Tuesday, November 6, 2007

When Bloggers Don't Play Fair

I'm a writer at heart, and take pride in using language to convey ideas and engage readers. Fellow blogger Tom Keating had a very forthright post on Friday that outed one blogger lifting content from another blogger without due acknowledgement.

Tom is very good at fact-finding and getting to the bottom of things, and his post is a must-read for a blow-by-blow expose on how easy it is to plagarize on the Internet. It's very tempting to do this since the chances are slight you'll be found out. On the other hand, your work is out there for all to see, and if someone - like Tom - connects the dots and does some reverse engineering, you're totally exposed, with your credibility ruined in front of the online world, and in real time to boot. That's a tough road to come back from.

Great work, Tom! I haven't had a chance to post this until now, but it's been on my mind, as I'm sure it would be for anyone who takes their writing seriously, and the obligation that bloggers have to police themselves. I still believe there is a valuable distinction to be made between bona fide journalists who must pass editorial muster before being published, and bloggers who are just writing for themselves, and may only have a passing regard for accuracy, integrity, clarity and objectivity.

Just as compelling as Tom's post, by the way, are the comments, which include two contrite responses from the guilty party. Seems like this has been a cathartic experience from him, but based on the other comments there, this is not such an isolated incident.

Call me old school, but the Internet is still the Wild West, and Tom's post is another reminder of the cardinal rule to "know your source". The Web may confer legitimacy for a lot of people, but not me. If you read a post from a source you don't know that well, and it sounds eerily familiar, there's a good chance that your instincts are right.

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