First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you lose

by @edent | # # # | Read ~245 times.

I've just read an interesting article by M.G. Siegler entitled - "What you’re working on sucks, just give up now, they said."

It can be summed up thus:

Commentators said our startup wouldn't work.
Our startup did, in fact, suceed.
∴ All commentators are wrong about whether startups will work.

This exhibits one of my favourite logical fallacies - survivorship bias. If you only look at the winners, the world looks very different from reality. It's why we think that products made in the past were of superior quality - only the ones which managed not to deteriorate over the last 50 years are with us because the crappy ones died long ago.

For us to examine whether there's any merit to ignoring the commentariat we need to look at, broadly speaking, four categories of companies:

  • Commentators said it sucked, and they were wrong.
  • Commentators said it sucked, and they were right.
  • Commentators said it rocked, and they were wrong.
  • Commentators said it rocked, and they were right.

By picking on only the first category, M.G. Siegler is committing the Texas Sharp-Shooter Fallacy.

A Texan fires a dozen shots at the side of a barn, half of them miss. He draws a target around the area that he hit and declares himself the best gun-slinger in the west.

It's tempting - far too tempting - to fall for the lie that because "they all laughed at Christopher Columbus", they are equally misdirected when laughing at us.

Every successful company had a legion of people telling them that they were doomed. Let's take a quick look at some examples and counter-examples:

"It Sucks!"

"This Rocks!"

Failed

Zune
Phorm
Ouya
Firefly (too soon?)

Succeeded

Square
iPod
Android
Tesla

You can add your own selection of companies and products to that table depending on your prejudices.

It's never a great idea to read the bottom half of the web - the idiots, trolls, sycophants, and spammers will drive you crazy. But, like the proverbial stopped clock, they are occasionally right.

Don't give up on your dreams just because some prat says you'll never make the big time. Equally, don't be deluded into thinking that if they're disparaging you, then you must be on the right path. There have been many people who were ignored, laughed at, and attacked who still lost!

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