Jun 24, 2009

I have irreparably offended a fellow blogger and he or she seems to have banished me from his or her blog. Or maybe taken the blog private altogether, or even deleted the blog. All I know is that I can no longer visit it. I feel terrible over this offense and I did issue an apology, but it was obviously too little, too late. The blogger in question is a wonderful storyteller and fine writer. I enjoyed reading his or her blog regularly. Now I just get a message telling me that the blog is protected. Without giving away too much, the post in question was eerily similar to a nationally syndicated column that I had read the day before. I was stunned by the similarity and couldn't quite figure out how to ask the author if it was a reprint that he or she forgot to credit or merely a coincidence of unlikely probability. I tried to compose a comment designed to tactfully ask the question. In the editing, rewriting and rethinking my question, I inadvertently sent what looked like an accusation of plagiarism. I immediately sent my apology for the directness of my blunt comment. The author responded that he or she had not read said article and the rest is history. So, present situation aside, here's a question. Does the taboo of plagiarism apply to blogs? Does it really matter? Okay, that's two questions. And should I have just kept my big mouth shut? Three. Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky

10 comments:

mum said...

Tough one, this. Synchronicity does exist. I know I've sometimes written down thoughts I then came across in my reading, or used a turn of phrase only to remember I'd read it somewhere and made it my own. At a certain level, we all copy what we admire.

However, the chances of an entire post being almost the same as a syndicated article on the same topic strike me as slim, at best.

In conversation, people often use whatever they've just read as the source for their own opinions. The problem with blogs is they are often a mix of chatting with buddies and other things, such as online storytelling or showcases for same.

If you're shooting the breeze with your friends, you don't go into Copyright and source attributions. But if you're writing stories and using someone else's material as a spring-board, you say so.

That's how I see it anyway. If the person took offence, there's not much you can do about it if he/she cuts you off instead of acknowledging/clarifying/disputing etc.

Once somebody decides to cut you off on a blog though, it's pretty final. Then you're stuck with your questions and that's not terribly productive.

Keeping your big mouth shut: you know, Merle, I tell myself the same thing when things go sour because I didn't zip it. I still think it's better to say something than to let things fester because it'll just come out worse in the long run.

Sorry for the lengthy post - it's topic that's close to my heart.

Best to you and your new Kindle.

Karen said...

To answer your question -- ABSOLUTELY! The other blogger is probably just embarrassed that you caught them.

Karen said...

I should probably clarify that ... absolutely the taboo of plagiarism applies to blogs and it absolutely does matter. Should you keep your mouth shut? Absolutely not...

Reya Mellicker said...

Karen speaks for me.

As for the blogger and the situation, you did the right thing by apologizing. If that's not enough for him/her then I say EASY COME EASY GO.

Oops. Didn't mean to capitalize that ...

Kurt said...

Oh Merle, I have offended so many bloggers with my bluntness, and lost a few of them as readers. One recently made his/her blog private and didn't invite me.

Poeple put themselves out there with their blog, and most are looking for positive feedback (I know I am), so anything besides that is interpreted as hostile.

You've apologized - what else can you do. And absolutely plagiarism is not okay anywhere.

bitchlet said...

This post is pretty tactful. (and not inviting you pretty much proves that he/she was guilty as charged.)

Julia said...

I guess it depends how similar the blog post was. If it was almost word for word I would probably say something. If it was the same idea in totally different words I think saying, "This reminds me an article I read the other day. Here's the link." Or maybe I wouldn't say anything. I'm with the other commenters who believe the blogger is probably embarressed to have been caught.

Julia
www.greensummervillian.wordpress.com

Steve said...

Standards of plagiarism definitely apply to blogs. I think I would have done what Julia suggested -- said something like, "Oh, this is a lot like a column I just read," and post the link. No accusations, just a fact.

I think Karen is right -- the offended blogger was probably just embarrassed, but why they'd take it out on you I'm not sure.

Nan Patience said...

I recently made a general remark on facebook, and low and behold, someone close to me took it personally, unfriended me, and canceled plans to visit this summer! It's not uncommon online, for people to take things personally, and if you care about people's feelings, then great care must be taken to never be critical. That eliminates 90% of my post ideas and reduces my blogging satisfaction significantly.

People should definitely never plagiarize, and even if someone is using someone else's idea as a springboard for their own original idea, they should probably give credit.

Barbara said...

I find myself borrowing a few words here and there and ultimately feeling a bit sheepish. But anything that is copied wholesale needs to at least cite the source. I doubt too many bloggers are getting sued for plagiarism these days, but stealing is stealing.