m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...


Via Daring Fireball: the FriendDA is an informal NDA for sharing Ideas with Advisors. That is, when you’ve dreamt up the next Big Thing and need a helpful friend to tell you whether it’s MacOS X (brilliant!) or Windows Vista (don’t quit your day job…), a FriendDA gives you moral protection from theft of your possibly brilliant idea.

But it’s only moral protection. For legal protection, you’d need a real NDA. The “Keeper of the Idea” is gambling that their friends don’t actually want to steal their ideas but just need a friendly reminder that the Idea is Top Secret For Now—or at least he’s gambling that the minimal moral suasion of a bit of pseudo-legalese will be enough to deter Big Idea theft.

The FriendDA is intended for software/internet Big Ideas, but it would be a boon for writers as well. Many writers worry about the safety of their Ideas in the hands of critique groups and slush pile readers, despite the conventional advice that other writers have too many ideas already to be bothered stealing yours, and there are no new ideas, and it’s execution that matters, anyway. (The comment thread about FriendDA mentioned the monetary version of this argument: Ideas are just a multiplier of execution.)

Yes, it is unlikely that a critique group member will steal or leak your Big Literary Idea—about as unlikely that a friend will somehow steal or leak your Big Internet Idea. It’s unlikely your Big Idea is brilliantly unique, and yet, there have been unique ideas: Ringworld, Ender’s Game, Twitter. Writers themselves prove the value of non-disclosure of ideas by practicing it. Read any writer’s blog to see whether that writer casually gives away the main idea of his latest short story or her novel-in-progress. I haven’t seen it yet, not even in the midst of a lecture about ideas being a dime a dozen.