Tracing vs Transformation for developers

Tracing vs Transformation for developers

With millions of tutorials, Twitter threads, and clones of projects, there's a clear distinction between tracing and transformation.


Tracing has its time and place. If you are examining how an application was built, understanding syntax, and so on. Wordle, Flappy Bird, and Todo List clones have value for beginners.

Revenue in this space is sparse and scrappy, but some clones have gotten traction and made tons of money.

Is it right to monetize it? In my opinion: Not really, but I'm not a cop.


Transformation is a substantial difference, like AskJeeves vs. Google or Facebook vs. MySpace. Transformation falls into two phases: Minor or Major.

Minor transformation is more than slight tweaks or coloring outside the lines. Adding six letters to the Wordle game instead of 5 is more like tracing. Making it a PWA is more a transformation, in my opinion. Learning is more abundant than purely Tracing. Tutorials should encourage this, expanding the idea past the end. It's small and meaningful changes.

Major Transformation is much more complex—AskJeeves vs. Google or Facebook vs. MySpace. The idea is the same but a constant refinement of critical points. It's easy to see some inspiration, but the list of differences is vast and expanding.


There will always be those tracing others' projects and making cash or getting clout. It's part of the process now. Tracing isn't going to make a lasting product or great developers. It's mostly laziness or lack of creativity.

Lasting products or ideas either fit into Major Transformation or Creation. Creation is much more challenging.

Suppose you're interested in reading more about Creation. I highly recommend the book Zero to One.

I'll leave you with two questions:


Sorry for The Office memes, but it's a really good show.