Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't copy my posts verbatim - please...

Plagiarism is never a good thing, and it�s pretty hard to detect for blogs. Can�t say I�m a magnet for the New York Tmes, but it sure looks like I�ve been found in academic circles. This is a very low level incidence of plagiarism, and I�m only posting about this to show how the Internet can work in very unsuspecting ways.

There are no commercial interests at stake, and this was probably done by a grad student, so there�s no point in naming people here. It�s nice to be noticed, for sure, but the writer in me says it�s a matter of principle when your stuff is lifted verbatim and not credited. To be fair, I've certainly had people approach me for permission to cite my writing and even my pictures. That�s fine � as long I know what they�re doing with it, I have no objection.

Am not quite sure how all this unfolded, but basically, the Professor was doing a Google search on some entries for this student's paper, and.... a blog post of mine turns up. Very strange. From what I can tell, the quote was not used in a telecom/tech context, so it's a bit mysterious to me. Regardless, I just think it's neat that the prof used Google as a sort of fact-checker - I suspect this is becoming standard practice in university these days with so much stuff out there for sale online - and then found me, of all people. Even more interesting is what connection this student was trying to make between my quote and their paper. I still don't know, and it makes me wonder if students are so enamored with the paint-by-numbers process of 'writing' papers, that they can't even tell any more which stuff is actually theirs.

I'm still trying to get to the bottom of this, but it also appears that the student didn't cite me because it was from a blog, and didn't need to be cited. Aha - now we're getting to the crux of the matter. I think that a lot of people think that if it's on the Net, it's free for the taking - public domain. Hmmm. Very muddy water there for sure. Of course, if it was paid content, they wouldn't think twice about not citing it. But then, students can't afford to access paid content, so let's not go there. No, they will graze from free sources, but don't you think there's a disconnect here if university students have so little regard for blog posts. I guess they just see it as personal opinions that are freely shared - which is largely true for blogs.

Many questions to consider here - how do you decide if a blog is real writing or just chatter, who really should decide this, how do you acknowledge usage, etc. Definitely a brave new world, especially for anyone who values the creative process and the power of the written word for conveying ideas.

Well, I'm not about to tackle this now. I'm in San Jose this week at Cisco's analyst conference, and I've been flying all day, and am quite tired. Anyone out there who wants to take a stab at this is more than welcome, and I'll continue this dialog when the storyline becomes clearer.

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ipcom said...

Posted by: Darren

I know many of the bloggers that I read apply a creative commons license (or similar) statement to the bottom of their posts to ensure the line is not blurred.

No, you are not trying to profit from this blog but like you said, it is your writing; your original ideas; and therefore your ownership.

ipcom said...

Posted by: Adam

What's even more scary to my mind is that the student trusted what you wrote. Relying on a blog to obtain facts or even informed opinion could be very dangerous indeed.

Present company excluded of course. While your blog is reliable and informed, not all are.