Have you ever heard about Sturgeon's Law (SL)? It's as straightforward as a kick in the teeth, so let me quote it without further ado:

"Ninety percent of everything is crap."

No, seriously, that's it. I'm not kidding.


It looks cynical, it sounds like some sort of trolling, but in fact ... after giving it some consideration, it's hard not to agree with it. ESPECIALLY when it comes to software product crafting.

Why so?

Copycats

There's a limited number of unique, creative ideas that are clearly unlike any other. They don't pop up here or there every second day - regardless of funds and motivation, one can't plan or schedule creativity. That's why each original breakthrough idea is followed by hundreds of copycats who are rarely able to enrich the original concept. They just want a piece of someone else's cake.

According to SL, the imitations they produce are qualified as 'crap'.

Laggards

To be frank, in many cases, it's not really important who has come up with the initial idea. What matters the most is who has managed to deliver the market-fit product first. Timely, solid execution is essential. And if you consider such scenarios as similar to racing, there's rarely a big peloton crossing the finish line altogether. There are few leaders, substantially better than anyone else, and far behind them, there's the crowded majority - striving to get their portion of the crumbs from the winners' table.

Their efforts are 'crap'. But wait, there's more.

The ones who hook up

Copying ideas is one thing, but exploiting meta-ideas (beyond reason) is another one. Meta-ideas? What does it mean? It's easiest to illustrate it with an example. At some point, few pioneering companies have defined the common concept of 'platform economics'. Since then, hoards of wannabe entrepreneurs sacrifice their time and effort to milk that (potential) cash cow. There's just one issue: they don't have any idea for a sensible product that would provide any reasonable value (to anyone except themselves ...). Nevertheless, they hope that some investment in marketing and influencers will generate enough hype to attract suckers with thick wallets.

In other words: they produce 'crap'. A lot of 'crap'. And pray at least some will succeed enough to cover all the expenses.


That 'crap consideration' can be generalized even more. If something (literally anything) has worked at some point, simply reproduce it (thoughtlessly) before anyone else comes up with this idea: but more, stronger, bolder, cheaper. E.g.:

  • Someone has put an advertisement in the header of the site? Let's put 5! 10! 15! 50!
  • A cold-called individual has bought a product? Let's call everyone! Twice! Using the tireless bot to reduce the cost!
  • The effectiveness of the mailing campaign has dropped by 50%? Let's double the frequency! No, quadruple!

What can we learn from SL?

I'm not naive enough to think that everyone can (or should) be a successful market leader and unique, ground-breaking ideas are within our reach, growing on every other tree. I didn't write this blog post to b*tch on people in general or anyone in particular. My point is that Sturgeon's Law doesn't have to be perceived as something solely negative. Or as visible proof of a global societal/intellectual crisis.

Quite the contrary - it's the best evidence that anything less than perfection still makes a valid option. That our fears or complexes shouldn't stop us from trying (to succeed). If you have the drive to achieve, a sensible product hypothesis (or two ...) and some ability to execute, there's a significant chance you'll end up gliding high above the ocean of bespoken 'crap' - in the top 10%, with the ones you admire.

If nothing has been able to help you overcome the impostor syndrome so far, use the SL as your ultimate weapon.