't aspire to elegance and he's content with simply being popular. I don't begrudge wanting popularity, it was hard for me to stop lusting after, but I do begrudge conflating "people like my style" with "I am a great person who makes great things". I love cocky artists, can't get enough of the Dadaists and Philippe Gaulier and jackass Zen tutors who smack you for saying stupid things; but it's got to be earned.
Dustin recently wrote a post that made the rounds which I admired because he seemed to be saying, "I'm not satisfied with how good I am; I want to be better, and do something worthwhile." He strikes me as a guy trying to do the right thing and going about it the wrong way, and I sympathize with him a whole lot. But his ego is hilarious and way out of proportion with the rest of his work, and I find it endlessly amusing how bad he is at handling criticism, endlessly irritating how certain he is that he doesn't deserve it.
We can not even read HN comments you write ?
Good insights though.
I don't see why. The linked site is a generic Apple style ripoff with an annoying and unnecessary swipe action. I've seen hundreds of sites just like it. Am I missing something?
As far as I can tell, it's a 1:1 clone, but "open".
Wienert is not trying to pass this off as his own work. He's not selling it.
It's a few things, all at once: first, and foremost, it's a parody, skewering the absurd arrogance of the original presentation; it's a generic drug, making something which sure seems to be exclusive for bad reasons and making it accesible; and it's a good example of someone taking matters into their own hands.
Wienert was told something wasn't available to him because he's not witty enough, so he went and built it for himself. To compare this to someone stealing someone's intellectual property malevolently for personal gain is missing the point.
He can pass this off as his own work and sell it for all I care. I don't know who created the first blogging engine, but do you believe all subsequent blogging engines owe something to the first one, and shouldn't have re-implemented and sold it without making it substantially different?
Taking an existing closed system and opening it is a pretty fundamental part of the hacker ethic. However, it must be done in good faith and good taste.
This is neither. Yes, it's quite hard to draw the line for such things--how big does a company have to be before it's ok? It's a tough question, but despite that ethical uncertainty, this case is pretty clearly on the side of "not ok". Disregarding more complicated moral aspects, this just isn't nice.
I really don't think nwienert's intentions were bad, but I think he should reevaluate the choice he made here.
1. OpenOffice.org says we don't like MS. How about we clone Office and annoy the fuck out of them?
2. Or MS is making too much money. Let's clone Office and give it up for free. We won't be making any money, but neither would they.
3. Or we are bored the fuck out of our minds. Let's build something - how about Office?
4. Or we are concerned MS's monopolistic policies and binary formats are needlessly tying in users to their platform. We will build something which looks and acts like Office without tying in the user to our product.
These and bazillion of other reasons are equally valid, and you or someone else doesn't have the authority to declare them invalid.
> Disregarding more complicated moral aspects, this just isn't nice.
May be this isn't nice. Freedom isn't really freedom if it covers only things you find nice. I would happily trade nice with freedom to independently reproduce something.
> I really don't think nwienert's intentions were bad, but I think he should reevaluate the choice he made here.
I really hope he doesn't take down the repo or the site. But if he is bullied into taking it down, even though he wrote the css, ruby, js code for the site, and didn't copy anything from svbtle, I think I will recreate the project. I don't care much about svbtle, but I do care about the freedom to reproduce it if I want it.
As far as design similarities go, it might or might not be copyright infringement - I am not knowledgeable enough to comment. If it is, he can tweak the design a bit to make it look inspired, instead of copied. As already said, if I independently implement a dock for linux(already done; just an example) which looks like Mac's, it's not theft and Apple can suck it if it thinks otherwise.
For instance, the author of http://drawar.com/ is clearly flattered by dcurtis's own use of his design.
I think that in this particular situation, dcurtis's reaction could have been predicated to be at best ambivalent. Thus, choosing to take the liberty of going ahead I consider as "not nice".
Those are about the strongest terms with which I can condemn it though. In another reply to my comment zackattack mentions dcurtis himself isn't nice. That may be the case (although I've seen his name plenty, I'm having enough trouble connecting it to specific writings that I can't agree or disagree), but the crucial issue to determining whether this project is "nice" or not, is whether it was reasonable to expect this action to hurt dcurtis. It clearly did, and since I think that was a plausible outcome, I am uncomfortable with this undertaking.
That's certainly true. Linux and the BSD's pretty much killed the commercial Unix market, which had to be very unpleasant for some people.
It seems, for want of a pleasanter term, a bit weasel-worded. It is trying to say 'you should not do that' but while pretending not to be so strong.
If it has any real meaning -- any moral force -- it is saying 'you should not'. But demanding someone behave in a certain way, and so lose their own freedom of choice in the matter, really requires some justification.
So what could be the justification? Merely that one person might feel a little dislike seems insufficient. The thing in (putative) 'contention' is information, but that is nonrival: one person's use does not limit another's. That really seems to reduce the grounds for restricting someone else's freedom here -- 'my freedom ends where your freedom begins', so if there are no substantial limits on the material of our actions, why should it be any business of either to tell the other what to do ? . . .
The new project credits (and links) the previous, and builds on it. That is pretty much everything we should want -- that is the core basics of information culture. (The problem is, our half-conscious social conventions still have not yet grasped the proper ethics of information.)
Maybe if Dustin were a nice guy, your argument would have some validity.
We should never give up ourselves to being/doing something simply because John Smith does it.
In my opinion the layout of a blogging website falls more in the realm of fashion than intellectual property.
Some real intellectual property here is Rails itself which thankfully is open.
Personally, I think the design is ugly and hard to use. The OP (of Obtvse thread) should get a designer and make some much needed changes.
Edit: Downvoters - is it because I said design is hard work, or because I said I thought the design was ugly?
For example, bitbucket copied githubs design for the most part, but people still use github because there is so much more to their product. BB can copy them all they want, but github will have the users and will be considered good design while BB gets called a 'clone'.
If you make a blog platform, which is simple to clone, just open source it and move on. This is a case where imitation should be flattery. Bask in the glory of knowing the world is switching from wordpress to your platform.
(theres also longterm revenue possibilities in that case for a savvy businessmen)
Dustin's initial response to this (which he edited later) and his general attitude might have contributed to my opinion.
Hail the disruption.
I guess thats why many of you US guys like patents and shit so much. It just makes no effing sense.
He created everything from scratch as far as I am able to see from the GH repo. Thats completely fine with me.
Making a Free replacement or, more awesome, a better product is worthy of the adulation of your peers.
When Microsoft China copied the layout of whatever website it was we all came down on them from our principled pinnacles though, didn't we?
He never said the platform would never be opened, in fact it looked like he might do just that some day.
What you did was not just use a concept (add idea to list, expand on it and then publish it when ready), you just took his entire design and published it to the public. Taking a concept and opensourcing it is fine, copying a design and mocking the original creator is not.
As much as I'd like to use Dustin's blogging engine (it's the way I'd like to write), I will never use yours out of principle.
And you can't. Because you're not invited. Because you aren't witty enough.
Maybe dcurtis is not a tool, and he's a great designer, and he just used poor writing to explain that he's testing his blog or curating writers for a network of bloggers. But his exclusionary description, his flippant replies to complaints - these things set off his potential competition. And his response? Ranting and flailing (which he deleted.)
If this entire thing had started with more mild language ("I created this thing to solve these problems. I'm creating a network of bloggers around/under/over/through it. Maybe I'll open it to the world eventually. Or I might not.") then he would have garnered a much more supportive response.
And STILL someone else would have created a clone and made it available publicly. And he could have replied, again, with something less jilted. For example, "It's great these ideas are getting attention. I'm curating writers and you won't get that from a github repo. I'm not crazy about having the design cloned, so might I suggest making your version theme-friendly?"
As to the feelings of Mr. Curtis, I can only say that if this cloning is a problem for him, perhaps he should create works (and make appropriate registrations for those works) with stronger legal protections.
The writing platform that helps you liberate ideas. With just two features, it's the essence of blogging.
Membership by invitation only.
Where did Nate mock Dustin, or even speak negatively about him? Reading his post I find only one mildly negative comment:
"I felt Dustin missed out on what have been a great open source contribution."
Still doesn't change how I feel about this. He could have opensourced the engine on itself, taking the design as well is a blatant ripoff.
Another thing is this:
The goal is simple: when you see the Svbtle design, you should know that the content is guaranteed to be great.
By stealing the design, he is completely boycotting Dustin at making this vision of his come true.
I'd chalk the design similarity up to "I...typed in rails new obtvse, and a few hours later I'm here."
One guy being annoyed that his super-elite design can be replicated in a matter of hours is not a reason to backtrack.
It took Curtis a lifetime of experience to end up with this design. Simplicity doesn't mean there wasn't hard work behind it.
If it took more hours, would it be a bigger reason to backtrack?
But come on, the only way this could get any more farcical is if Dustin revealed that he orchestrated this whole thing and is in fact both parties.
If I were Dustin, I'd be ecstatic that I'd almost permanently glued to the front page of HN. Any publicity is good publicity.
and a large amount of hate, but the scale is tipping mostly in his defense
As a designer, I find it somewhat perplexing that people here demand that code be directly copied for something like this be wrong. Design is more abstract than code, yes, but it's just as fundamental a part of the resulting product.
Copying design, especially when the original source is so obvious, has damaging effects that are hard to quantify. Poor clones can directly damage the creation of a strong original brand and can preempt future creative product positioning. Because it is not user facing, identically copied code--when the design has been changed--has no such effects. Why do so many people believe that only copying code should be considered wrong when design has the potential to be more damaging? To me, they are both equally wrong.
Great artists steal. Please steal my ideas. Take them, manipulate them, and build them into something that is your own. I wouldn't have publicized my new platform if I didn't expect the ideas to be used. Just please don't copy my implementation or designs. I need those things to be sacred so I can craft experiences that are not diluted by external factors.
Any semi-competent programmer can reproduce it within a day or two(the OP did it in a shorter span of time). That won't help, and you aren't entitled to what you think you are.
And the work is totally his. The design was too similar, but still, its his work. He didn't steal your css or images, and though you might feel rough about it, it doesn't make it theft as you are putting it again and again.
> Just wait until Svbtle is finished and open to the public. The reason it's closed is really simple: it's not ready yet.
Great for people who want to blog on Svbtle. If I don't and I like the idea, I am going to implement it and use it. I am glad we don't live in a world where you or anyone else can stop me from doing it.
The hard part was coming up with the original concept and design - kudos to you for the great work. Reproducing it is easy, and I don't think you have any right to stop me from doing it.
As another commenter pointed out, we don't actually want a world where Apple says MS stole its windows.
I realize this is not the mainstream HN view. Accepted wisdom says if you can copy something, than you may copy it. But I just don't get it. If you value someone's work, I think you owe them some form of compensation.
There's a line I read on 1001 Rules For My Unborn Son, "If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck." I tend to agree with this, both literally and metaphorically.
I agree that good ideas shouldn't be trapped or left to wither in isolation when they could benefit society at large. I just think this has to be tempered with some form of compensation to the person who introduced the idea.
But I'm open to being convinced otherwise if anyone has a good argument to the contrary.
I am quoting this example for the second time. MS made Office common place. It doesn't mean OpenOffice.org owed MS anything, other than "hey neat". As long as it's not infringement recognized by law, no body owes anyone anything.
> if you can copy something, than you may copy it.
"can copy" is hard, may be a little less hard than the first implementation, but it's still hard work. You don't get exclusivity by getting there first. In the cases in which you do get it viz. software patents, it creates more problems than it solves. So yes, I am pretty much in line with "if you can copy it, you may".
> If you value someone's work, I think you owe them some form of compensation.
It's entirely possible to value someone's work, but not agree with his exclusivity requirements.
> I agree that good ideas shouldn't be trapped or left to wither in isolation when they could benefit society at large. I just think this has to be tempered with some form of compensation to the person who introduced the idea.
And I think "I was here first so you all are prosecuting me by not going somewhere else and trying to get here" is a prefect way to let good ideas wither and die. More importantly, this sense of exclusivity and entitlement is misplaced.
If something is inevitable or trivial (slide to unlock, one-click checkout), I don't think there should be any protection at all.
But the more original something is, the more the creator has actually added to society by creating it. And yes, copying it can add to society as well by making it universal, but I think some kind of monetary incentive is a great way to get people to work on original ideas.
Would Apple be so creative if they weren't so profitable? Isn't it their profitability which gives them the ability to spend time and money on R&D? If you take away the profit, don't you take away the opportunity to do R&D?
I think this is why patents were introduced in the first place. I don't think patents work for software, but I think the idea is the same. For the greatest good for society, we want lots and lots of universally applied creative ideas. But there's a trade-off between encouraging new ideas and encouraging mass distribution of ideas. "IP" laws encourage new ideas but discourage sharing. "Piracy" encourages sharing but discourages new ideas.
I just think that there needs to be a balance, and that "thanks for doing the hard work, I'll take it from here" isn't it.
EDIT: I would appreciate an explanation of why people feel I am not contributing.
If Apple's profit equates to Android not doing what they are doing, Apple going bankrupt will be a fair trade in my book. If Apple comes up with something original, which Android re-implements, it doesn't owe Apple anything, even if it affects Apple's profits. Apple working on original things and being in business is good, but not so much that others' ability to re-implement things be taken away.
Android has different hardware, a different OS, a different programming language for development, etc.
At the most precise level, copying music creates and absolutely perfect copy. There is literally no difference between the original file and the new one.
Would it be fair for someone to make an exact copy of an iPhone, running an exact copy of iOS and then distribute it?
I think the precision of the copy has a great deal to do with whether it's OK or not, which I think is what Dustin was getting at when he said it's OK to steal his ideas but not his implementation.
Maybe he doesn't get to draw the line wherever he likes, but it seems there ought to be a line somewhere.
I would never repaint van Gogh, because I'd rather paint my own things. On the other hand, if I were to want a Thomas Kincade painting (for some ghastly reason), I'd definitely buy the cheapest reproduction I could find, because the original painting just wasn't that valuable to begin with.
If I were a painter, I would paint me the hell out of some van Gogh. In every skill I've practiced seeing what the masters do, reproducing it (especially figuring out _why_ they did it that way) has been a very useful learning technique.
More to the point of your post, and this story: Would I sell my van Gogh copies? Probably not. Not because I think there's something terribly wrong about it. Mostly because they'd still be inferior to the original.
I would certainly give them away to friends who wanted to hang it in their den or library, though.
Unfortunately, you picked a bad example: a painting is a finite resource -- there is only one physical painting painted by the original artist. A painting cannot be "copied" with the same veracity as software can be (bitwise, which in the case of software becomes piracy) and any attempt to pass a "copy" of a painting as an original is forgery.
Classifying any work (art/software) as a rip-off requires defining the very fine line between fair-use and unfair forgery. When it comes to artistic endeavors (as in "design"), you'll have more luck defining the position and velocity of an electron around a nucleus than delineating that fair/unfair boundary.
As to writing it.. you made a fairly big splashy announcement about this great new concept in blogging, and then made it invitation only. That's guaranteed to get push back from the community, especially one that considers ideas only good for execution!
It seems fairly simple to implement - you might claim some moral ownership of the concept, but that probably won't hold up well, either, in this community.
This is community that lives on the maxim of "release early and iterate", we're not always looking for a slick finished product. So now you have competition; may the best product win!
(It may seem cruel, Dustin, but you do have an attitude - and that seems to have grated on people. So, maybe this gives you an experience of the same feeling. Just saying.)
EDIT: Dustin's edited response is interesting; as a programmer I probably don't set as much store by the elements of design as he (naturally) does - simple things don't represent a creative element, to me in the same way. Which is interesting food for thought.
Hopefully Nate will continue to move his design away from Dustin's
I think you've captured the essence of why some HN readers think Dustin had this coming, so to speak. The act of making the system exclusive is abrasive to so many hackers, where information is free to all, and the modifiers of this information are those with the recognizable merit to affect it. Dustin released his project in a Bizarro world version of the open source process, where information is chained and those granted access are selected in private, with no transparency of the criteria.
In fact, I would say Dustin did have it coming. That's what open source tends to do, like it or not. You only have to look back at the most popular proprietary systems of note to see that hackers love to imitate these products, if not downright replace them. Unix? Linux. Microsoft Office? LibreOffice. TiVo? MythTv. Hell, there's even a SimCity imitation called LinCity! The jackals, as Nolan Bushnell called them, are out in force--and if you haven't noticed, that's the way things have been for the last 30 years. It was inevitable that Svbtle would be "liberated". What's actually amazing is that this time it only took ten hours.
Now, if I were Dustin, I would likely be offended that my code had been reverse-engineered so closely. If I presented my code with the attitude that it is better than sliced bread, yeah, I would definitely feel wronged by my design being copied. I can sympathize with that. But I can't sympathize with the bubble in which Svbtle was presented. It came off as pretentious. There's no room for that in this day and age. And I'm not saying that Dustin Curtis deserved to have his design imitated because he was pretentious, oh no. I'm saying that he should not be so surprised that it happened. Curtis's attitude led to an imitation surfacing in such short time. Dustin's attitude affected Nate on an emotional level--and that's what brings out the jackal in open source hackers.
I agree with your third paragraph; I sympathise with Dustin's viewpoint (though I don't entirely agree with it). I don't think he deserved the imitation, but his approach pretty much guaranteed it.
But I can't bring myself to criticise Nate either, because, as you say, he followed the typical hacker ethics - which is that if something good isn't accessible, make it so. I like that social structure; it adds competition and forces products to be the very best they can. It avoids the situation where one person can control an idea by virtue of being the first mover.
Nate misfired by being similar to the original design, I for one (and I can understand Dustin feeling differently) can forgive that mistake partly as a "hacked together in a night" job and partly because the design elements (only in my opinion) are not revolutionary. Provided he works to fix that issue (some of which he has done) then I see no problem.
I was thinking about this over coffee... I am sure that a lot of thought and effort went into Svbtle and its design; both thought and coding (no idea how much of a coder Dustin is). It's tempting to see Nate's work as hurried and with less value - but he put his skill as a coder into cloning it in a night, and he seems to want to pursue the idea further. Many of the best projects in the world started as hacked up examples, clones or tests. And, again, I am a sucker for "released early, accepting patches" :)
Which is why, morally, I'm with Nate - because his whole approach seems "nicer" than Dustin's. If this platform goes the distance, who would I want to see at the helm? Perhaps the wrong measure, but I'm only human :)
That strongly implies the free version will be not-good, because there are many more ways to be not-good than to be different-good.
Basic layout? Also the color scheme, font hierarchy, whitespace around elements (which is a critical portion of the design), and basically every trick dcurtis used to draw the eye and maintain the mental flow of the app.
The fonts are not the same the relative font sizes are a bit different (Dustin's has bigger text).
With that said; you are right about font/colors (I hadn't noticed).
I give credit to Nate for taking steps to address those similarities following feedback, and I hope he goes further with that.
I think you should calm down, take a deep breath, accept the compliment, and see how you can work together. It sounds like he'd be happy to help you make it 'ready' faster.
A few days ago, when it was posted (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3672526), the comments were largely positive.
I'm not saying that nwienert is necessarily right or wrong, but it's strange that this post received such a strong reaction compared to the Font Awesome post.
I'm not sure where the idea comes from that when someone displays displeasure with something, they want it to be illegal. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's good.Just because it's not good doesn't mean it should be illegal.
However, to get such a patent the design must clearly be novel. Really, really novel. My uncle happens to be a patent lawyer a.d. who fought a lot of cases about product design for a big telco in the European patents court in his time. Knowing a few of his cases, I strongly doubt dcurtis design would be eligible for a design patent in Europe.
The blog itself (it's functionality) would fail an attempt to patented for similar reasons.
Apart from that, yes there is copyright everywhere but where this starts in cases like the one at hand is a gray area at best.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substantial_similarity (in US copyright law)
 http://norcal.gag.org/legalities/2004/legalities_no03.html (first question)
I guess my point was that all that doesn't matter if the original design doesn't exhibit enough originality (I used the term 'novel').
To give an example: if I have an A4 page with left aligned text, that looks very similar to any other A4 page with left aligned text that happens to use the same font size and line height.
In the case at hand, the design wasn't even dcurtis', he presumably took it from http://drawar.com/
Or maybe not?
With a design so simple, similarity by coincidence can't be ruled out.
I wouldn't be surprised if another dozen websites existed that exhibited a /very/ similar design.
Also it was FAR from a pixel-for-pixel exact duplication. Spacing around the site is still different, as is the font and font sizing.
I think you should realize you overreacted a bit. It was simply an experiment and a way to give back to the community.
these discussions only happen for it products. can't see mr. porsche complaining about enzo ferrari (when still alive... yea. those were the days!).
You are on the left.
My blog has a similar minimal design and its just a stock Tubmlr one.
drewblaisdell said (to Dustin):
> How different would you say his parody of your site is than your site is of http://drawar.com/ ?
I said I don't see how Svbtle is a copy of drawar.com:
> I don't see it; the whole workflow - draft to publish columns and such - is the same at drawar, or?
So I do not think that Svbtle is a rip-off of drawar.com.
Now if there's anything unique about Svbtle compared to the blogging systems I've personally used, its the draft thing (as explained in the Svbtle article we all read here on HN a few hours before this one).
My tumblr has drafts; but its not this trello-like list organising thing. As Dustin says, it helps make stories happen and posts get written.
Takes a lot to admit this, especially publicly. Hopefully if I find myself in a similar situation, I'll do the same thing, and in less than an hour after my initial reaction.
If HN had Kudos buttons, I'd hover my mouse over yours for a few seconds.
Maybe if he just took the idea, with the ideas/published and simplified writing screen, he may have a case, but this is clearly stealing the design.
(2) It's pretty confirmed that a lot of our intuitions regarding "theft" require us to see "profit" as a component -- and therefore we are much less likely to see theft in a general design that has been open-sourced. Maybe the clearest way to see this is BSD's libedit, which replicates the GNU Readline library so that you can use it without selling your soul to Stallman. It's an idea rip-off, but it serves a very important charitable function. Startups trying to push product just seem more skeevy.
(3) It is also harder to see something as "theft" if it seems too simple. Nate said, "I whipped open terminal, typed in rails new obtvse, and a few hours later I'm here." That's pretty lightweight, if you're creating a fresh copy from an idea someone gave you.
Edit: (4) Also it's often harder to consider something theft when you cite your sources and say, "okay, this idea comes straight from X, who is awesome -- all credit to them please."
2. I disagree, he's directly taken the fruits of someone elses' labour and given them away without permission. Copying the functionality and idea, I'm fine with, but he didn't "remake" the design like he did the functionality, he just remade the scripting aspect of it. The benefits you mention are functional benefits, and these could have been brought to the public without the near pixel perfect design.
3. I somewhat agree, however I could remake the design of any website without copying and pasting in a short time. It would take a short time because all the time that was spent designing it has been done by someone else.
4. Maybe slightly, but he took what someone else had produced without permission, at best this is a slightly scummy thing to do. He tweeted Dustin to let him know that he had done it, he could have just as easily asked. If Dustin had refused then he'd be free to make something which fulfils the same function, but isn't a clone.
For the record, I'm not sure exactly where I stand regarding IP, but I'm not talking from a legal perspective, just an ethical one, and I don't think this is ethical nor HN's praise of it.
I live in China, a country mocked for its cloning. If the Chinese had hand written the GroupOn site, for example, rather than copy/pasting it, most people who still think it's low. It seems to me more that people think that a) Dustin is a bit of a dick and b) open sourcing something means you can do whatever you like because it's for the good of humanity.
You have a social/emotional complaint: someone took your good idea (and kudos to you: it's a great idea!), and duplicated it. But it's recognized (and documented here) that you were the progenitor of the idea, and if you eventually open source the original, I can't see how this will "hurt" you. People have an innate sense of fairness, and duplicating ideas like this goes against it in a small way.
But it's not theft (or even copyright infringement), and by overreacting you are going to alienate people who would otherwise be sympathetic.
No, never, as long as the open-source alternative doesn't actually copy any copyrightable material from the original (such as images or other data). And I don't see any signs of that here.
On the contrary, creating an open-source alternative to closed-source software is considered awesome.
Not under any definition of "theft" in use outside IP troll offices, as far as I know.
Feel for you here dcurtis, and surprised people are actually behind this.
Plus, your value is not the app, it's the people in the network, so stay calm and let us not-so-cool people use the open-source clone.
In fact, you could assume the opposite: that, because he is a professional designer, it took him less time to design the app than it would've taken a "layman". (I'm not forgetting about the perfectionism of many designers, mind you)
You can't go around putting the Coke label on different fizzy beverages.
Svbtle is obviously popular for its brand. You are stealing its brand and using it for unintended purposes. The only value in what you've created is that it looks like Dustin's work.
Ripping that off wholesale diminishes the value of something Dustin work(ed/s) very hard to create and curate. Thousands of decisions went into that design. The design is a mark of quality.
Show some respect.
2. Brand? What brand? It's a blogging platform. People don't want it because of a brand. They want it because it's a good idea (simplistic blogging).
3. Coke has a trademarked label. This is merely a website. What is dustin going to trademark/copyright? The ratio of whitespace to small, grey lines?
As I stated in my post, I'll be changing my personal design shortly.
This is not original. You copied my design work.
One is the visual design, and even the author agrees that it's probably too similar: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3744356
The other is the idea/concept. Creating open-source versions of unique ideas is nothing new and I doubt you'll see much sympathy on this front.
Granted, latest incarnations of MS's products are a bit different with the (crappy) ribbon and all, but LO is quite similar to previous versions of Office.
And I'm talking both about UI, design and functionality. Think Excel/Calc functions, for example.
You should have confidence that you will win because you can implement it better, understand the need better, can craft better solutions faster, and have better content on your network. If those things aren't true and all you had was an idea, unfortunately this was bound to happen.
Ideas alone are not defensible, practically or even legally. Successful implementations thereof can be however.
Thanks for totally muddying the water, crossing the line, breaking an unwritten rule and not being a "team player".
You quite simply suck.
Design is a fundamental part of the product - no body is contesting it. Personally I am taking exception to your exclusivity expectations. I have given it a lot of thought, and I believe the current optimum is he can rip off your design and only thing you can do about it is feel outraged. The alternative is scary - if this sort of exclusivity requirements are enforced, Apple would shutdown MS over supposedly copying windows and Android over copying "swipe to unlock".
> Copying design, especially when the original source is so obvious, has damaging effects that are hard to quantify. Poor clones can directly damage the creation of a strong original brand and can preempt future creative product positioning.
That's how free market works.
> Please steal my ideas. Take them, manipulate them, and build them into something that is your own. I wouldn't have publicized my new platform if I didn't expect the ideas to be used. Just don't copy my implementation or designs.
I can choose to play nice, or I can rip you off wholesale. As long as I am within the realms of law, it's fair game. You might not like it, but it's better than the alternatives where you can dictate what I can and can not do just because you did something first.
Does that mean it will be open to _anyone_ and no longer only to people considered to be "intelligent, creative, and witty"?
Not only that, but I saw the original, and it wasn't.
You have inverted the moral terrain, and you are now going to have to defend your own credibility / honesty when you are leveling those same accusations at someone else.
I don't understand how reusing/copying something finely done reduce its sacredness/sanctity.
Perhaps svbtle's invite-only status made people feel like outsiders, perhaps something you've done in the past rubbed someone the wrong way - either way, I suspect the personal dislike comes first and the justification for the action comes second. If the design of a much-beloved figure here was stolen, I suspect the reaction and the arguments in the thread would be very different.
Stanley Fish wrote an interesting opinion piece recently about this impulse, applied to politics:
If you open source your version, this will not detract from it. And if you don't, then this gives folks something to use.
To see the HN community defending this is really sad.
Dustin himself had asked people not to copy his work and that he was releasing it publicly:
It's bullshit like this that discourages good ideas from being shared.
Honestly, nothing about the design or user experience of Svbtle was unique. There have to be more examples, at least by coincidence, of other designs that show prior use of similar typography and layout.
So really, this whole debate of originality seems moot.
"I'm super impressed you turned this out so quickly. I think that really sums up the spirit in the HN community...
When you look at something that seems overpriced (or wrongly-priced) and you say "hey, I bet I could do this""
"It's very dangerous to let anyone fly under you. If you have the cheapest, easiest product, you'll own the low end. And if you don't, you're in the crosshairs of whoever does."
> But the fact is - they created something and shared it here. If you think you can do a better job at it - fine, but why haven't you done it before, or at the very least named it differently. I don't mean to exaggerate, but it just doesn't feel ethical to me.
It is hard to tell if all the people who jump to the defense of Curtis are also defenders of copyright for music and films, but judging from the comment distribution I think at some people here have to be hypocrites.
No matter how much RIAA and MPAA would like to change it, recording covers for existing music, I believe, is fully supported culturally and legally.
Yes, so long as the correct licences are paid. If it's a live cover the venue will be paying licence fees and if it's a recorded cover the band will need licence as soon as they start distributing it.