They’ve got it backward

Theresa Nielsen Hayden, on attempts by obscure authors to sue Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling for plagiarism:

What these lawsuits teach us:

  1. The plaintiffs haven’t paid much attention to other works in the genre.
  2. Non-writers think it’s the ideas, rather than the execution, that make a book. They’ve got that backward.
  3. People who aren’t accustomed to having a lot of ideas of their own have a very poor grasp of the odds that others might independently come up with the same ideas.

These same observations could just as easily be applied to software. A co-worker was telling us at lunch yesterday about a friend of his who pitched a V.C. firm on his social networking web app idea that would completely “destroy” Facebook. His idea, basically, was for users to upload photos, then tag the people in the photos. When told that Facebook has had that feature for years, the guy just said, “I thought of it first.”