I'm always checking out my competition. I have to, otherwise I'll go under — I'm a self employed/contract/freelance art director/designer/developer. Is that a lot of hats? Why yes, it is. I have no free time to speak of, only time I steal from work to give like little gifts to my family and friends.
Nothing pisses me off like what I've come to think of as Rich Kid Design. Which isn't to say kids are designing it, directly. It's more a silver spoon thing. It's frustrating to track down who designed+made that crazy competitor website that sort of works (sort of doesn't), and might be awesome but might be awful? Only to discover it's some LA/London prodigy who went to Vassar (until she quit) and is now designing all the look books for [insert upscale bohemian clothing line here] because it's her sister-in-law's pet project. This is just a random example of a broad phenomena.
Once a young designer asked me how I got work, and I had to admit that in the beginning it was all about who I knew. I can't think of a more effective way to "get in the door" than having a friend hold it open for you. But that doesn't change how it all skeeves me out, how belligerent I get inside when I see an account — a huge account — has gone to some Rich Kid Designer who gets to put terrible watercolor illustrations in their online portfolio and call it "ironic" because they know all the right people.
Creative is the worst for this; as a horrific crash between true meritocracy — all portfolios, as far as the eye could see, all online! — and gross abuse of nepotism. Being a good AD will get me in the door for the interview at the agency, but being someone's bff is what will get me the giant cosmetics account.
That's all, I got nuthin. I'm going to go get some soup now.