The head of Conrad

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Cute Piggy

A FinTech keeps copying my ideas and I feel fine
Saturday, June 8th, 2019

You know when you get that feeling you’re being watched 👀? Recently I’ve had the suspicion that the darling of the FinTech world, Monzo, has been…well, following me around. And then pilfering my stuff. My digital stuff that is, not my money or anything, although they do have my money but that's because they're my bank. Anyway, you might be asking what a bank, flush with £211 million in crowdfunding and VC money, valued at a cool £2 billion, could want with little old me?

Read on for a thrilling story of money, intrigue, and pointless pettiness (by me).

Rewind to June 6th. Take a look at this blog post from them; a lovely little article on an easy way to save pennies a day, where before you know it you’ve saved £667.67, and look, you can entirely automate it thanks to their amazing integration with IFTTT.

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a way non developers can glue different web applications and web enabled things together using things called 'applets'. IFTTT is great for doing things like posting your instagram pics to Twitter, or turning on your internet enabled lights once you have walked 12357 steps. It’s geeky, weird and amazing, and Monzo, a bank, has IFTTT integration. This is incredible and one of the reasons I love them. I was so enamoured of this partnering that a year ago over a few evenings, I worked out the byzantine labyrinth that is the IFTTT developer platform, to develop an IFTTT Monzo applet for other users. Now let’s look at the IFTTT screen shot on that blog post again:

Zoom. Enhance! Look! IT ME!

WOW, they posted a link to my applet! How cool!

I know what you’re thinking. “Conrad, you’re reading a bit much into it. They just posted a link to a little IFTTT applet you wrote, so what?”

Maybe. Honestly, I was quite excited, and also a little sad they didn’t credit me - just a link to my Twitter account or some kind of shout out. I’ve only got 200 followers, and they’ve got loads!

(Told you I was petty)

Anyway, my spideysenses were tingling. Something was up, and 8 days later, I saw Monzo tweet this to their 91K followers (91K!):

(@1pSaving is a Monzo account btw)

“Wait a second!”, I hear you say, “by jove this looks like a very similar tweet to those sent out by the popular* account @365Saving!”

* not that popular

Let’s take a look shall we:

OK, well let's kindly brush over them using the exact same name (plus an "s"), and I dunno what’s going on with the weird currency symbols (I’ve fixed that now), but yeah, they’ve got the same loose emoji loving vibe. But so what?

Well reader, how’s this for a plot twist that I may have sign-posted a bit in the previous paragraph...

I WROTE THE @365SAVING bot! Yep, the mastermind behind the reverse 1p saving challenge IFTTT applet also wrote an automatic saving challenge twitter bot! And look closer, this bot is SMART. OK, not book smart, or street smart, or smart like a fancy dressed person. Not machine learning smart either.

OK now I can barely bring myself to call it a bot.

But loooook, adorable little piggy! Also, every day it works out the amount people should save, AND it automagically generates inspiring ideas for things they could be saving for in emoji form. Yesterday it suggested 🎅🏖🐶. The day before 🖥👒💍! Relevant. Actionable. Fun. Like me!

So WTAF? Monzo have copied my Twitter account. No warning, no “hey CJ just FYI we really like your twitter bot but your emoji usage is a little…much, so we’re gonna do our own”.

They couldn’t even claim ignorance. I told them about it when I first started it in 2018, and they replied with cheerful social media positivity. They follow the account. I’ve posted details in their forum!

So it’s settled. Monzo have used my stuff twice in 8 days and they’ll keep doing it till I’m dead, because if they don’t then I might eventually start my own bank which would be better than theirs and then I would win.

Or maybe because they just like the things I’ve done, whatever.

Anyway, I reached out to them about their latest transgression and sent them details about how to automate their @1pSavings tweets (and you can do it too!) They’ve been awesome (damn them, they’re so nice) - they’ve credited me on their @1pChallenge account and they are sending me some swag 🚀

More than that, finally I’ve got some validation that some of the little hobby projects I tinker on are actually quite useful to people 🤓 I’m going to go back through my half finished, abandoned and never started ideas & projects with renewed optimism and vigour. And if Monzo come looking for any more of my stuff, I’ve got a good idea which one they’ll wrap their grubby little mitts round next!

And maybe there’s another thing I should learn from this. If I want Monzo (or any other massive company) to stop nicking my stuff, I’m going to have to do more than write a little bit of nifty code and stick a cute pig on it. Nifty code is just a feature. Nifty code isn’t defensible. It’s not a moat. Users can be a moat. Community. Content. Stuff that needs perseverance, repetition, graft. Hustle. Annoyingly it can’t be automated. It’s almost the opposite of coding really.

Piggy out 🐷

tl;dr: Monzo linked to a thing I did and copied my twitter bot - I got swag and a chance to write a blog post and everyone did alright out of it.

How about you? Have you written something that got “adopted” by a bigger company? How did you feel?