Boring > original

jasonleow  •  22 Mar 2023   •  

When it comes to product ideas, call me old school but I’ll choose boring-but-useful over original-but-nice-to-have any day.

Boring but useful is better because:

  • What’s boring are often the things that are perceived as dated, legacy, but actually lasting and evergreen. Instead of chasing fads and trends, Jeff Bezos asked “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” Lindy effect is also at play here. The older something is, the more likelihood it will continue to be around in the future. It will age in reverse, like how Nassim Taleb puts it in his book Antifragile:

“If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not “aging” like persons, but “aging” in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of some robustness. The robustness of an item is proportional to its life!”

  • Less competition, because nobody likes to work on boring products. Few have the lasting power for sustained effort on boring products. Everyone chases shiny new tech, the latest hot thing. You might get some competition on boring products, but hang around a few years—a decade—and many will drop off.

  • Being around longer means more resources and help are available. I remember when I was learning to code, I went with Rails because it’s stable, been around longer, and has loads of support, resources and communities. There’s pages of results on Stack Overflow when you have a question. It would have been suicide trying to learn coding on some new Javascript library where few people had tried.

  • Between useful and nice-to-have, useful is more durable. After the hype dies (it always does), your cool app will fade. If you’re helping someone solve a real problem, address a real need, it’s more likely to stay around.

Caveat: One might object and say, why not both original AND useful? Suuuure. Who wouldn’t want that? But it’s rare. 0.00001% of the time you’re lucky enough to land on something that’s both original and useful. But let’s be real here: Most of our ideas belong in either camp. So let’s work with what most mere mortals have.

So if I have to bet on an idea, I’m betting on the boring than the original.

Boring > original.


Let me guess, the latest AI craze was at least partial inspiration for this piece.

therealbrandonwilson  •  23 Mar 2023, 1:39 am

Yes kinda. Came out from conversations with other indies. It could have been for anything that’s shiny and in fashion for the season

jasonleow  •  23 Mar 2023, 9:02 pm