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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: . 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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.)
> 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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  as "works of applied art". The copied design we saw this morning was probably "substantially similar"  to the original. Apparently designs are copyrighted in the US as well, in contrast to what I thought .
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.
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.
> 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.
(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.
"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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
> 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.
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:
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:
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.
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""
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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".
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.
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.
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.
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?
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
...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.
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?