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Editorial: Can You Steal An Idea?

5 Minute Read
May 9 2011
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Hello again boys and girls, children and Unicorns of all ages, my name is Brent.  I write a weekly feature for Bell of Lost Souls, but I’ve also had the pleasure to write for a number of other blogs.  It’s a lot of work, so to keep up I’m constantly stealing from other blogs.

What?  Did I say that out loud?  Let’s start over.

I write my blog, Strictly Average, and it’s recently inched past 500 posts.  I also write Top X with my pal Lauby over on House of Paincakes, and in the past I’ve written for Blood of Kittens and Blood Angels by Jawaballs.

For those in the know, that last is particularly satisfying – years of Stalking Jawaballs paid off!

In fact, I’m working on more material for the latter two sites. It’s a fairly hefty amount of work, which means I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas. Since I tend to shy away from what I call ‘How to Play‘ and ‘How to Paint‘ articles, that’s not always easy.

So why am I running off at the mouth about it?  No, this isn’t a ‘Yea Me‘ moment; in fact, I’ve finally come to the point, which is I seem to have inadvertently walked all over another dude’s article!

Embarrassing!  I received this letter from Nyhil, the proprietor of Ten Inch Template.  Read on!

Hey Brent!

Dan *edited* here, also known as Nyhil, the proprietor of teninchtemplate.com. I read your BoLS article this morning, and really enjoyed it. Just a few weeks ago I wrote an article for Blood of Kittens on the same topic, in response to Purgatus’ work over at Beatoverall. I hope you give both of our articles a read, as we almost have a gestalt round-table going. Grats on your graduate work, and keep up the blogging. Any chance of seeing you at NOVA this August?

Dan

http://bloodofkittens.com/blog/2011/04/21/hobby-for-nothing-its-not-the-size-that-matters-but-how-you-use-it/

Uh oh.  Did I just blatantly steal someone’s idea?  Here was my response:

Hey Dan, I’m well aware of you, because I dig your blog quite a bit. So much so that I blatantly take credit for all your success!

The timing on this is funny – you wrote this email what, a week ago? I’ve just now read it. I have a guy from England sending me photos from his gaming group, so your email sort of slipped in the stack. I was downloading the photos in question for my article tomorrow and here I am.

I’ll admit, I haven’t read your article in its entirety yet, nor have I followed the link to Best Overall. I wanted to shoot you a quick email, and basically communicate this:

I had no idea. I didn’t read your article on BoK, nor did I hear about it. Truth is, my blogging time has dropped dramatically these last few months as I prepared for my licensing test. I didn’t even know you were writing for Blood of Kittens, though it doesn’t surprise me. I urged Tasty to take a look at your work back when he was looking for new writers.

See how I did that? There I go taking credit for you all over again!

In all seriousness, well done on the temperately worded email. A lot of folks would have been pissed. In fact, I was; about 4 months ago an author wrote one of my articles, practically paragraph for paragraph. I didn’t email him, or make an issue of it beyond bitching at Larry about it. Point is, I guess I don’t have half your class.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and I wish you continued good luck!

Brent

The ‘taking credit’ joke is a running gag on Top X, so don’t read into that any, but what you could do is take notes on how great Dan’s email was.  Basically, he addressed the whole thing with class and dignity.  He’s human; the thought that I ripped off his article had to have bothered him, but despite that he gave me the benefit of the doubt.

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Moving on, the larger point of the article is this…

Just How Many Ideas Are There?

We’re basically a small community.  A worldwide small community, but hey!  It’s what it is.

Now take that community and cut out the vast majority of players who probably don’t have an internet presence.  The number of us get smaller and smaller.

We frequent the same forums.  We read the same blogs.  We’ve seen the same ideas talked about over and over.

So who owns the idea?

Or, maybe a better question, who thought up the idea in the first place?  Really, I can only think of two possibilities:

1)  A bunch of folks came up with the idea independently and starting talking about it over, whereupon other dudes picked it up and started trying it out on the table…

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…refine, lather, rinse, repeat.  Alternatively:

2)  One dude thinks up a good idea and everyone else steals it.

I don’t know – you decide.  For myself, I’ll just say this.  I commonly pick up and refine my thoughts and ideas based on conversations at the local game store.  I engage in TheoryHammer with a bunch of like-minded hobbyists, and some of that inevitably finds its way into my articles.

I don’t think you can own an idea… but I’m not saying I’d steal someone’s article!

The discussion is wide open, though unless you know the dude on the mountain cranking out all the ideas, I’m not sure what we’ll disagree on!


Instead, I thought it would be interesting to drop the links for the three articles in question – take a read, then decide if the subject was broad enough for some different perspectives or if my article was treading old ground.


Article One:  Best Overall
Article Two:  Blood of Kittens
Article Three:  Bell of Lost Souls


Thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings?

EDIT: This morning, a mere 7-hours after this article has posted, I woke from my dream of Daemons winning the Nova, slipped on a pink robe that is somehow still totally manly, and popped the top of my MacBook, only to discover how I’d (perhaps, maybe, possibly) misunderstood Dan’s point to begin with! Oops!

And wasn’t I the one who wrote an article on Internet communication and the ease with which we misunderstand one another without benefit of body language and tone? Oops again!

Still, the concept of this article – ideas in our community – remains valid, and Dan’s email touches on that point masterfully. I had to include it, so here it is.

Brent:  You misunderstand! I did not write to complain at all, just marvel at trends in the blogosphere. Honestly, the Internet has done for 40k what 24 hour news channels did to reality: rape it to death.

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As much as I love our hobby, there really isn’t enough material in it to warrant hundreds and hundreds of blogs an podcasts. There is going to be overlap. So long as it is overlap, and not over-theft like what you said about your own experience, it’s totally fine.
Again, I in no way “call” all hobby related articles. That would be asinine. I just write about whatever I am working on at the moment, and like you and your Bugs!, I am just wrapping up the modeling phase of a highly converted army.

Keep up the good work. As for being wholly responsible for my successes, my girlfriend just wants to say thank you.

Dan, you can tell your girlfriend, “You’re very welcome!”

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