James Governor's Monkchips

Tomayko’s Zero Sum Law of Net Success

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 To provide value on the internet, you must piss someone off.

I agree; let’s face it, nothing drives attention more than pissed off people. We thrive on conflict. And if you aren’t upsetting some competitor then you just aren’t making your customers or community happy enough…

Focus on making users happy and the competition may have to do so as well. Chances are, they hate that

I am not sure Ryan’s rule only applies to the Interweb though. His formulation echoes, for example, a great definition of news from William Randolph Hearst, one of the biggest scumbags i can think of (that’s a mighty long list). Hearst said:

News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.

Bloggers (and industry analysts) could learn a lot from that definition. Who are you pissing off? Do a more effective job of that, and you’ll be on your way to success. This is not an argument to annoy everyone, just the folks that stand to lose from the proposition you are putting forward, or that don’t want to hear it.

That’s right–providing value on the Internet can also apply to annoying your colleagues.

I feel better providing some balance to my softie tenet yesterday, on good blogging form, where i argue you can be more competitive by being less competitive.

Tieing both memes together comes this comment on that post from Josh Hallet.

Here is a quick story. Back in 96/97 when I first started up my web studio, we had a rather ‘fierce’ competitor in our market. This competitor, who shall remain nameless, loved to bad-mouth us.

As we would acquire new clients we would ask them how they found out about us, and why they chose our firm over the others in the area. One client gave this response..(paraphrasing)

“Well actually we had never heard of you, initially we met with your competition since they were considered the market leader. During their initial presentation they spent a great deal of time talking about how much better they were than you. My assistant and I walked out of the meeting and said, ‘I guess we know who we need to talk to, since they’re scared to death of them’ and that’s how we found out about you.”

Over the course of 1997 we picked up at least three clients in this manner. They almost all had the same story.

Competitor, thank you for bad-mouthing me.

Another thing about pissing off the competion so much they go on the offensive is that it will tend to mobilise those than believe in what you’re doing already. It’s not you under attack, its us. That is one way to help create passionate users.

It may also be that Ryan’s law only really applies to the underdog. When the overdog pisses people off that is usually not a sign of value, so much as complacency. 

All I need to do now is get Gartner and other big firms badmouthing me to their clients…


  1. It ain’t gonna happen Jim – Gartner doesn’t blog – it opines from an ivory looking tower that’s actually made of crumbling goo, supported by TLAs. Now the TLA triangle is a great supporting structure, but not as good as a (blogo)sphere

  2. Not to mention that I doubt anyone at Gartner would even understand some of the stuff you talk about (TCP/IP?!?!? what is that?? Java? No thanks I’m cutting back on coffee, dotnet? I don’t remember morse code any more, …)

  3. Sometimes I’ve found that sharing potentially important information can be beneficial to acquiring a new business deal. Specially if you have all the factors figured out, and know what actions to take in every possible scenario. If your competitor is predictable and/or desperate, he will tend to make mistakes which might actually help you win the deal.

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