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Infinite monkeys and infinite repos (robertheaton.com)
71 points by koomerang on Apr 9, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments

This post is the exact opposite of my primary mode of building software and yet I still love it. Why? Because it makes me think outside the box, which is my secondary mode of building software.

I've longed believed that addressing the hair-on-fire needs of real customers was the best way to stay on the critical path. But every once in a while, the world throws you a curve ball and things work out differently.

Just recently I needed to build a bunch of tools to help me build something a customer needed. I had no idea that the tools would turn out to be the better product. Who knew? An infinite number of monkeys, maybe.

Thanks OP for the enlightening thoughts. Now go build something someone wants.

This looks good from the perspective of a customer. This also looks good from the perspective of the rare successful monkey team (survivor bias.)

But for an average monkey before the startup experiment this looks rather bad. Unfortunately this is just the monkey you are.

>Creating something transcendentally awesome requires doing stuff that at the time looks completely random, and it’s the ability and willingness to do this that will make you incredible.

>Have the courage to try things that look like they could only have been conceived by an inexhaustible supply of apes. It’s not necessarily a terrible thing to be an Infinite Monkey Startup.

No thanks, I'm going to spend my valuable time trying to build things that fit a market and satisfy genuine customer problems.

I don't get this, it starts off talking about human startups being bad at customer development and feedback loops, but then says "just do something random, lol". I know it's supposed to be light hearted, but I've read more interesting articles on TechCrunch. (Zing).

Some people want to hit the world with something new and some people just want to get rich :)

And then there are people who want to create great products and get paid to support themselves and further development. Neither selling snake-oil nor starving are an option to them.

Please don't make it sound like not making "free/libre open source" would equal being a greedy capitalist who only cares for profits.

You seem to forget about the infinite number of photo sharing apps and social media aggregators you would also have. And the infinite amount of monkey groups that invented monkeycrunch and the infinite amount of monkey startups that read monkeycrunch religiously.

Indeed. The central point of this post seems to be that "an infinite number of startups" would be "arguably more diverse". Well, okay.

I thought this was going to be about the insane proliferation of "forks" of any given popular github repository.

Some advice: just forking something and hacking on it is just the start. If you'd like to give something back to the open source community, be sure you communicate with the other people involved in the project about your changes. That may be a pull request, but for more complex things, might well also involve writing something to the mailing list.

I thought the exact same thing.

I like the idea of the article, but it falls apart in the real world, on the individual level. Each human has a finite amount of resources, time, and energy. Therefore we tend to invest in those projects that we feel will reward us in the way we need to be rewarded. For most people that is monetary, as people we like to eat, more than bananas.

If we had a social system that had a softer cushion for failure or a start-up incubator that rewarded ideas that were creative we may see a larger group of people taking risks and interesting ideas.

One of the primary differences between humans and monkeys creating start-ups is that humans have human lives. We have bills, families, responsibilities, higher wants and needs, and so much more. The start-up arguments seem to forget that we are all people, real human people. Even entrepreneurs are people, and they will have to address their humanity at some point.

Agreed that copycatting and lame ideas are to be discouraged, but the author makes one fatal error in my mind: consumers and venture capitalists have the benefit of "portfolio" thinking. Entrepreneurs have all their eggs in one basket, and a finite amount of time to make things happen. So while being totally zany might indeed be good for the whole, I can pretty much guarantee that it will be terrible for 99% of the entrepreneurs.

> ... the cost of domain names involving monkey puns would skyrocket. But such is the price of progress.

That would drive me bananas ...

  > The... ecosystem [of random startup ideas] would be
  > arguably more diverse, more innovative and overall better
  > for consumers. Instead of having 8 million photo sharing
  > apps and 11 million social network aggregators, you would
  > instead have an infinite number of truly bold products.
Somehow I think that there must be a better approach to creating more innovation than generating ideas at random, but I get his point: There are a lot of "me too" startup ideas. I wonder though: Is that really a bad thing?

Innovation is iteration.

Creation of truly new things happens at most just a few times in a human life span.

The rest revolves around taking existing stuff and making it better. And there's nothing bad about it. It's how our technological evolution has worked since the "invention" of the wheel.

I'm reminded of the story from "The Cyberiad" of the pirate who wanted to know everything (the name Pugg seems to ring a bell). The heroes of the story gave him a device which would continuously spit out facts. At first, the pirate was pleased, and our heroes escaped whilst he was busy absorbing facts. But these facts turned out to be random, practically useless information, and eventually the pirate was buried in them, unable to look away . . .

I think to some degree, it can show you what is in demand. The problem is, is it something in demand by developers or by bill paying customers?

And there is definitely a better approach, it's called "market research". :-)

We may be talking about the inability of our research techniques to find all possible markets then. If companies targeted markets at random, then some of them would find the markets missed by our imperfect research. This would require that companies stop caring about survival and profit though, so perhaps the current funding models don't do a good job of incentivizing founders to think broadly.

Imagine an infinite number of 32GB microsd cards. One of those cards would contain at least 100's of the best apps out there for every platform, 100's of the best books, and 100's of the best photos, as well as 100's of the best blog posts. It would truly be original unlike all the software today that builds on previous ideas, or books that build on previous ideas, or art that builds on previous ideas.

It's not that bad a mere 2^(8 * 32 * (1024^3)) cards can get you there.

"They wouldn’t pay any notice to flimsy trends, since monkeys don’t read TechCrunch."

Maybe we do pay too much attention to TechCrunch, but can you imagine the articles you'd read there when they start reporting on the Simian Start-ups? (simianstartups.com and simian-startups.com are both available ... let the gold rush begin).

Startup opportunity, dealing with the infinite food supply and the infinite amount of monkey poop.

This sounds like the development process of most Linux distributions.

When I read something about crushing skulls with monkey paws, I knew he was way off. A mandrill would be more likely to bite you!

Great post. Would be nice as long as natural selection worked so that really awesome startups would thrive.

I really am sick of people making photo sharing apps.

Can we please make something different? Please.

Your blog sub-text is missing the oxford-comma. "Lies, damn lies and startups."


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