A couple of months ago well-known writer and UX designer Dustin Curtis, tired of the "uninspiring nature" of blogging platforms, built his personal blog from the ground up. After seeing what he calls an improvement to the way he thinks and writes, Curtis decided to share his layout and management tools with others, under the name Svbtle. Now the whole world can benefit from what looks to be a fantastic platform, right? Sadly not. Instead, Curtis is opening it up to an elite group of vetted bloggers.
"The goal is simple: when you see the Svbtle design, you should know that the content is guaranteed to be great. Network bloggers are encouraged to keep quality high at the expense of everything else."
Svtble does have some good content already, and Curtis hinted in his announcement that the platform will be opened up to the general public, but there's already some controversy surrounding the site. After the announcement post was shared on Hacker News, Svbtle drew a large amount of criticism for its closed-platform approach. Enter stage left, Nate Wienert. Apparently disgruntled by Curtis's approach to development and his handling of criticism in the past, Wienert decided to remake the entire platform. He calls it Obtvse, and it's almost identical to the original platform, minus some animations. Wienert has released the source code to his interpretation for anyone to compile, edit, and improve on.
But there's more! Wienert then shared the new site, again on Hacker News, prompting a furious (and now retracted) response from Curtis:
"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."
Wienert wrote Obtvse from scratch, and as such didn't steal any code, but the site is such a flagrant stab at Curtis that the clearly emotional response is understandable. It's fair to say that this wasn't the way PR for Svbtle was supposed to start, however, and Curtis soon edited his comment to read:
"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."
To coin an overused adage, "there is no such thing as bad publicity," and all told, Obtvse is probably the best thing that could've happened to Svbtle.