I’ve been involved in the cartoon world more or less since 1995. As I’ve stated before, I think lessons learned there can often translate into the tech world.
This gag is from a comic feature called Argyle Sweater, which was recently picked up for syndication by Universal Press. Not to dismiss the creator Scott Hilburn and his work, but the comic panel is an obvious derivative of Gary Larson’s The Far Side. (Btw, the gag shown here clearly needs editing…this was created before the UPS contract.)
Here’s the thing about comic strips and panels: you must be first at captivating the public with a winning concept or you’ll always be an also-ran, a “poor man’s Bugs Bunny,” a “no-hoper”– EVEN IF YOUR PRODUCT IS BETTER!
Another good example of this is Scott Adam’s Dilbert. After Dilbert became a blockbuster in 1996, many a comic feature about cubicle-dwelling tech guys made it to the ponder piles of syndicates and newspapers, but none of them was ever picked up, even the one or two that were better than Dilbert has become.
The only reason Argyle Sweater in now able to be syndicated at all is because it’s been over 14 years since The Far Side ended, so there is a new generation of readers. And even at that, Argyle can never hope to come close to the success of its predecessor.
The point here is obvious. FriendFeed isn’t going to come close to Twitter’s success, even though it’s a better product. Lot’s of people have been saying that Michael Arrington is arrogant (what else is new?! J ) for writing FriendFeed is in Danger of Becoming the Coolest App No One Uses, but Arrington is right.
Robert Scoble good-naturedly jabbed Arrington for saying that “no one is using FriendFeed,” but that misses the point that no matter how many people use FriendFeed at this point, the window is closed. It’s too late. FF and Twitter could have competed head to head if this new UI had been released a year ago, but Twitter has sense become a blockbuster. It’s Dilbert. It’s The Far Side.
Twitter is the product that has won the public’s imagination. It’s too late for FriendFeed.
And for all those who say “But FriendFeed isn’t a competitor! FriendFeed is different!” Yeah right. Just the way Argyle Sweater is different. Just the way all those cloned Calvin and Hobbes strips submitted to my online cartoon syndicate were different. “But it’s a bear, not a tiger!”
SIGH I have known cartoonists who have wasted YEARS arguing that their comic is different.
Use FriendFeed and enjoy it! I do. And read Argyle Sweater if you like it. (I don’t, sorry.) But let’s not delude ourselves. The only way FriendFeed has a shot is to do something spectacularly bold and different, such as using the technology to become something else entirely. My advice to the FriendFeed team (yeah, right…as if they’d listen, but what the hey): Take your skills and start over with a new product in a daring way. That could work, and there are still original ideas to develop, just like there are original cartoon concepts. It’s just harder now.
This new UI, as good as it is, isn’t going to cut it. And I hate to see talented people waste their time. Start fresh. Go back to the drawing board. Take your tremendous skills and try again. Don’t be yet another frustrated creator stubbornly stuck on a no-win concept.