Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
I am your co-creator, not your competitor (lookback.io)
94 points by littke on Mar 6, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

Thank you. THANK YOU! Something that has always pissed me off is when business leaders say things along the lines of "We're not about making money. That may be a side effect of what we do. But our real mission is to help people do XYZ." Then they see other companies trying to do XYZ and try to put them out of business.

We're always taught that competition brings out the best, and sometimes that's true. Sometimes you get parties in the same space improving in ways to one-up each other and put out a superior product. But sometimes you get Susan G. Komen trying to trademark the pink ribbon.

It's worth noting that Susan G. Komen was an innocent woman who died of breast cancer back in 1980. The questionable practices you mention are carried out by the homonymous association created in her memory by her sister (who is the CEO at the tune of $684K/year).

wha? that's insane.

I think this is very dependent on what you're actually doing. I'm involved in an attempt to bring some more sustainable/regenerative methods and technology to agriculture, and in that space I'm glad to see anybody show up who's doing the same. I don't have competitors (in my view), because I have a gigantic task in front of me and my main concern is to see that it gets done (even though I'm trying to make money on it at the same time). I go out of my way to help other people who are trying to make a buck in my space.

On the other hand, if you're selling a commodity (e.g. gasoline), then it's pretty hard to say that the guy across the street isn't competition. Perhaps there's a spectrum of appropriateness for cooperation/competition between these two extremes?

Well, I think the basic idea is that if you aren't driven primarily by profit, then as long as the other guy isn't putting you out of business, you have no need to put him out of business. Two gas stations can exist near each other and be quite profitable.

And yet, if you're an apple farmer, you don't want to see another apple stall at the farmers market - whether or not you see them as competitors or "co-creators" of apples. You really want to be the only guy with apples, for a bunch of fairly practical reasons. You get a strong pricing position, but also your customers (mental) lives are arguably better because they no longer have the burden of choice - at least, if they are certain they want an apple, and not an orange.

It may be morally correct for the apple seller to embrace the new apple seller, and call him a "co-creator". But how will these good feelings will last when his competitor discovers a way to get much higher yields of apples, and drives the price down? Or less ethically (but certainly permitted) would be for a well-healed seller to price dump a little, and try to get the competition out of the market.

The only thing that allows two competitors to happily co-exist is scarcity. If there is huge demand that cannot be satisfied, by both producers together, then these maneuvers just aren't possible, because people will continue to buy from both sellers at any price. This is a luxurious place to be in business. Perhaps that is where we are in the software field, in 2014: a huge demand for new software, with so few people able to actually make the stuff, makes us one big happy family. But when the demand decreases, or the supply of software-makers increases, it will be difficult to maintain this attitude of cooperation.

Thanks for the link.

An important quote from that "the abundance mentality arises from having a high self-worth and security and leads to the sharing of profits, recognition and responsibility".

That point is a bit hard to apply in real world due to the general nature of our inner self or the circles we are exposed to.

Stupid site is totally broken with NoScript even though all that matters in it is plain text.

Anyway, there's something to do this sentiment, but people often are actually more productive when collaborating than when reinventing the wheel over and over. And splitting up attention between a bunch of projects isn't healthy in and of itself. It's just that it's also true that competition has many benefits. But it's complicated.

The site is powered entirely by MeteorJS. There's a no-script version generated by Phantom but I guess it's not made for viewing. Sorry about that.

There was a brief period a few years ago when the leading web design trend was to make pages simple, fast, and accessible. Out the window those all went.

Reminds me of how Flash sites looked when Flash Player was not installed (or with a flash blocker installed). We made a 360 on needless Web design apparently :-)

Nine times out of 10 when I mention degradability I am met with eyerolls or out-and-out chuckles.

But seriously, is there any reasonable advantage to putting a JS layer between the user and the HTML/CSS?

Yes. It makes for a much more fluid experience (at least if you have JS ;)), similar to that of a desktop app. The web was originally built to be a set of individual pages but that's not how we want things to behave today. Building a UI with Meteor.com where the JS controls all the interaction, page switching, event handling and automatic data updates is sooo much simpler than requiring a full page refresh or using AJAX to modify individual components. If the DOM is built up by JS in the first place, it makes it very simple to change it by JS. Read more about Meteor's philosophy in the first paragraphs of their docs, here: http://docs.meteor.com/

The downside is that if you don't have JS, you can't do much. In our case it was a price we decided to pay.

Interesting. What sort of backend do you use? Is it homegrown or can you integrate with e.g. Wordpress?

Meteor.com is using NodeJS as a backend, but the idea is to not separate these two components. So Meteor spans both and you can write stuff designated for the client and the server side in the same file. In practice we rarely do, but both sides run the same code. Check it out!

Its ok to think this way - if you're not about the money. The guy who IS about the money will eat your lunch. Spread rumors about your quality. Suggest you're not a professional product. Snag your domain name right before you rename yourself. Cut you in a hundred ways.

Nice to think everybody will play nice, and in some imaginary world that might happen. But here, its important to keep looking out for number one.

I think a healthy balance is best. You can always assume a competitor will take advantage of opportunities to make you look bad, so there is no need to get caught off guard. But then you can actively reward or partner with ones that don't.

people doing this ruin the market for everyone else they are in. i believe this ultimately hurts them, too.

once people start figuring out that public image matters more than anything else, and that the public likes helpful people more than they like assholes, i think this will change.

once people start figuring out that public image matters more than anything else, and that the public likes helpful people more than they like assholes, i think this will change.

From Dick Cheney, to Maury Povich, to apparently every university business program, to popular sports, the entire Western cultural environment has been oriented around treating personal endeavors as zero-sum games. There is a thing called winning, only one person/group can win, and it better not be the other guy who gets it.

For generations, at least since the Gilded Age, cooperation and commmunitarianism has been subsumed under individual success. Where do you see people figuring out that things should (or even could) change from this entrenched state of affairs? Are you saying we need a cultural revolution? Because that wasn't very fun for the little guy the last few times it occurred.

UPDATE: Case in point: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7354012

Unfortunately, people don't have the time or the energy to investigate the minor behavioral details of every company they buy from. Thus, even if you are a tremendous asshole, it's not overly difficult to conceal this from the public while you go about your business of crushing competitors.

If we are going after the same wallet on the same product, then we are competitors. Not acknowledging me as such doesn't make it any less true.

The true value of this mentality isn't possible while in the current structure of our capitalistic systems.

It's not just "capitalism"; it's hard to imagine any realistic system in which this works and doesn't leave you vulnerable to people who exploit your strategy. Even in straight-up Communism, the competitive people who were smart enough not to be fooled about party line on "equality" could get radically more than their peers. Everybody mouthed words about how that didn't happen, but it did, and everybody knows it.

Historically speaking, there is some degree of success to be had in convincing others to adopt this position, though, so that others can exploit them. Capitalism is at least being honest, unlike the systems that lie to you about how you can adopt this strategy. I often think that a great deal of what people don't like about capitalism is precisely that it is generally being honest and not telling you glittering, appealing lies.

I believe what you're talking about overall is game theory. Capitalism being "honest" isn't really a reasonable justification when a system inherently allows others to be dishonest without repercussions, accountability, responsibility, etc.. There are some very simple mechanisms that can be put in place which makes it more honest, or rather limits the damage of those being "dishonest" or who are best at figuring out how to excessively take advantage. I do believe capitalism likely needs to stay in place, it's a matter of how we govern the systems that needs to shift.

No, I'm not saying capitalism creates honest people... I'm saying the philosophy itself is being honest. Communism says once it gets into place, we're all just pulling for the common good and everybody gets equal ownership of everything. This is a lie. The system still "inherently allows others to be dishonest without repercussions, accountability, responsibility, etc.", and history can make a good case that it does so all the more so than a capitalistic system does. Capitalism tells you the truth; it's a rough world out there and you need to be able to find some way to compete.

Much of the criticism (but not all!) of capitalism boils down to people shooting the messenger. It is a rough world out there and you do need to find some way to compete, but some people would rather hear from people singing about how if you just give them all the power, their philosophy will erase that from the world and you can just go to sleep peacefully and stop worrying. Unfortunately, this is also a lie, or at least that's what the history shows.

Nor does this mean that we are somehow obligated to "maximize" brutality or something stupid. It means that by facing it squarely, we are better able to deal with it, and that's why the capitalistic countries of the world are far better places to be than the places that reject it. It may not be perfect, but by aligning oneself with the true nature of the world you end up producing enough excess wealth to be able to seriously engage in social programs. It's OK to wish it weren't this way... it's not so OK to think that if we just close our eyes and wish hard enough we can make the problem unexist. That leads to actions that leave you vulnerable and exposed. Facing the truth is part of the path to changing it; denial often just makes it far worse.

Where both Communism and Capitalism betray their fundamental nature as ideological is where they attempt to predict the future, or divine the behavior and/or motivations of their participants.

EDIT: It is a rough world out there and you do need to find some way to compete

That survival depends on competition is a religious tenet, an ideological rationalization.

Survival depends on you being able to compete in some manner because resources are finite, and for every life form that lives there are thousands, millions, maybe more that don't live because that life form had the resources. The idea that humans are somehow excluded from that is itself a religious tenant or rationalization, or perhaps more accurately, an illusion brought on by this moment of overwhelming wealth and power humans have amassed for themselves. For this brief moment in geological time, it is possible to successfully "compete" for resources by, for example, drawing this bizarre thing called a "disability claim", which hasn't exactly been around for very long, and has no guarantee that it will be around for any particular period of time into the future. But you can only do this because of the wealth generated by the incredibly successful competition that humanity has developed... and it scares me both that the boundary between this life and the more normal order of affairs is so thin, and that there are people, like you, who treat it as some sort of natural law, to the point of mocking people still in contact with reality. History shows when there's enough people like you, the prosperity goes away. Alas, history doesn't show us a way of preventing that from happening... here's hoping the march of technology gives us an exit this time.

It is a wonderful thing that humans cooperate enough that we can build enough wealth that some of us, even many of us, can forget this... but the fact that the human strategy is ultimately one of great cooperation doesn't change the fact that the human cooperation lives on a substrate of vicious, no-holds-barred competition, induced by the physics of how this universe works.

Realizing the world is built on competition is not what breeds viciousness... it is what lets us successfully build the secondary layer on top that shields us from it. Those philosophies that try to take a shortcut and declare that the world is not a competitive place have the paradoxical effect of exposing us all the more directly to the raw competition again, because it causes people to build structures that, in their denial of the nature of reality, therefore fail to insulate us against it.

The first step to solving a problem is ever and always clearly identify the problem, not refuse to see the problem.

It's all so clear isn't it? However, the "this is it; this is the answer" mentality that you express here is yet another instance of ideology and zero-sum thinking.

Long story short, if you're talking about a secondary layer over anarchic brutality, I'm talking about tertiary-and-beyond ones. Obviously this is no natural law, much less than your secondary layer. And I never said that competition breeds viciousness, but if you want to argue that point, I'll take the position that your secondary layer has not eliminated it.

The first step to figuring out if you've identified a problem properly is to figure out whether you are soaking in it.

HN won't let me reply to your next comment deeper in this thread. Re: "Resources are finite" - They aren't really though. I fairly recently wrote a blog post on this idea - http://mattamyers.tumblr.com/post/72715425291/capitalism-and...

I would like to order one infinity of energy from you, then. Please deliver it to my email address, as I'd rather not actually receive it directly to my house.

I'm actually the first to say that A: it's all energy and atoms in the end and B: the universe is awash with both and it's mostly our own stubborness that prevents us from claiming both since we don't "like" nuclear. However, even a Kardeshev Type III civilization will have to contend with the fact that its resources are finite, and as rapidly as its ability to exploit them grows, its desires are likely to grow even faster.

It's not capitalism that causes that, either... a great deal of our desires expanding faster than our resources predates the entire concept, and the problem will likely outlast it as well.

Sure, your order will arrive in a million years.

There is nothing wrong with desire, in fact desire is good. There is problem with non-sustainable practices that damage the environment which includes people.

What you're stating as an issue comes down to management, resource management and people management. Capitalism has played a role in allowing us to see what is possible when we allow people to pool large amounts of resources, when people's efforts can be directed towards a specific goal - incentivized by the organization's leadership to aim for profits. Money is a concept which is important to remember when we're talking in theoretical terms. Money is time, time is money. What can we do with unlimited money?

I absolutely agree. If we had a basic income, at least, I can imagine it working. But now there is just too many people working on creating artificial scarcity to keep most of the population in fear.

I wonder what happens though then if everyone has say a basic income, with when competition does exist; This model is directly in competition with those who want to compete. Those who want to be competitive will gather ideas and try to execute on them better - very much like how the VC model really works; People desperate for money to make their idea happen flood to VCs and other investors sharing their ideas and even full business plans, giving a clear picture of the landscape ... meanwhile then those who are acting in a competitive way will be the ones who will benefit the most. So it comes down to a question of if we want to allow specific organizations to amass and control huge amounts of resources, and if so, what in return must they guarantee us - how must they benefit us, etc.. ingrained in this could be the idea of accountability and responsibility, and if they don't live up to defined expectations then they lose the powers we have allowed them to amass. If someone has proven they are highly capable of organizing and managing resources in a non-violent, sustainable, kind, and fair way - then I would want them to have access to whatever resources they need to continue this.

Mhmm, does the competitive model really make the gathering and executing of ideas better?

If that was true we would have thousands of ISPs, Office suites, etc. With way better technology and what not.

But they are all looking for ways to lock out their competition instead of making a better product. So I'm not sure the competition is what pushes us towards.

I believe this system can be used today, even though there are people out there who may abuse it if you do. But I think we're already seeing the fruits of this behavior, especially in this space.

The term "co-creation" was being used in marketing space a few years ago as a synonym for collaborative user generated content. It disappeared for a while and here it is again being used in a "hey, look at me" self marketing blog post as a synonym for competitive collaboration. I'd say the meaning hasn't diverged at all.

Yes, I noticed this too (it's mentioned in the footnotes). That's not the concept refer to in the post though, and I was a little bit annoyed when I first found out about it after having drafted the majority of this article :)

Your site scrolls 100% on the horizontal axis - it needs a bit of co-creative fixing.

haha... yes. why don't you co-creatively suggest a fix? :D

Your <article> for some reason is using position: absolute.

In this style: ".main-content#blog article:after, .main-content #blog article:after", just delete the position: absolute line (not sure where that is in your css file as yours is concatenated/minified in your theme).

Thank you.

When my product manager needs to make a product decision, rather than thinking about it and coming up with a single creative idea, he rather goes directly to competitors' sites. Every time, without fail. I look at our product roadmap and it looks like a diff of our site vs competitor site. It drives me crazy. After reading this blog entry though, I understand. It truly is the nature of business.

Well, that's interesting. I guess it's about "living at the forefront of human invention", right? But at the same time, only doing that obviously leads no where. I (the OP of the co-creation post) wrote a blog post called 'A life designed by intuition', describing the opposite of what your PM is doing: http://littke.com/2013/11/11/a-life-designed-by-intuition.ht...

As always, it's about a healthy balance :)

Oh yes, and we can all gather around and sing kumbaya and hug each other. Get real and give me a break!

Another issue is that a competitor validates your concept.

It's seen time and time again that having multiple drug categories in a concept (say SSRI, proton pump inhibitor, etc.) validates the concept and encourages the sale of those drugs.

If someone says it isn't about the money, it's about the money.

Not really, you could really want to work just for the betterment of mankind - but the money are a necessity, and sooner or later everyone realizes that (which then makes them look stupid/hypocritical).

Can't navigate back button on the "Docs" page.

Ah, the old redirect-to-self trick. Reminds me of the days before YouTube had ads!

That's unintentional and doesn't happen for me. Can you elaborate on how to reproduce? :)

Go to the article page, click "Docs" in the nav bar, then click the back button and note that the article page does not appear and you remain on the docs page.

Thank you.

How do they do that loading thing at the top with the green bar?

I've seen similar with red on Youtube, but I just assumed it was a google perk for running on google chrome.

There's a couple of libraries that help you implement this. http://ricostacruz.com/nprogress/ is one.

It's built with Meteor.com and the Iron-Router project, specifically.

From the comments by author:

> The final outcome might also be better if we do it ourselves rather than give everything away.

Yeah, that pretty much allows for negating everything above.

I like and with this mindset very much! Thanks for giving me a useful term to describe this movement.

keep your friends close and enemies closer

Internalizing Sun-Tzu is possibly the worst thing ever to happen to business.

Yes, yes, I agree fully.

The problem is that the philistines can't motivate themselves to do anything without a competitive frame. They just fall into pointless favor-trading and rent-seeking. They see creation for its own sake as self-indulgent, manic, pointless, or (gasp!) effeminate. The result is that motivations like "build cool shit" or "help people" are cast as reckless and irresponsible, vision goes away, and reliable mediocrity becomes the new game of the day. With competing to excel rendered impossible, people compete instead to suffer in pointless social competitions that have a flavor of reality TV.

There's this negative stereotype that engineers "don't want to concern themselves with the business", and that they'd rather shut themselves away in an ivory tower and build "cool" stuff that no one cares about. That's not true at all! However, they refuse (often passively, because to be active in it leads to professional adversity) to subordinate themselves to the business, especially when the business seems to have no vision, no real purpose for existing, and a cost-cutting mentality that squashes excellence.

Often, the only way to get the MBA-culture philistines to do the right thing (and let the creative geniuses shine) is to create a sense of competition and existential crisis. "We have to crush Facebook before they crush us. We need this autonomy for our best people." Meanwhile, Facebook doesn't give a damn about "crushing" anyone. The problem is that the people who are the best at creating a sense of existential crisis are the ones who excel at artificial scarcity and its theater-- psychopaths. The long-term consequences of this competitive mentality (often the only alternative to executive, rent-seeking complacency) are horrible.

I'd love to see the excellence mentality become more common. You're starting to see it in open allocation cultures like Valve. We need a million times more of that because, you're right, OP, we're not in competition. We're just trying to fucking live well. No one has to lose.

Facebook may not care about crushing anyone, but by virtue of their size and reach they can inadvertently crush people by launching a product because Facebook thinks it would be a useful product for their users. Companies rarely do things out of spite like that; but the idea is if your market is really worth some money, Facebook or Google will eventually be interested in it and your goal is to be big enough by the time that happens to successfully compete with them (or sell to them.) If your idea is really a good one, these companies have enough smart people working for them that they will come to it on their own eventually.

A staggeringly progressive tax - say 99% on income over $1M/y - might adjust the priorities of those who are winnning, since there's no more financial gains available. Maybe then some of them would turn to other interesting problems like making things better for everyone.

Well said. This is closer around the corner than most can realize.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact