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I'm a Code Thief(and Why You Should Be One Too)

redpandaman7 profile image Drake Aiman ・4 min read

I'm a code thief.

Yeah, I said it.

I should clarify, this does not mean that I go around copy-pasting everything without doing anything and then putting my name on it. It does however mean, that I am all up in your github repositories and taking everything I can find.



Let me explain. There is a famous quote in the art world, perhaps you have heard it before; 'Good Artist Copy; Great Artists Steal'. I love this quote, and as a young art school student way back, learning how to draw manga at a technical school in Japan; this quote got me to be one of the top students in my year.

Now, you're probably thinking to yourself. This guy's a rat! He just steals other peoples stuff and dances to all the praise.

And you are absolutely correct!


Slightly Off Topic History Time

You see, in art school I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning and get ready for the day. I would spend hours before class with a single image of art that someone did that struck my fancy and I would pull out my notebook and copy every detail line for line. At 9:00 I would go to school study in class with everybody until around 15:30, then I would go right back to stealing.

I would stay in the school's study room until the school closed at 21:00 stealing, and only then would I go get dinner and head home. Once I got home, what did I do? You guessed it! I continued stealing all the way up until past midnight when I went to bed to start the whole process again the next day.

Thug life

Now you may be asking yourself; 'What the heck is this guy going on about? How does this have anything to do with programming?' well you just wait your tiny little tushy, because we are getting there.

The Method

Here is how I steal art; I scour everything I can until I find something that I like. Maybe its a way someone draws an eye, maybe its a way of inking hair, maybe it a type of nose on a girl that I just can't help but to find adorable.

Cute nose

Whatever it is, I find it and I copy the entire drawing, every single line. I may even find a few more drawings by the same artist and I will steal those images as well, just for good measure. Afterwords, I'll try that thing out on one of my original drawings; not quite right, find another image, copy it, repeat. Until when I can use that thing in my own drawing and it looks exactly how I want it to. That thing is now mine. I stole it, fair and square!

And after a year of doing this, I had stolen myself a complete, one of kind, original only to me art style.


So You Want to be A Thief

How do I translate this to code? well, I scour everything; websites, repositories, articles, codepens, you name it I'm digging through it. And let's say that I find a button animation that I like. You best believe I'm going to steal it. I will copy that code character for character.

Then I'll try it out without looking in one of my projects. A bug will appear, it always does. I got something wrong, so I check the code again and fix it, in my next project I try it again and this time it works. That button animation is mine now. And after I repeat this process with various different kinds of animations and techniques and glue them all together, you are none the wiser.

No Idea

My Suggestion

Look around, find stuff that you like. Take it and use it. Find something else, take that and use it. Put some of those things together and show it to around. Get others opinions, then steal those ideas and add them to your repertoire. You will be a much better developer for doing so.


In my life I have met many a person, who thought you need to be 100% original, figure everything out on your own, and wait for inspiration to strike. However, I have yet to meet someone who thought like that and was able to make a living pursuing their craft. Even Stephen King got started writing stories by mish-mashing synopsis of his favorite monster movies. Do yourself a favor, embrace being a thief, steal everything you can, leave no stone unturned. You will thank yourself for it.

congrats on being a thief

Discussion (6)

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

I really liked your article. I hope people will go beyond the title to actually read it. The key is that’s it’s not about taking credit for other people’s work. It’s all about gaining experience by learning from other people’s work. With time you can increasingly take on problems and put together original solutions by leveraging a combination of your own ideas as well as a panoply of many learned techniques. You also emphasize the importance of taking apart these learned solutions and really making them your own!

peledzohar profile image
Zohar Peled

You can't steal from me! All the code I've ever posted online is open source and free.

davidmm1707 profile image
David MM🐍

It is not stealing, it is 'getting inspired by'.


puleta profile image

I loved it but one thing, too many memes ( if that's really possible) but in a manner to keep this community a bit professional I think you should use a bit less menes :) no hard feelings

davi9091 profile image
Arkady Rubtsov

There could never be too many memes 😉

brianmcoates profile image

Great article!!!