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Codename: Obtvse (natewienert.com)
889 points by nwienert 1827 days ago | hide | past | web | 355 comments | favorite



While I'm generally sympathetic to the plight of people who have their work ripped off, I can't muster a sense of outrage here.

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.


I have the distinct impression that the people supporting Curtis's point of view are mostly designers, while those supporting your point of view are mostly programmers.

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: [1]. 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.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3716458


As a designer/programmer, I think it's pretty funny to get worked up about having your design "ripped off". We're not talking about intellectual property for profit, where the argument makes more sense: I need to make money, so don't steal my stuff or Don't rip off my client's web design. In art, we all build on one another. There are hardly any firsts any more. Evolution/Innovation makes up most of what someone would consider their personal works. "Forking" is a perfect example of such.

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.


> 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.

- Exactly. Ego drives so much of human behaviour in everything we do, it's just sad.


> I have the distinct impression that the people supporting Curtis's point of view are mostly designers, while those supporting your point of view are mostly programmers.

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.


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?


My opinion is that they suck. Because they do not (and cannot, largely) re-create the experience and value of Apple's phone, no matter how much they copy its look and feel. Of course a complex device like that has nothing to do with a simple script running a website.


But you don't have any principle objections against them? What tells you this script does not suck in comparison to the real one?

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.


In comparison to the real one - which, for me, consists of a landing page - this is absolutely brilliant.


I agree with your assessment (in comment I'm immediately replying to)

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.


This is a flawed analogy, I think. What dcurtis did is more analogous to developing an algorithm, and then saying that only the smartest programmers doing the best work can use it.

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.


There's nothing terribly special about the application, other than the fact that it now exists. Dustin had a problem and solved it. That the solution is relatively easy to copy doesn't change that it went from an unsolved problem to a solved problem.

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 definitely see where you're coming from, I'm just commenting from an observational standpoint. I think that some people felt a little cheated by the "you can look but you can't touch" mentality of the blog post.

(I'm also a fan of dcurtis' work, including Svbtle, by the way).


> ... algorithm ...

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.


I have no intention of arguing in favor of software patents. I'm merely trying to create some understanding.

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)".
I didn't mean I disagreed with "not being ripped of" (and I certainly didn't mean: and the government should protect you against it). I disagreed that "you haven't really invented or created anything (substantive)". Many arguments depend on the implicit assumption that 'something that requires little time/work cannot be worth much'. That rather unfairly adds insult to injury.


We should take kindly to a well-presented argument, whether we agree with, or like, the viewpoint or not.

See: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

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.


He can say it as much as he wants, I'm just explaining that it's a bad analogy if he wants to attract the sympathies of developers, because software patents are something that many developers, even those who aren't Richard Stallman types, really dislike.


I didn't associated the post with software patents at all - it's quite a good analogy. The point was that copying someone's work is relatively easy if you have a solid starting point (screenshots of a design, description of the algoritm, etc.), and it's unfair to say the design/development/invention process is trivial if it's easy to clone.

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)?


I agree that some things are hard to come up with but easy in hindsight. A bit like NP-complete. An example is a work of art - a composition, a book (hard to write, easy to copy).

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.


But is that -- the substantiveness of work -- a reason to stop the copying of informational-goods?

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.)


Tons of algorithms were invented (discovered?) in academia where the notion that implementing it constitutes theft is totally alien (though taking credit for it would get quite a reaction.)


reg. the algorithm example, well if you decide to publicly divulge enough information for a reader to just whip it up himself in a couple of hours, you can't really complain about their doing it.. Why did you publicly talk about it in the first place anyhow?


I'd make a counterpoint. It probably took Dustin years to get to the skill level he's at now. Most of the work here was in the design and "ideation" stage rather than the CSS/HTML/JS. Once something is built it only requires the necessary tech skills to copy it.

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.


I take your point but let me offer a counter-counterpoint. :)

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.


Fair enough and I see both sides. Execution of course matters but there is also value in being first and taking the right marketing approach. When building a product it's also important to consider the pricing, the marketing, etc since they will determine success or failure.

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.


>> Execution of course matters but there is also value in being first and taking the right marketing approach.

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.


Thats a nice story. But it misses the point: what if an equally good painter sat next to picasso, came up with a similar painting in another 5 minutes and gave it to the woman for free (maybe hes angered by picasso and love free art), how would picasso react? We don't know.


But what if the other painter, seeing Picasso's painting, painted another, not based off of the woman, but based off of Picasso's painting? Would that be considered theft?


It would be considered theft if the other painter hopped over to picasso, took the origial picture and handed it to the woman. To add some spice to the scene, maybe he hits picasso in the process, which would add assault. But, as many others have pointed out: copyright violations are not theft.

But as the story is not about copyright, but about perceived entitlement, its also completely irrelevant.


I think with code, there are a million ways to clone something (...especially when you haven't seen the source) so it's harder for developers to understand what it feels like when you see someone copy your designs (to clarify, I'm speaking generally here.) Best allusion I can think of is joke stealing. A lot of work can go into a one liner. Does it matter if it took 5 seconds (or 11 hours in this case) to copy it?

Fact is, if Dustin hadn't done anything innovative (ie, worth cloning), we wouldn't be having this conversation.


Innovative and worth cloning are completely different standards. There is nothing at all innovative about what Dustin did. Someone else thought it would be nice to play around with, and made it. I am part of this conversation because it is about "theft", not because I think that either post is in itself notable.

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.


Or rather Dustin made some cranberry lemonade but only for himself and his friends. Dustin posted a picture of him and his friends enjoying this lemonade together and Nate sees this and thinks it's sad that Dustin is so stingy with his great lemonade. So Nate makes his own lemonade that's really similar and shares the recipe with everyone and invites them to make it better. Now, everyone can make, mix and enjoy their own lemonade - and it is good.


I think our respective metaphors for the situation show we're coming from different places -- I'm definitely biased towards the design because I think it solves a functional problem rather than just adding a dash of zest. Appreciate your thoughts and perspective, ynniv. Now to buy some lemonade...


I'm missing the substance beyond the zest. Are you saying that a drafts folder is innovative? I think that beyond bias, you're focused on the design. I suspect that if Obtvse did not use the same visual design, and show up in a similar forum in close proximity to the original announcement, I expect you would likely think nothing of it.


>Fact is, if Dustin hadn't done anything innovative (ie, worth cloning), we wouldn't be having this conversation.

I think the conversation is being had more because of the way Dustin presented what he did rather than what he presented.


Wasn't it Picasso who said "Good artists copy, great artists steals"? Is this good or great?


Sadly ideas aren't valued in the business world, only execution is promoted as the important part - so people trying to make profit can feel less guilty.


You can't really have success without both. The execution is a lot easier to see so there is definitely a bias towards that.

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.


Long story short, curtis's idea-invention was not the design or the bloging engine itself, his unique idea was to create an interesting and exclusice bloging network. In that sense, noone really cloned his idea and he is still free to execute it.

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.


Explain to me how this is substantially different than a musician writing a piece of music, someone else taking the sheet music and going on tour with it.

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?


It's different because he did not take the sheet music. He heard the recording and decided to play his own version of it. Music may well be the worst example here, because it happens all the time. Now I'm not sure with regards to the financial side of performing a cover (rather than recording it), but at least in a casual context it happens for free.


I think there's actually a surprisingly good analogy to music here: those "play X on the guitar" tutorials. The original artist plays the song, someone else hears it, figures out how to play it by ear, then offers to teach it (probably their own version/interpretation of the song) for free. Similarly, the OP saw a design, figured out how to code it up himself, and decided to share it with the world.


Guys, if someone dangled something in front of you with the initial impression that you could have one, and you wanted it, only later to find out that you actually can't have it and that those who could have it are "intelligent and witty", implying that you are not, then I think it's pretty safe to say that you'd run home, cook something similar up and run back to show that you have one now too.

In fact, after reading the original article, I felt a bit slighted and thought to myself "fine, I'll just build it myself".


Your metaphor is wholly flawed. This would be like if you wanted to get in to a restaurant because of the great food, decor, and excellent ties the waiters were wearing, but couldn't get in. So you went next door and created your own restaurant with the same recipes, decor, and ties on the waiters, but let anyone in.

Building something with similar functionality is one thing; building a stem-to-stern carbon copy is just low class.


No, it would be like if a restaurant passed out flyers advertising its great food, decor, and excellent ties, with a footnote at the bottom saying "PS: only beautiful, successful, wealthy people are allowed in, and that doesn't include you."

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.


Agreed. If only the landing page said: "This is a network of bloggers by invitation only while we iron out the kinks. Sign up to get notified when we are open to the public." Then this would have turned out much more differently.

Whether he wanted to open it to the public is another question though.


So, what's wrong with that? I'd eat at the second restaurant in a heartbeat if getting into the first is too much of a hassle. You would too.


You make an awful lot of assumptions about how others would act. I definitely wouldn't eat at the second restaurant, because they'd be scumbags for ripping off the first restaurant and I wouldn't want to support them.

Exclusivity is not a license to, nor a justification for, outright copying.


Do you also refuse to use Linux because Linus Torvalds is a scumbag who ripped off AT&T?


Right, so if I built an Augusta National for the public, I'd be considered a scumbag.


@54mf: What if the restaurant in question told you that the reason for excluding you wasn't a "closed beta" but rather that you aren't witty or intelligent enough?


54mf: It's not a closed beta though, It's a closed network.


Have you not heard of a closed beta? Also, like I mentioned elsewhere, exclusivity is not a license to rip off.


Dustin Curtis' outraged seems somewhat bizarre for someone whose blog/Twitter logo is an obvious rework of the Flash logo: https://www.google.ca/search?q=flash+dc&hl=en&safe=o...

https://si0.twimg.com/profile_images/1902246181/logo10.png

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.


I note Curtis also posted about the OMGPOP sale, the value of which is based on a game that is at its core a clone of a game that existed on the web over 5 years ago (which is probably a clone of another game from earlier). I wonder if he'd be similarly outraged knowing this. (I find it quite inspirational to know you can take an old concept and make millions modernizing it.)

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'll take this one step further, and say that one of the reasons people attempt to be kind and pleasant and, you know, not a prick, is that people respect and like you and want to help and support you. I bet this thread wouldn't have happened/would've gone differently if Dustin's much-cherished "brand" didn't revolve around his being a dick.

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.


This is an excellent point. If his goal was to get attention, he got it. What he didn't count on was that some of that attention would come from people who strongly didn't agree with his style, and the consequences thereof.


Completely agree, to protect your idea is quite simply naive and he could have replied differently. Dustin understands the product much better than the clone creator & he has nothing to lose. So the only thing he had to worry about was to grab positive attention.


I thought it was Cargo Collective's logo when I first saw his site. See top left:

http://cargocollective.com/


How is Obtvse, in any way, an improvement upon or alteration of Svbtle? As far as I can tell, it's a 1:1 clone, but "open".


Obtvse removes the two worst features of Svbtle: exclusivity and condescension.


Harsh, but with a core of truth.

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…


Kudos!


So it is ok to clone something but with a completely new feature, that being a different platform?

Not that I see this as a clone at all, just disagree with this as a general rule.


It also apparently removes the distracting animations.


That still doesn't make it right to rip off someone else's work!


It would be wrong if NateW hacked into and stole the source, or stole the design source/code of Dustin's project. But reproduction of someone else's work isn't ripping them off but is a compliment (it means that it's worth reproducing).

As good as Dustin is, neither his ideas or implementation of his blog/cms platform are that unique.


Follow that line and you will end up with two to three websites in the whole world of internet. He did not rip it off, in fact I see it as a favor for the original author, since its clearly stated that the second work is based on the first. If I release an HN simply for handful of people who I think are worthy of using it, then I should be dead ready for a crazy torrent of HN alternatives.


It's not a 1:1 clone. Put them side by side and you'll quickly see differences in font choice and size as well as positioning of several elements. I'm not saying it's not similar, but it's certainly not a clone.

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.


Obtvse looked identical when it turned up here a few hours ago; the author has been trying to make it look more different ever since


Okay, perhaps not a 1:1 clone, but definitely a rip-off. Mr. Wienert posted examples of his other work in this thread, and I think it's safe to assume he wouldn't have come close to the Svbtle UI if left to his own devices.


Seriously? It's a two-column interface with extra heaps of whitespace and thick borders. Yeah, Obtvse imitates Svtble – that's the point. It's not like it was imitating anything especially unique or difficult to conceive.


I take it you're not a designer.


I take it you haven't been on Hacker News for very long. I am a designer; one of my pet projects went viral after hitting the top of Hacker News. I've also closed a few blogs after my rants there hit the front page; it seemed to me that garnering hundreds of thousands of views for my eighteen-year-old hissy fits might not be the smartest way to make a name for myself.

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.


Not to get too meta here, but unalone and I have continued this discussion in email, so I'm not going to bother with a large reply here. In short, I apologized for writing him off so quickly, but disagree with his assessment of Svbtle's elegance.


Forget about closed source, invite only bloging network.

We can not even read HN comments you write ?


You make me wanna hover my mouse over you!

Good insights though.


Well said. Most of the discussions are all about whether or not stealing designs is justifiable... and thats really missing the point. /btw welcome back unalone.


Thanks! :-)


> his http://timvandamme.com/ is better-made than anything Dustin's ever touched

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?


I don't see the Apple part that you're talking about, but I think that he was the original one who did that, and others took inspiration from him. Or maybe I'm just delusional.


Well said. I can't wait until my side project (oops... startup... uh, I mean Rockstarium-ninjai fusion device) goes live and I get to satirize this trend with the site design (up until a point, probably the end of beta; at the end of the day I'm still trying to build a real service and a joke only goes so far). I may even be looking forward to this more than the end product.


I take it you are?


It is not an improvement. It is far less witty and intelligent.


How is Obtvse, in any way, an improvement upon or alteration of Svbtle?

As far as I can tell, it's a 1:1 clone, but "open".


His logo is based off Apple's Thunderbolt: https://twitter.com/dcurtis/status/40910311120703488


Looks like the British Union of Fascists logo:

http://maryportagainstracism.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/buf...


That tweet is actually him complaining about Apple ripping off his completely original and unique logo.


Has he been using that logo before Cargo Collective? http://cargocollective.com -- I don't think so :)


Webdings had it first.


He's been using that logo long before thunderbolt.


Those who are talking about this as if the design and concept are just being stolen are acting, well, obtuse.

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.


> Wienert is not trying to pass this off as his own work. He's not selling it.

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?


No, and I probably agree with you, but I'm just trying to point out that you don't have to subscribe to what appears to be a more controversial idea (that copying and possibly selling a piece of software is OK) in order to support what Wienert has done.


A guy who makes a new chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who ever built a chair.


Imitation, flattery, and so forth.

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.


> 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.

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.


Don't worry, its staying up. All original code, and I'm sure more than a few people will enjoy trying it out.


I think this is only "not nice" because of the dcurtis's reaction. He could have very easily just replied "Cute." to this thread and accepted the flattery/parody. No one is arguing that "obtvse" is a better product than his own.

For instance, the author of http://drawar.com/ is clearly flattered by dcurtis's own use of his design.


I guess that's what I meant by "good faith". I think making a nigh identical open copy of someone's work is easily predictable to be unpleasant for many people. In plenty of situations (esp on HN and its environs) this is not the case, you can have a reasonable expectation that the person whose work you've been "inspired" by would approve, maybe grudgingly.

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.


> I think making a nigh identical open copy of someone's work is easily predictable to be unpleasant for many people.

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.


That would be smart!


What is this 'not nice'? What is it really saying?

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.)


> this just isn't nice

Maybe if Dustin were a nice guy, your argument would have some validity.


Why do people allow themselves to be puppets?

We should never give up ourselves to being/doing something simply because John Smith does it.


I partially address this issue in a reply to drewblaisdell.


Two wrongs don't make a right.


Is it just me or is it really silly to fight over who really owns the UI of a rails app that can be made in a few hours.

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.


Design, especially good design, is hard work. I totally understand a designer being frustrated when their work is copied, even if that copying is reverse-engineered rather than just cut and paste of the css.

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?


I didn't downvote, but my opinion is this: if you don't want your design copied, make a product that can't be copied easily.

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)


Well I thought about this later and I think that Dustin's ideas of a simple,minimalist blog website do have some value in the creation of this product.But I still think it is extremely low compared to the value of Rails or the server OS(probably Linux) or even the database (probably MySQL) that this product will run on.

Dustin's initial response to this (which he edited later) and his general attitude might have contributed to my opinion.


It was copied in a few hours - not made - the design itself surely took longer than that.


In 6 months, after Svbtle has grown a bit, I'm going to give you a list of the new features. I'd like to see you build a great UI around them in a few hours.


I closed the original post as soon as I sampled the air of superiority that seems to be ever more present with some "intelligent, creative, and witty" developers and commentators.

Hail the disruption.


How is it a ripoff to see something and build your own version? It's not like he copied your codebase or logos or anything else. Is a Mercedes E-Series a rip-off of a BMW 5-series?

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.


Is the gimp a copy of photoshop? Is linux a copy of bsd?

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?


What Dustin did, is build a blogging engine he wanted to use himself. He then invited people he respected to write on the platform, people he knew would deliver a certain standard of quality that he'd love to connect his name to.

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.


"As much as I'd like to use Dustin's blogging engine..."

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.


Well, there is also this part of svbtle that seems pretty ripe for mocking:

The writing platform that helps you liberate ideas. With just two features, it's the essence of blogging.

Membership by invitation only.


...mocking the original creator is not.

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."


I assumed that's why he got the name wrong. He edited it after I wrote the comment, I suppose it was a genuine mistake.

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.


The author has already changed the design in response to Dustin's criticism: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3744438

I'd chalk the design similarity up to "I...typed in rails new obtvse, and a few hours later I'm here."


I don't know man, he didn't change all that much if you ask me. He also couldve taken the extra "few hours" to make something that actually looks different before releasing it if you ask me.


If Svbtle's design is that great and reaches any level of popularity, you'll see tons of mimics pop up, and Dustin's so-called vision won't happen anyways.


While minor, the name of the platform itself, Obtuse, is an antonym of Subtle. If that isn't a shot at Dustin, what is?


As much as I would love to have access to svbtle I think this ia very good clone which goes too far. Perhaps it would have been a bit more acceptable to take inspiration from the great drafting/publishing pattern which is what makes Svbtle great in my eyes, without mostly copying the UI. I understand you were probably just trying to make a great tool available to the community (Thanks!) but I think you're maybe giving off a false and malicious intent


Thank you for the feedback. Perhaps I did go too far. I will reduce the visual similarities and push up a less similar version. It really only took a few minutes to reproduce.


I don't think you should change anything. You put it together in a few hours and I don't see a valid reason for changing it.

One guy being annoyed that his super-elite design can be replicated in a matter of hours is not a reason to backtrack.


> 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.


Replication is an easy enough task for anyone competent with Photoshop or CSS/HTML. Copying his design idea is where the issue lies.

If it took more hours, would it be a bigger reason to backtrack?


Dustin Curtis didn't create a blogging platform, he created another PR and traffic grab. Which is great for his career and visibility.

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.


i hope he is both parties, that would be pretty epic


Nice conspiracy theory, but why would his main persona act like such a bumbling fool while his foil persona gets the respect?

and a large amount of hate, but the scale is tipping mostly in his defense


For me, wanting to set up my own blog soon, this ripoff is a goldmine. It's very easy to start off from the current state of obtvse, customize the look and implement custom features, and (hopefully) Nate and others will provide updates to the engine. I say it's a gift to all of us.


-- Removed. Perhaps I overreacted. --

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.


> Please take this site down and delete the Github repository. The work isn't yours.

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.


It honestly perplexes me how you can in the same breath admit that someone has done hard work and imply that you owe them nothing for using it.

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.


> It honestly perplexes me how you can in the same breath admit that someone has done hard work and imply that you owe them nothing for using it.

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.


It's not being first that I think conveys some right to recompense but being original.

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.


> 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?

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.


I see what you're saying. But Android doesn't copy Apple nearly as thoroughly as other examples of copying.

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.


Why was it announced if it isn't ready yet? Reminds me of the way lifepath.me was treated. Not sure what the pre-announcing accomplishes if your goal is to ship things people can use.


If I paint Starry Night from scratch, entirely by myself, it's not my work. It's a rip-off.


There's actually quite an open market for imitations of great art. They're not nearly as valuable as the originals, though, because painters like van Gogh created astonishing works of art and part of the value is being able to gaze upon original proof of astonishing human achievement.

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.


> I would never repaint van Gogh, because I'd rather paint my own things.

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.


... and that is fine as long you let people know that it not an original van Gogh.

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.


I think this is a bad comparison. Yep, if I repaint Starry Night, I will not be Van Gogh; but the case here is different. dcurtis' idea was public influencing. The idea was a blogging paradigm which would effect the writing approaches of the people. It was a great idea, but it's different from a personnal artwork. It has a broader domain than it. I think the society is allowed to use the idea. I agree, perhaps obtvse creator could do a little innovation and use a little different CSS and HTML design.


If you paint Starry Night from scratch and hang it on the wall at a strip club, that would be a parody, and would constitute transformation of the original.


But if you are saying only a few people can see it, then you shouldn't be offended if someone makes a copy available to world.


It's hardly the most complex of designs; looking at this and comparing it to yours, he inherits the basic layout (which isn't really revolutionary) but doesn't have the complexity and flashiness - which seems to me the critical portion of the design.

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


> 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!

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 think what inspired the push back most isn't just that he went for a closed system, but that he went for an elitest sounding system.

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 :)


So you want the good thing to be freed, but the free version to be not-similar?

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.


Edit: If you're talking about the changed version this morning, check out the screenshots at the bottom to see what dcurtis was mad about.

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.


As far as whitespace/color goes, both apps look similar (at least to my non-designer eyes) to Byword and Textroom:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/byword/id420212497?mt=12&...

http://textroom.sourceforge.net/images/odtexport1.png

The fonts are not the same the relative font sizes are a bit different (Dustin's has bigger text).


I willingly admit that, not being a designer, I may well have miss the subtlety in the basic layout that is important. Is there really that much in the column sizing?

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.


The fonts were never the same, I'm using a the Lato font from Google Web Fonts: http://www.google.com/webfonts#UsePlace:use/Collection:Lato


Oh, sorry about that.


If he's using your code, you have something to say, otherwise, not really, thankfully. I don't want to live in a world where SCO wins, or Apple puts the kibosh on Microsoft for creating an interface with icons and windows.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Computer,_Inc._v._Microso...

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.


That's not true. Making a "new" version of something that is intentionally a copy of something else is copyright infringement. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReactOS#Internal_audit Only clean-room reverse engineering is good enough to avoid copyright claims in the US.


How is this any different from Font Awesome being very similar to the Glyphicons set used in Bootstrap?

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.


Bootstrap is intended for use by whoever wants it. Font Awesome was presented as a tweak, an improvement. Svbtle is intended for a small audience, and Obtvse is a straight rip-off


When it comes to interface design, Lotus vs Borland has "you" covered:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_v._Borland


Copyright infringement? Where is that mentioned on that Wikipedia article?


"The US requires" (via copyright law), and "Intellectual Property" including copyright.


Something doesn't have to be illegal to be morally reprehensible. It's perfectly alright to think that copying a design should be legal and to still believe that it is morally wrong.

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.


there is something called "ethics" and "politeness". when you choose companions and collaborators, these are quite important values, obviously, the guy haven't heard of these words and obviously working with a person like that is not fun, you will then feel ashamed when he does something like this as a part of your team.


Under European law this would be copyright infringement on account of copying the design. Don't believe it holds in the US, but I'm not 100% sure.


Can you show us some references to this law? In Europe you can apply for design patents. Afaik doing so costs a four digit sum in EUR plus the patent lawyer that writes the legalese for you.

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.


I'm not a lawyer, but it appears to be covered in the Berne Convention [1] as "works of applied art". The copied design we saw this morning was probably "substantially similar" [2] to the original. Apparently designs are copyrighted in the US as well, in contrast to what I thought [3].

[1] http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/treaties/en/ip/berne/pd...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substantial_similarity (in US copyright law)

[3] http://norcal.gag.org/legalities/2004/legalities_no03.html (first question)


Yes, everything is copyright its creator.

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.


Dustin, I still stand by the original work. Notice I've changed three things on the site: a slightly grey header, non-bordered links, and a square logo.

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.


doe88: thats how economy and innovation works dude. people see stuff, they like it, they make it better (or different).

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're kidding, right?

http://briefmobile.com/images/articles/galaxy-s-vs-iphone.jp...

You are on the left.


The great thing about the left is that it provides me a choice. I appreciate the opportunity to have a choice.


If the one on the right was only sold to exclusive, vetted users, wouldn't you be hoping for someone to make the one on the left?


And you should realize that you took Dustin's idea, whereas he probably thought about it for a long time, and you in 5mn you make a snapshot, modify few colors, change the font and declare it's your "personnal design" now. What a shame. And I'm not a Dustin's fan, few hours ago when I read his disclaimer for svbtle saying that it was for genius people blah blah blah. I told myself "what a d*", but I also thought that the design of his site is brillant.


How different would you say his parody of your site is than your site is of http://drawar.com/ ?


I like Dustin's design better, but DAMN.. he clearly borrowed from there :) I don't see a problem here, and I would feel flattered if I were Dustin (or Paul Scrivens).


I'd even prefer Drawar, if they didn't stretch video objects beyond the implied margins of posts.


I don't see it; the whole workflow - draft to publish columns and such - is the same at drawar, or?


I think it is a reference to the similarities in site layout. Same thin sidebar. Same minimalistic style.


But the whole svbtle article was very much about workflow and, at the end, community building via invites.

My blog has a similar minimal design and its just a stock Tubmlr one.


Since when are drafts a revolutionary blogging concept that dcurtis has a monopoly on? And Obtvse did not copy the community building via invites. In fact that was the whole point.


I thought we were discussing the suggestion that Dustin copied www.drawar.com


No, we were discussing whether Obtvse is evil. You said that although you did not disagree that Dustin copied drawar.com's design, the important contribution of Dustin is the drafts & closed community, and by implication that the evil act of Obtvse was to copy (a subset of) these concepts from Dustin. That is what I was contesting.


then that's where the confusion comes from!

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.


Perhaps I overreacted.

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.


Please don't do the same. I mean, apologizing is OK, but don't delete the original post, especially if there are twenty replies to it.


Yup. It makes following the thread really tricky and can even make some of the replies seem out-of-context.


How is this a ripoff? I didn't follow the story but from what I see in the GH page, he's making an alternative to your currently closed-source solution.


So a startup takes a few lines of code from 37 Signals, modifies it for their layout and the web world is up in arms, but this guy takes Dustin's exact design and gives it away and it's not theft?

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.


(1) Apparently many people, including you, are up in arms about this too.

(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."


1. Not at all up in arms, just this this is a little hypocritical of the HN community.

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.


The difference is they were stealing + hotlinking 37 Signals assets. If this guy has genuinely not copied any code or assets, then it's not the same.


That hotlinking came up only later in the discussion. It definitely started with some of their pages having the same structure as some 37signal pages to great dismay of the community.


creating a look-alike product is different than copy-paste.


That is exactly what he did. Just because it's closed source doesn't mean it's fair to make an identical copy (in the interface and interaction design sense) that is free.


"theft" is so incorrect that you damage the credibility of your argument by using the term.

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.


I'm not very well-versed in this type of stuff but I want to ask you an honest question: Is creating an open-source alternative to a closed-source software considered theft?


> Is creating an open-source alternative to a closed-source software considered theft?

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.


Even if it copied material from the original, it would not be theft. It would be copyright infringement.


Good catch, yes; I hadn't intended to imply otherwise.


> Is creating an open-source alternative to a closed-source software considered theft?

Not under any definition of "theft" in use outside IP troll offices, as far as I know.


In terms of design, yes. He didn't just make something that performs the same function. He took Dustin's ideas and visual design so directly that it might even legally count as copyright infringement. Since dcurtis's work is not licensed for this use, making a copy might not be legal. And since he wanted to keep it closed for a while, lifting all his hard work into your own project is not cool.


Somewhere, Richard Stallman is weeping.


That is completely ridiculous.


There is no original thought here, the design and idea are identical, whether it's technically right or wrong, this shouldn't be encouraged.

Feel for you here dcurtis, and surprised people are actually behind this.


I'm also quite surprised, and disappointed.


If the design wasn't so similar you wouldn't even notice it's a "rip off".

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.


dcurtis is a professional designer. The amount of work that went into the design of the app was probably huge. If he's making his living as a designer, ripping off his design against his wishes could actually damage his business.


That's a faulty conclusion. Being a professional designer has no bearing on how much time you spend designing something.

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)


It has incredible bearing. Let's presume it took him 1 hour to design the site. (It surely took dozens or hundreds, including modifications and improvements, but play along.) That 1 hour isn't just 1 hour. It's 1 hour, plus the 5 or 10 or 15 years he has spent living and breathing design, refining his abilities and sharpening his understanding of the craft. He can do a singular design faster than a "layman" because he has spent a significantly greater amount of time on Design in general.


Umm, yeah. It still took one hour of his time, regardless of how much experience he has. If someone rips of this idea, and he loses out, he has lost one hour of his time; not ten years.


I'm really not condoning the infringement here or trying to act as Captain Hindsight. But having shown something brilliant but closed to a community of interested and talented people, did you not partially expect this?


Sure, Dustin doesn't have the the trademarks for svbtle registered (yet), but completely ripping off someone else's work or defending the action is neither honorable nor moral.

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.


1. Svbtle is not yet popular. Six members != "popular".

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?


The work is all original, no code or images were copied.

As I stated in my post, I'll be changing my personal design shortly.


You've deliberately recreated someone's work with the intention of offering a competing product. Legalities aside, it's pretty damn rude. Yes, it's a rip-off. (I don't use that phrase lightly and I'm usually all for remixing, which this isn't.)


I am not one to start arguments online, but I believe you should double-check your definition of original or buy a new dictionary.


No, he is correct and you are wrong. "Original", as used here, is a term of art that means "not infringing anyone's copyright". Like it or not, "look and feel" has not been established to be copyrightable. Just ask Apple: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Computer,_Inc._v._Micros...


You really should never have copied the design at all. That is not even where most of the value of Curtis's idea is...


Agreed, and I apologized. I've changed it. 4 lines of code diff. Cheers!


If you precisely replicated the New York Times website and posted one called The Old Vork Times, do you think they wouldn't care?

This is not original. You copied my design work.


There are two aspects here:

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.


I'm wondering how is this very different from MS Office vs. LibreOffice...

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.


Right, and as Mr. Curtis said, the author copied his design work. Mr. Curtis isn't crying fowl that someone built an open-source blog engine.


If you copied the articles, yes. If you copied the design using none of their assets or code, no. Copying it definitely is, stealing it definitely isn't (at least not in the legal sense, the moral sense is debatable.)

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.


Copied your work. It's ridiculous, of course, but you won't win any fans here with linguistic imprecision.


It's behaviour like this that leads people/companies to seek the protection of software patents.

Thanks for totally muddying the water, crossing the line, breaking an unwritten rule and not being a "team player".

You quite simply suck.


> 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.

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.


> Just wait until Svbtle is finished and open to the public.

Does that mean it will be open to _anyone_ and no longer only to people considered to be "intelligent, creative, and witty"?


Superheroes don't cry in public.


on your edit: pixel-for-pixel? Are you kidding? That would be hard to do in an html document even if it was your goal.

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.


but think about the children! ;)


> 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.

I don't understand how reusing/copying something finely done reduce its sacredness/sanctity.


Yeah, sounds disturbingly like the people looking to "protect marriage" in America.


I could be wrong, but I suspect the legitimacy or illegitimacy of copying design is a red herring here.

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:

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/two-cheers...


No more of a ripoff than Windows Metro is a ripoff of the iPhone OS.

If you open source your version, this will not detract from it. And if you don't, then this gives folks something to use.


I honestly can't remember the last time a fellow HN user put together an unfinished project, wrote a blog post demonstrating the ideas behind the project, and then had his work so shamelessly ripped off on the very day it was created!

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:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3742596

It's bullshit like this that discourages good ideas from being shared.


Can someone copy-paste what was originally here? This discussion thread makes no sense at all.



It is too late for changing your altitude ! The most important thing was your initial reaction, and you failed to handle this.


Sorry if I missed it, but it looks like the real victim of plagiarism would be: http://drawar.com/

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.


Not to pass any judgment on this issue either way, but is there any way in which this situation is not almost identical to the visitor.js/session.js situation a few months back?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3435416


Also not passing judgment, but here's a comment from that thread that might be relevant here:

"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""


That reminded me of pg's start.html:

"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."


If we're "just sayin'" there's another quote from the same thread:

> 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.


I'm fascinated by the fact that this topic is so close to Copyright/RIAA/MPAA, but the discussion is wildly different.

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.


For this to be similar, you'd have to make a distinction between someone copying music bit by bit and distributing the original file, vs someone making a COVER recording of a famous song (no matter how accurate), and distributing that for free.

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.


> 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.


So if anything, downloading music and films is worse than what they did to Curtis?


We can all appreciate the pleasure Dustin got from perfecting his Svbtle design. His perfection of the authoring flow. Perfection is when there is nothing left to take out, after all.

We can all thank Dustin for showing it to us so early.

And we can all imagine how he wanted to build a quality brand with it, partly by vouching for the quality of those who use it.

You could imagine that monetisation might have been in there too - a startup!

We like startups here; we all applaud.

We mustn't let Obtvse cheapen that.


> startup

Successful startups require a barrier to entry for competitors, more often than not.


interesting point, not sure; on the social web its community adoption over technology every time


That is the barrier to entry. Take Tumblr for instance: mediocre tech (just going from experience as a user), but it has a massive community invested in it. That is the barrier to entry; anyone attempting to go up against Tumblr has to figure out how to build that community.


When the technical entry level to join the competition is too low, you _should_ expect clones.

Copyright holds automatically on all the code, but just the idea of that kind of blog can't be considered a sufficient "level of creativity" to deserve copyright protection.



There's a name for this: Cargo Cult - copying behaviour without understanding why it exists in the first place. It's a part of human nature, even apes do it (they copy your very moves if they like you). Since we still do it, I suspect it has benefitted us during our previous evolution, and perhaps it still makes sense sometimes.


The point is, I'm not trying to build a brand, make money off this, or prove anything whatsoever. It was really just an experiment... to see how quickly I could do it and to see how people would react (and to make some good open source software).

Notice the name, "obtuse".. But I am glad I got this response, it's been both entertaining and enlightening!


As mentioned in another comment, I really dig what you did. You put it on GH so everybody can build customizations upon it. That's how new things are born. Perhaps it will become a barebone blog template just because it received this whole attention. If Dustin's elite writer concept is good, it will succeed no matter what. Ideas are everywhere, execution is everything.


Imitating something that already exists is nowhere near as difficult as creating something truly unique. To create some that's never existed before requires different skills. If know the exact storyboard, functionality, and design should work, then you don't even have to stop and think about anything while implementing it. You don't even need any trial error because someone else did that work already.

Carbon copying for vanity just doesn't my respect.


Eesh I need to be more careful when writing on an iPad.


> I'm not trying to build a brand, make money off this, or prove anything

so you torpedoed Dustin doing so? Nice.


If anyone is looking for "prior art" for Obtvse or Svbtle should look at Pivotal Tracker. Pivotal implements multiple columns of one line ideas, in Pivotal's case they are features or bugs instead of blog posts.


From Nate's twitter feed: "Become good at cheating and you'll never need to become good at anything else."

Pretty much sums it up.


I stole that from Banksy ;)

Check out some of my original work: http://gamegum.com http://bassdownload.com http://vbseed.com http://webuildappsforyou.com ...

Funny enough I wrote that before I had seen svbtle.


The thing is Bansky does it with a touch more class. :)


Sorry, 160 characters taken out of context can mean both good or bad. No summing up there.


I think that there's a distinction to be made between copying code and copying design.

Design is hard, and even though a design might be quick to implement in code, that doesn't mean the design was easy.

Just look at the Samwer brothers - they clone every good startup that comes out. Is what they do okay? Maybe they don't copy any of the code from the successful site, but they shamelessly copy the design, which is often the hardest part of the creation process and the main reason why the original site was so successful in the first place.


Didn't see this and brought up the Samwers as well. I think we're still in a transition around here in terms of how "design" is valued but overall it seems like things are improving.



Copying my comment from dcurtis thread:

You say "In fact, it goes against the very ethos of Hacker News.", do you think your action aligns with the "ethos of Hacker News"? Do you think it's okay to rip-off something just because you think it shouldn't be invite only?



And considering Hacker News is based off Reddit...


There is a difference between taking an idea and a design. Put the versions next to each other and tell me they don't look like the same.


> There is a difference between taking an idea and a design.

When the idea is the design (as is the case with visitor.js), no there is not. In both cases, it's taking and reimplementing wholesale (but from scratch) the closed product into an open-source one.


Never said the motivation was because it was invite-only, I just wanted something similar so I created it. I've modified it somewhat, is it still a "rip-off"? Let me know how much more I should modify it before it isn't a "rip-off".


I think you should aim for this kind of look to make it clear that you're doing something different:

http://bobcargill.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/geocities-izer...


If you look at both versions it should be clear what I mean with rip-off. I don't care if you implement the "ideas panel" or whatever yourself.

But if I you take the design and make your version look the same, then it's a rip-off. Yes, you modified it. But please put both versions next to each other and tell me they don't look like each other. As long as you don't have an original design it's a rip-off for me.


I wouldn't worry about it too much were I Dustin. He'll keep continually improving Svbtle from his design insights, whereas Obtvse likely will stagnate. And if it doesn't, the contributors would all be programmers, given it's hosted on github. Chances are, they won't use it often, and they won't have the design intuitions that come with design experience and use.

Take it as a form of flattery and just move on. I have faith in his design chops.


This is an excellent point! Design is supplementary to a good product. But theres so much more to a good product than design.

If Obtvse is more popular than Svbtle in the long run, it will be because Dustin himself failed, not because the design was copied.

He's already made the wrong decision at every major point imo.


My Dad always said the best place to open a new suit store is right next door to the oldest, most established suit store in town.


Anyone thinks to create a WordPress Theme out of this design? That would be huge.


Ok, one of my friends started working on open source wordpress theme design that clones this design. (as much as it can) in first version, we'll omit comments (listing and posting) then maybe we can add. I'll let you know over HN.


Why call him "Dean" when his name is "Dustin"? Is that part of the joke I missed?


Fixed, apologies.


You didn't fix all of them, search again


I felt the exact same feelings as the writer when I was reading about it's growing interest.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3742647

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3737549

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3731095

This was until I saw Dustin say he was going to open the platform up to the public. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3742596

But congrats on going to all that effort to copy one of the most minimalistic blog designs ever. Maybe Dustin should have made it more obvious what his intentions were on the homepage.


It was only a matter of time, really.


I posted this in the other thread, but I feel it's worth repeating:

I'm sorry, but isn't this just a reversion to late 90's style frame design? It seems all you've done is build it in the latest trendy standards and add a few little CSS tricks.

Minimalist design is supposed to be about presenting the content first and foremost. But the content is overshadowed by your frame. Your name and flashy CSS tricks are the only constants on the page and take up nearly 25% of the view, but you claim you're trying to draw attention to the content? Perhaps if the content you're presenting is you, then you have a successful design.

Of course this version removes the CSS stuff but I think my point stands.


A blogger discover "drafts". He shares the idea only with VIPs. I'll use Gmail drafts.


It's pretty clear that the innovation in Dustin's work wasn't the code -- it was the interface. Pointing out that Nate built Obtvse in a day from scratch is pretty meaningless and the fact that he bothered to recreate it makes it pretty clear that Dustin built something cool. As a designer... it just feels like this wasn't Nate's to open source and hopefully this will transition further from the original.

On the flipside, if the Samwer brothers launched a version of Svbtle next week in 15 markets, would the reaction be the same?


> It's pretty clear that the innovation in Dustin's work wasn't the code -- it was the interface.

What part? While it looked pretty, I didn't see anything new or unique (outside of the liking mechanism he uses).


Perhaps I'm not familiar, but what CMS/blogging engine looks like his and is structured like his (esp in the admin)?


The list of articles/ideas/drafts? The full screen editing mode? Which part?

I'll grant him the UI is new, but in essence, it's a skin over existing concepts. And, to be clear, when I say UI, I'm referring to the the colors and graphics. Sort of like someone coming up with a new theme for Firefox. You still have the form of a browser, just with different colors, padding, and images.

So again, I pose my question, where is the new, unique, non-obvious innovation here? You seem to have some interest in defending this idea, so maybe you can answer this.

I'm not a designer, so clearly, I might be missing something.

Edit: Just to be clear here, for one example, was when I saw his distraction free writing screen, it reminded me of the countless other implementations I've seen for other blogging platforms, not to mention what's built into Word and Pages (with Word's being far more elegant).


I'm just struggling to see what's so 'revolutionary' about the design. It's just a bland minimalist modern theme. Anyone could have made it.

Dustin's response was just plain rude, let's recap:

"This is almost unbelievable. No matter what you think about me or my product decisions, it is flatly wrong to ripoff work. It's shameful, even. Please take this site down and delete the Github repository. The work isn't yours. Just wait until Svbtle is finished and open to the public. The reason it's closed is really simple: it's not ready yet."

Get over yourself.


dcurtis' version is generally more attractive in my opinion, and honestly nwienert's site as a whole is less attractive than Dustin's.

Even if it is copyright infringement, at least there's that I suppose.


Unreadable fonts. (Mac Book Pro; snow leopard; Chrome.)


Also very hard to read under Windows 7 and chrome


This is a really interesting circumstance.

On the one hand, I don't think the Obtuze is a theft of Subtle -- however I talk crap about Zynga's idea theft (based on look feel UX mechanics etc) all the time.

While this is a reverse of Zynga's for profit thievery - this is a "Robin-Hooding" of sorts (taking a closed shiny widget and making an open shiny widget.

Ill withhold judgement in this case as i feel it would make me a hypocrite.


Github: "TODO: Kudos"

Blogpost: "Kudos suck"


Thats the joke...


It's @dcurtis "concept" and let him decide, no matter how ethically wrong his decision is, its his' anyway. Copying the concept and releasing it is definitely not the right way of showing your discontent with his decision of not releasing his work to public.

I have an app that is closed source (the kind of thing that you would expect to be opensource but i decided not to). If someone thought that it was better if it was open and copied the concept, UI/UX and released it, i would not be very happy. Community and open is all good and i am all for it but i intend to make a living out if it [my app] and won't be happy seeing it being released. I don't know how much of a work the platform really was but my app was alot of work. more than enough that i would enforce it's closed-source status.


I have 2 words for someone in that situation: tough shit. I can understand not liking new competition but that's business. Innovate, compete, or die.


but in such case innovation is not an option. if the other person can copy current app why can't he/she copy the innovation too?


dcurtis - don't worry about Obtvse.

Just keep improving Svbtle and release it when it's ready.


Those who clamour after Obtvse don't particularly seem like the original target market. The 'Obtvse' network branding will have little weight as well, I think.


Yeah it will be missing all the geniuses.


Open Source is a long race. I believe Dustin cares more about HIS creation than some guy who blatantly ripped it off.

To keep contributing to the open source, you need to care beyond "oh, I'm just going to rip off this guy's design because I failed to ask him if he's actually going to open source it, in the first place'.

This whole thing seems like terribly short-sighted thing to do.

So, Keep Calm and Carry On. The race is long.


I don't understand your post at all. There are hundreds of highly successful long running open source projects and its absurd to imply that someone is more invested in a project purely because it is closed source rather than open.

Further, my comment was merely a testament to the elitism mentioned elsewhere in this thread in regards to Dustin's comment about how his private network is full of geniuses.

When I first saw the screenshots I was impressed. Its nothing terribly new but it is simple and streamlined... but I've been using drafts and published posts in blogger and WordPress for years to do this

I was much less impressed after his comments about geniuses and his big play about exclusivity. Its basically straight up "look at this cool thing that I have, that you can't have, because I'm more of a genius than you."

This us of course isolated from the ethics of cloning the idea... but jeez, at least don't act so damn surprised. This is typical of these scenarios.


@dcurtis:

> Not only did that guy completely rip off my work, but he did it badly, he put the code on Github, and he got my name wrong. What a jackass.

> @natebirdman "Hey, I ripped off your work and put it on Github." Really?


http://natewienert.com resolves fine, but the link you provided reports: "We're sorry, but something went wrong." :)


Still down? It's up for me.


Back up


Yes, back up for me now, too. You might want to advise users to change the default password and login, since it's publicly viewable on github.


Dumb technical question: What's the purpose of the "Aside" flag in Obtvse? I can see that it sets a class for CSS, can't see an equivalent in the Svbtle UI.


[deleted]


He didn't steal anything. Similar, yes. Stolen, no. This is certainly not mocking anyone, if anything it's flattery.

> I'm done. I'm done with Hacker News and I'm done with the open-source community. I can't in good conscience support either anymore.

Clearly you're not the type of person HN targets, you know, hackers. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.


I couldn't agree more.

This is an utterly toxic set of circumstances. While YC is utterly brilliant, Hacker News is so full of haters that it's downright... uninspiring?

What happened to being a supportive community that encouraged people to develop interesting things, helped one another, and could congratulate one another for our successes?

Jealousy doesn't really look good on anyone and it's unfortunately become this community's defining trait.


Someone clones a project after its introduced with neiner-neiner look how cool thus is and you can't have it... and this is reason to bag on all of HN? Or better yet, its a reason to abandon all of open source? Better go back to using IE. Have fun.


[deleted]


Again, what does open source have to do with any of this? Designers steal from designers regardless of the openness of the back end or availability of unobfuscated CSS.


Of course I'm not giving up open source software (we use it in our YC backed startup). But the attitude of this community has changed since four years ago... for the worse.

In the past, when someone submitted something to the community, they got feedback. Today we get mindless copying, downvoting of dissenting opinions, and rationalizations why it's a good thing to take people's work and then taunt them about it. I suspect this attitude will result in good people backing away from HN and it will definitely reduce the positive exchange of ideas. It's not just "not nice", it's mean. And it's the opposite of the experience that I had at YC and continue to have with YC founders. There's a spirit of camaraderie and helpfulness that's almost completely lacking in this thread and has been present in every story about a startup being acquired. In a way, it's very un-YC. I'm not sure how useful a community like this is to people who create things and want to share them with others. The Haters have stormed the gates and have taken over.

When's the next time you think Dustin will share a valuable or interesting concept he's working on?


Try this page until the site comes back up: https://github.com/NateW/obtvse#readme


A thing to keep in mind - dcurtis is building a business.

A high-profile high-traffic no-nonsense blogging site is a very valuable asset - be it for the purpose of direct advertisement, product placements/mentions or as an acquisition target. Positioning it as exclusive and coming across as arrogant is actually a sensible marketing approach. The design is only a part of the deal, but it's the content that really matters. Cloning the design is surely not without consequences, but in a larger picture it's not that big of deal.


By D. Curtis' own logic he ripped of the design of http://cargocollective.com/


It is NOT what the author of thisSvbtle wanted done with his project. He explicitly stated that it wasn't ready for the punlic yet and would be available when he worked things out. He might have seemed smug, but Im apalled that bulk of the HN community seemed seemed to be OK with someone essentially copying his project outright. Im not able to frame my answer better but this is not how how mutually respecting communities are built.


I really love the hover-to-trigger buttons and think DC had a great product. Why rush him to push it to market.


Dustin Curtis should really be a marketing/pr person, specifically aimed at startups.


Copying ideas or products happens all the time. Some make a lot of cash with it: http://www.techberlin.com/post/19732590058/true-story-the-sa...


If you want to roll your own, don't steal the man's hard design work if you're going to plagiarize his concept anyway.

Dustin is often quite cocky, but I don't wish this kind of mindless copying on anyone.


Putting aside the morality of this particular case, I'd point out that this type of copying will discourage early sharing of concepts / projects on HN, which is not a good thing.


Counterpoint: If your idea can be fully replicated in 11 hours as an experiment, your idea might not be all that defensible/sustainable in the first place.


Dustin Curtis was a superhero.


The thing he copied was already "open sourced" anyway the minute Dustin blogged about it to the world.


This is awesome, and a great step past the "Poker blog" you were running back in High school :P.


Wow, just wow.

Guess people really like pirates then, of course, this is Hacker News after all.


when replicate something, do not show off how fast you can build it, because it is just replication.


Thank you.


Thank you for sharing it.


copycats are not cool cats


I'm sick of that invite-only horseshit too. If you're gonna share it privately don't announce it to the world. Don't wave a steak in front of my face and then walk it over to the VIP section.

I don't care if this is petty, I am serious as a heart attack about it now. I refuse to use Google+ for this reason, and a couple other things too.


Good job with this. I forked it in case you get a change of heart.


This kerfuffle is amusing on a site that believes copyright violation is a moral imperative.


Without addressing the merits of either copyright or patent protection, I believe you're confusing the two. Folks around here tend to believe that software patents are bad; the view that copyright is bad is less widely shared. In fact, open source licenses /rely/ on the protections afforded by copyright law.


This is pretty decent example of the entitlement syndrome I see in the design/development community. We somehow feel like all cool things should be free (as in liberty) and open source and shared, hacked, modified, and improved. And that's great! But when someone comes around with something cool that isn't all of those things like Dustin Curtis did and someone else subsequently clones it, we feel differently all of the sudden.

Why is that? We all love StackExchange but when an open source clone came out about a month ago a lot of people were screaming "rip off!" Why?

It's really hard to judge when a clone is in poor taste and when it's acceptable. It's an interesting question.

If I were judge I'd say Obtvse is perfectly legit. If Svbtle were for everyone then I'd say the clone is in bad taste but it really was only matter of time before someone brought it to the masses so long as the original would never be offered to the rest of us.

But that's beside the point. I just think its so interesting that a group of people who demand their music and media free just because they can, and extoll the virtues of (F)OSS, demanding our software be free and throwing massive tantrums when a developer of anything cool or useful doesn't publish the source can turn around and say a clone of a piece of software that's limited to a certain group is now not okay. This can be an IP issue and it's so interesting how we put ourselves in the other guy's shoes so selectively. Copyright, IP, etc. are the root of all evil one day but are useful and need to be considered the next. Maybe I'm missing something but I find popular opinion on this stuff funny at times.

This isn't an indictment of dcurtis or the creator of Obtvse. I personally think both are awesome, I love that Obtvse now exists (because I would never be invited to use Svbtle), and I think both developers are just plain awesome. For me, it's just really interesting to see how one action is wrong (along the lines of theft or infringement) but another in the same vain is seen as justified by the same people. Maybe I'm the dumb guy in the room but I see some cognitive dissonance here.


Then there's how us old farts blog:

vi something ...run script to maybe apply template, regen indices... ...preview locally in browser... ...maybe edit again... ...run script to upload (if want to "publish"), commit to VCS, etc...

no fancy codebase needed. no web framework, no local web server, no reinventing the wheel, etc. and the same tools used above to "blog" are also used to do lots of other productive things, so leverages the same skill set, exercises the same muscle memory, and more future-proofed.


haha brilliant!


I assume something went wrong.


Maybe asking first might have been polite, is that a thing? :/


I don't think building an open clone of a closed platform is a bad thing, but using the same name is a bit of a dick move.

Suggested new name: Gavche


The same name? The original is "Svbtle".


Oh. Whoops. Now I feel very silly indeed. I'm not sure how I misread it that badly.

(Clone away.)


http://briefmobile.com/images/articles/galaxy-s-vs-iphone.jp...

Mr. Curtis on the right. Mr. Wienert on the left.


I agree with you in that people seem to be making waaaay too much out of the fact that one of the two did it first.


I find it fascinating the disdain people have for Dustin because of his attitude (which is pretty consistent if you follow him) and how he presented Svbtle.

Clearly he was sharing some concepts and ideas that he felt were worth sharing and may be useful to colleagues in the industry. But because of (perhaps too 'arrogant') copy and the fact that Dustin didn't want people to use it for the time being, a significant portion of this 'community' felt compelled to simply rip off his work in to spite him. I don't get it.

Without getting into the merits of when stealing something is justifiable why is such maliciousness so 'justified' to some in this case?




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