Copying Is For Cavemen

It is always good to learn from others. Seeing others successes and mistakes and learning from them to better yourself is how we continue to evolve as a society. Each generation building on the previous one. If we hadn't done that we would still be living in caves trying to figure out how to start a fire.

Learning from others is one thing, copying is something completely different. This falls in the same vane of just wanting to be given the instructions or the script to follow so you don't have to think for yourself.

I see this all the time in software development. The way the Internet is about anything you want to do is available as sample code that you can download and modify. There are entire applications whose source code is available. You can even download Linux and try your hand at modifying an operating system.

When everything is available on the Internet, it becomes super easy to just copy code to try and solve the problem you have. It makes total sense. Why waste hours writing something from scratch when there is something that will get you 50-90% of the way there? 

The problem is the last 10%. Usually there is some sort of uniqueness in the problems we face. There are patterns and commonalities for sure, but the uniqueness is where the challenge lies. Because the code you are trying to copy isn't an exact match to your problem, you have to modify it. Change it enough to fit the picture you are trying to solve. Once you try to change it and you don't really understand what is happening, you won't be able to get it to look exactly as you want it, likely you will completely break it.

Copying someone else's work will only get you so far. Eventually you need to take what you've learned from others and build on it. Make it better. Solve a new problem. Be unique. If you like the design of someone's site you certainly can copy it, but nobody will be impressed if you're ecommerce site looks just like Amazon.

You can copy all you will always be one step behind


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