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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains

. . . it's a lot easier to imitate and overpromise than it is to supply original content worth reading, the only kind we publish in any forum.

Dueling Superlatives- June 19, 06

You may recall that last year I wrote an article for another forum; the article was called "So You'd Like to Build a Garden Railroad." A few months later, a representative from a commercial site that's been, er, "following my lead" for years (to put it nicely) provided an article to the same forum called "So You'd Like to Build a Better Garden Railroad" (my italics and coloring). Okay, it's funny in a way, and I could have taken it as a joke, if it didn't follow a stream of similar "coincidences," in which original articles I spent a great deal of time developing were followed shortly by similar articles with nearly identical names.

I subsequently changed the name of my article to "So You'd Like to Build Your Ideal Garden Railroad," figuring that it would be hard for them to find a superlative for "ideal." And, no, my little article wasn't going to help anyone build their "ideal" garden railroad by itself - it cited several places to go for more information folks would need. But it is possible to have a garden railroad that is ideal for you and your circumstances. In my travels, I've seen several that met their user's needs perfectly. In fact mine is ideal for me, when I have time to keep it in operating condition.

Well, the other folks have just changed the title of their article to "
So You'd Like to A Perfect Garden Railroad Can Be Yours."

I didn't say it was a great title; but I'm more intrigued by the use of the word "perfect' in this context. To their credit they have apparently moved away from the "change one word in the title" technique. But I have to say that I have yet to see a "perfect" garden railroad (the one at Legoland comes close, I suppose, but that costs hundreds of thousands a year to maintain). If ANYBODY could really help me build a "perfect" garden railroad, I'd be beating a path to their door in a hurry.

Unfortunately, the article about the "perfect" garden railroad is anything but perfect - in fact it's barely an article - even their references and recommended products (as of June 19, 2006) are all "borrowed" from my article. That's because it's a lot easier to imitate and overpromise than it is to supply original content worth reading, the only kind we publish in any forum.

In the meantime, since this silly competition started, the Family Garden Trains web site has introduced many more hundreds of families to the hobby, and coaxed many of those folks to get out in the back yard with a shovel and a starter set. And a good number of the folks we brought into the hobby last year and the year before that have found their way to other resources, including sites that have been copycatting us for years, as recorded in previous blogs. So the whole hobby continues to benefit from our hard work, and that doesn't bother us (usually). :-)

Regarding the copycat marketeering (which has manifested itself in so many ways I don't have bandwidth to bring them all to your attention), I have established a theorum which may define a universal principle. I have titled it "Race's Second Law":

    The inferior imitates the superior.

Think about it. I can not think of one industry or human endeavor in which a superior company or organization strove to make its products and services resemble that of an inferior company or organization. So if other organizations with much larger budgets think that the best way to grow is to imitate Family Garden Trains, what does that say about our relative quality?

Sure, we've all heard the cliche that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." But everybody would benefit far more if people started imitating our quality instead of our site names and article titles.

In case you wondered, "Race's First Law" is"

    There is no such thing as a twenty-minute home repair.

But that's another discussion.

Please let me know if you have any feedback, and have a great summer,

See you online,


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