All the Pros of X, Minus the Cons of Y

...and the one Hard Thing you do that makes it possible. The minimal devtool positioning tagline!


2 min read

Naval Ravikant is famous for many things, but primarily his essay How To Get Rich (Without Getting Lucky):

I noticed that the headline was a masterclass of positioning. It takes the format of "THING_EVERYBODY_WANTS (without MOST_COMMON_OBJECTION)". This intrigues people because it directly addresses the pain points that detractors both commonly point to and supporters are tired of hearing.

So I did the same thing in promoting my book:


The most generic version of this is, as the title states, "All the Pros of X, Minus the Cons of Y".

... AND tell me how you do it

I think this works for devtools marketing too, with one twist: you have to tell people how you are solving the tradeoffs by teaching them about one technical insight or hard thing you are doing. This way, you satisfy the "nerd snipe" need of developers, and give people fuel to argue that, contrary to a well known tradeoffs in a known spectrum, you have achieved a Pareto frontier improvement because of a technical breakthrough.

  • Bun has two core messages: it's much faster (Pro), but it's going to be Node.js compatible (mitigating Con). The way they do this? Jarred constantly talks about how they are rewriting everything in Zig. It's definitely not the complete answer, it may not even be the most significant part of the right answer, but it is notable and interesting enough that it raises eyebrows.

  • In AI, Anthropic showed that they solved the "Harmlessness" vs "Helpfulness" tradeoff with a better technique ("Constitutional AI"), by literally showing a Pareto frontier and how they moved standard industry assumptions:

The reason I emphasize this sort of "double barreled positioning" message for devtools is because of my most well known comment on bottoms up developer marketing:

When you go "All the Pros of X, Minus the Cons of Y", you are only really talking benefits. You're not talking about features, you're not talking about internals, or hard technical choices, that allow developers to both be nerd sniped and also to be enthusiastic advocates of buying you rather than building you themselves. So give them a bit of the "How it Works", just enough to impress.

Notice that I never said to tell the WHOLE story of how it works. It's likely impossible without going thru the codebase and nobody has the patience for that anyway. But you can just give the top 1-2 things everybody should know/want to know/should repeat to their friends.