Saturday, 20 October 2007

Blogging dilemmas

Dilemma #1
I sat down with a cup of coffee to clear out my e-mail this morning. I thought I'd give it about 15 minutes, then go and do something else. Well, I deleted one e-mail at a glance, and moved on to read the next one. There was a phrase in this one that I particularly liked, but it was only referred to as 'someone once said ...' So I Googled the phrase to try to find the original source and context. This story continues under Dilemma #2 below.

The point here is that a 15 minute e-mail clear out has resulted in one deleted e-mail, and more than 20 minutes so far pursuing a tangential thought, ultimately resulting in this blog. So how do you stop the Internet in all its guises from consuming too much time?

Dilemma #2
This is the real thrust of this blog entry. Having Googled the phrase, I came up with only 2 results. One was from the document that I had been reading. The other was from a blog, which I then had a look at. Worringly, the entry relating to the phrase that I was hunting was exactly the same as the e-mail that I had received. I mean, word for word copying - but without any acknowledgement of the source. The blog author has a different name from the e-mail author. They were both published on the same day - yesterday.

So what to do? First of all let me say that one of my pet hates is plagiarism. I'm all for using other people's material, and quoting it verbatim - but acknowledge the source, or at least indicate that it's not your original material. Aye, I know there will have been times when I've fallen short of this standard - but not the the extent of a whole blog entry!

In the preface to his book 10, J John writes:

"There are lots of quotes in this book and where I can I have tried to give due credit to their authors. The eighth commandment applies to words as well as things... For the unconscious use - or abuse - of any such material, I ask forgiveness."

Should I enter into an e-mail dialogue with either party or both, or should I let it go?

There is a discipline involved in getting this kind of thing right, but surely it's not too onerous. Of course, beyond the lazy/careless excuse there are other explanations, but I'll leave that to the consciences of the individuals concerned.

I once came across a situation where a whole series of presentations had been pinched from the Internet and only changed where there were specific cultural references that wouldn't have worked. I ignored this at the time, as it didn't seem to be worth picking a fight over. I now regret that decision.

Thoughts would be appreciated.

1 comment:

That Hideous Man said...

I know of a church where the minister was dimissed because he threw away his integrity, by using internet-sermons and and passing them off as his own work.

Had someone spotted it earlier and confronted him years before - then perhaps it would have not got beyond the stage of him being required to apologise to the congregation and tell them what he had done once or twice. But as it had grown from an isolated misdemeanour to a lifestyle sin by the time it was exposed, the consequences for him were far worse.

I wouldn't 'name and shame' as a first course of action, but as Jesus said - tell them of their sin, "just between the two of you". Perhaps a gentle reminder to a plagiarist now, might save them a lot of heartache in the future....