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Why I won't steal your idea (stritar.net)
44 points by stritar on Feb 5, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments



In his article about not stealing ideas, Grega Stritar mentions karma and being a good person by not stealing. Yet for some reason, he also chose to use an unlicensed watermarked image from iStockphoto at the head of his article.

Perhaps I am reading to much into it, but it really seems to undermine his credibility and trustworthiness in this regards. He claims he is not willing to steal ideas, but he is willing (apparently) to steal images?

Where is the line actually at?


Actually, stealing the photo was intended as a joke... Do you think that if would steal a photo, I would leave a watermark on it? :)


LOL, is it from here: http://nicholasnoel.me/tag/hacker/

Good article anyway! I think it's mostly fair. Although when people a secretive of their ideas, it's also that they don't want their incomplete or incubating idea out there amongst colleagues and friends. Inevitably someone asks, (and it might be your mum who asks) "so how's the internet-enabled frypan idea going?", and then you have to talk about it as if it's real to someone who probably can't help you with it anyway.


Is it stealing if you have the watermark? Just curious what their terms are.


I was just going to comment on that photo. Clever and meta. It reminds me of the homies that show the price tag on their apparel.


It is true that most random Joes/Janes won't be interested in stealing your ideas but the issue is not about them. It's about your competitors who are already in/near your space, who definitely want to see what others are doing and thinking. If you are not careful who you talk to, there is a chance that your ideas may end up in their hands.

Beside, I heard that in EU and Asia, if you disclose your idea to anyone without an NDA, you immediately lose the right to patent it.

So don't be naive to believe in Cinderella fairy tales.


I have/had an idea from 99/00 that I developed while in R&D at my work that they signed the rights over to me because the technology wasn't there yet...technically still isn't.

A few years back, I was talking to my mechanic/friend who was telling me about his son and this idea he and some of his buddies were working on in their off-time at 3M...it was like a Roberta Flack song it hit me so hard. My idea, from another person's mouth who had no knowledge that I had thought of the same thing.

Flash forward to Super Bowl Sunday. For kicks and giggles I was on Twitter because a room with the lights off is absolutely not interesting television. A particular thread sparked my interest when one person accused a news reporter of RT'ing his joke without attribution.

After that, I started watching the #blackout stream and sure enough, everyone on Twitter who thought they were witty also thought they were original. People were spouting off the same jokes simultaneously that it would have been impossible many of the lame jokes to have spread that fast.

Whereas many people thought they were purely genius for coming up with a joke about the lights being killed and Ray Lewis, many others in the mass of 7 billion people were thinking the same thing.

TL;DR: The idea is a small piece of the Success Pie. Execution is everything. Also, I like slashes.


One of the things I do is be a speaker in game development, targeting newbies.

Another is game design consulting.

I hear a lot stuff related to ideas.

First, there are a handful of paranoids, that want to know if they can patent their cool game idea ( no, you can't, especially ideas that are a story, not a game system ).

Then I have those wanting advice. Of those about 80% are in two fields: some want my help, but fearing that I will steal their idea they will request me to sign some crazy NDA or they will keep giving vague explanations.

Others want me to do their idea, some just want to see their idea done so they can play, others think their idea is so good that I would buy it, or code for free and give them later 80% of the revenue.

All of those people don't understand that ideas are cheap, making a game is crazy hard, and even I already have lots of my own ideas, I will only make your idea if you give me craploads of money.


Of the people who have approached me to possibly work with them, I have yet to encounter one totally original idea. Often, they'll tell me it's original, but a quick Google search will turn up a few to a few dozen competitors already in the space.

It doesn't mean the idea is bad, and it doesn't mean that a good execution of the idea won't be successful. But, there's no reason for an NDA, and there's no reason to be concerned I will steal the idea.

The implementation is key. If the person with the idea also figured out what the user interactions will be like, what types of data are needed, and what separates the product from direct or indirect competitors, I might be interested. If the person only has a vague idea of a project management system that addresses the market between Microsoft Project and Basecamp (an idea I've been pitched more than once), I'm not interested.

I'm also no longer interested in signing an NDA before discussing an idea. If we get further into business plans, financial information, and specific implementations, sure. But by then, I've already agreed to work on the project, and I'm getting compensation in return.


"3. Your idea probably requires specific passion and know-how"

This exactly. It was hard enough building a great team of freelancers to help me relaunch my site. A LOT of research. I threw out every mockup and every business detail I could to get great people on board. Many of these people are booked solid for months -- the last thing they're going to do is drop what they're doing and build my product. And they're probably not the right people because my idea is specific to my community and past experience.

If you end up finding some bad apples on your quest to build your product, chances are they aren't the ones who will execute on it well. For the slim chance something could go wrong, you'll be spinning your wheels not being transparent about what you're trying to build.


I generally agree but from first hand experience, I know this isn't always true. Before, I'd be happy to announce/show prototypes of stuff I was working on but it's clear that there are developers out there who take parts of the concept and release it. It may not be as full as the original app since it's a case of rushing something out but it undermines my USP. Of course, it could've all been coincidence, but I personally doubt it considering similarities and timing.

Having said that, that's what the market's all about so I'm not really complaining but just saying that the article isn't always true from first hand experience. I think a lot depends on the nature of the app (i.e. web app, game, smartphone app etc..) and what parts are "copied".


I'm a big believer in not operating in so called "stealth mode" so i try to share as much as I can, but lately i've been working on two separate products, one of which is an MVP at the moment. For some reason - and rather irrationally - I started to get worried about it when discussing with other developers. I'm currently considering bring a second person on board to work on the code with me.

Can you re-assure me that most developers think like you do? I am genuinely nervous about it bringing someone else to work on the product for this reason alone. I realise how pathetic it may sound, but a little re-assurance would give me a big enough nudge to go ahead and do it.

Unless there are specific cases where this shouldn't be done?


Speaking as a developer: I like to build things that are successful and I like building things for passionate people. I'm not a thief, I'm a developer. I love bringing ideas to reality.

The people who are out there making money are doing so because they executed their ideas or helped to execute ideas with someone else. They aren't just sitting around waiting for the next person to screw over, they have better things to do: like work on things. Of course: there are always malicious people out there, but I would be extremely surprised if they were in the majority in this particular example.

Of all of the startups that get featured here, even the multi-million dollar ones, how many times have you heard of someone genuinely "stealing" someone's idea? I mean to the point that someone was put into financial hardship without a way to reconcile? I can only think of a couple off the top of my head, and frankly: the events and legal BS surrounding them are so far above and beyond anything I'd ever want to do in my life. I have a feeling that I'm not alone in that sentiment amongst a profession of reasonably rational and intelligent individuals.


I'm going to stretch my definition of a startup and say Michael Arrington and FusionGarage.

I'm not up to date on whatever happened with it, but Arrington announced on TechCrunch the CrunchPad, kept everyone abreast with its development, and when it came time to launch FusionGarage decided to go it alone and cut him out (allegedly).

Also, you can stretch it even further and use Jonathan Coulton's latest spat with the producers of "Glee"

I think it happens, we just don't hear about it as much.


Great advice. Thank you.


> Can you re-assure me that most developers think like you do? I am genuinely nervous about it bringing someone else to work on the product for this reason alone.

Is the offer a full-ime living wage that is competitive in your area? If so make them sign the typical "Anything you do during company hours is owned by the company". Easy.

If you aren't then you'll need to bring something to the table otherwise you'll have scared away the right 2/3rds of the standard distribution of programmers.

If you're looking to hire cheap with no benefits the only people left interested will be people that just need the money... and you've just increased your chances of having your stuff stolen.


Understood. Thanks. There's a value exchange conversation currently taking place, where we're hoping to exchange services of value, but i acutely realise that value-exchange is sometimes a good idea, but not always.


Another thing to consider, if you can pull it off, would be to take whatever work you have find the bit that isn't directly related to your business and make them separate fully-functional-modules.

For example, Part of my application needs to extract zip files and search for the contents. This isn't the game changer part of the application but it is a necessary component.

This is where I've hired cheap India/China labor in the past, I've done the core work product and I've given them access to these submodules that if stolen wouldn't affect my application.

Eventually I'll be making these modules open source, and if any of them pick up traction I'll receive even more benefits for my application.


I was thinking the exact same thing just now. There are definitely parts of the application that can be worked on independently, and since it's going to be front-end stuff mostly (which is visible any way), i can ask for the code to be worked and separately and i can integrate it myself into the main app.


> I am genuinely nervous about it bringing someone else to work on the product for this reason alone.

You gotta risk it to get the biscuit.

It's just my opinion but I believe that sometimes the fear can cause more damage than the thing you are afraid of. Yes, be careful... but don't overdo it. Someone might steal your idea but if you get all paranoid you will focus on preventing the bad stuff instead of building something great. You can force everybody to sign NDAs and set up the whole bureaucracy protecting you from idea-stealers... which will probably drive the best people away and your great idea will go nowhere. Just my $0.02.


I agree. I don't normally think or behave like this, but you're right. I have to take the risk if i want to move forward.


I obviously can't take responsibility for every developer in the world, but most of them I know think in a similar fashion that me. :)

I think you need to consider your advantages and the fact that you are already ahead with your MVP. There is no need to disclose everything. Besides, even if your MVP is working as it is supposed to, there are miles till you actually make in in the market. Been there, done that.

Think about this: if the person has the skills / connections / opportunity to make execute this idea better than you, you should consider him / her a partner in the project.


Very valid points. Thank you for re-assuring me and helping me to think about things differently as well.


It depends who you're sharing the idea with and how complex it is.

Certainly the vast majority of ideas require some real specialization and can't be emulated by anybody.

Also, an unproven idea which only "sounds like it could be great" really is a dime a dozen.

You should be more worried about HOW you accomplish your great idea. Maybe you've found a way to pull off some PROVEN product, but using 1/10 the labor, parts, etc. This is a competitive advantage that can pull you from zero to a million in revenue, buying you time to "properly" develop your Version 2 idea from the ground up. This, I have seen people stealing. If this is what you've got, then keep it secret. Sell your prouct by all means but keep that "special sauce" closely guarded.


Reason 6: I don't have time to steal your idea.

I'm so busy working and trying to find the time just to spend with my family, and sometimes play with a project on the side, I haven't got the time to steal your idea. Not even if your idea is the best since sliced bread.


You could apply that thinking to a lot of other things too, especially around people being precious around an idea or creation and not letting go - like with coding, the same approach works with explaining that you're not going to ruin the code by working on or with it..


haven't thought about it this way...


A lot of people say they believe in "karma" I have one simple question "why?".

I mean it stands to reason that if you go around being an asshole to people they might eventually start being an asshole back.

But I mean in the cosmic justice sense.


Because its easier to turn the other cheek if you think the person currently screwing you over will have it eventually catch up to them.

I don't think everyone who says "karma" is really referring to the interconnected balance of all the things in the universe. I think they just mean, "Golden Rule, bitches."


When people refer to karma, they don't mean it literally, it's meant more in the sense of "reputation".


I don't know, maybe that is true here but I've met a significant number of people who seem to think it is an actual thing.

I've heard arguments such as "I know god exists because karma exists" which just seems like nonsense to me.


I think that's more on sites like Reddit where the "karma" relates to the number of upvotes you have.

General use of karma is basically saying "what goes around, comes around". It's a derivative of the concept from dharmic religions.


Plenty of people literally believe in Karma.

Also, on the other side, your reputation of being an asshole can get around pretty quickly.


Here is a relevant question I recently posted that didn't get any attention: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5152827


1 reason why I won't steal your idea: Ideas can't be stolen.


I would add: if your idea is really unique the product will not be understood. First approachers usually don't succeed and only pave the way for others.


An enjoyable read!

The only thing I would change is the overuse of bold text. When used too much, it detracts from the readability of the text as a whole more than it serves to emphasise any particular sentence fragment.


6. I don't have an idea


fix your anchor font.




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