Spanish inquisition

Do you agree that it's important to be acknowledged for the work you have done? I find it particularly rewarding when someone else finds my work useful enough to retweet it on Twitter, or better still write a blog post about it. Linking back to my blog or giving me a name check is all the reward I need. I'm a simple soul. I give my stuff away free, papers, slideshows, images, because I believe in the value of 'share and share alike'. I fully support the ethos of open scholarship and think the world would be a better place if all academic ideas were free and didn't need to be paid for. But that is too idealist for some perhaps. I don't mind other people using my ideas and work as long as they acknowledge where it came from. I'm also open to constructive criticism too, so I can improve things if I need to.

I am particularly proud of some of the "teaching with Twitter" uses I have developed - 'Lingua Tweeta', 'Twitterstalking' and 'Micro-Write' (See Teaching with Twitter from earlier this year). They give description to language tandems and other learner centred activities which can be supported by Twitter. It's easy to use the terms to track other blog posts about these and allied Twitter teaching uses I described in that blog post. One Spanish blog called Clarión recently carried some commentary about my ideas (which were translated into Spanish) and cited the link back to my original post. Clarión's post was subsequently reported by several other blogs in the Spanish speaking world and elsewhere. Unfortunately though, none of them acknowledged the original source. I guess this is the point I start getting a little aeriated. I have also seen slideshows listing my 10 Twitter Teaching ideas without citing the original source. Perhaps I'm wrong, but doesn't this constitute some kind of plagiarism? If my students used a whole list of ideas without citing the source it would be deemed as such. On a blog shouldn't it be the same?

I don't know whether to feel flattered that others have found my ideas so useful they have decided to list them on their blogs and slideshows, or annoyed because they overlooked the original source. You see, as others copy the list across onto their blogs, so my original efforts gain visibility, but my intellectual property rights are increasingly buried. This might sound petty, but I have gone as far as to post comments on some of these blogs thanking the blog owner for finding my ideas useful, and then suggesting politely that they might wish to acknowledge the source. But.... am I being too precious about this? Or do I have a point? Maybe once I have posted an idea to my blog I lose the right to ownership of that idea? And what about intellectual property? Have others had a similar issue with other bloggers using their ideas without acknowledging them? Maybe others could discuss this in more detail. Perhaps I'm too close to the issue to be fully objective.... and after all, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Image source


Frances Bell said…
I don't think you have lost ownership Steve. Your original post and the one that translated it with attribution presumably have date stamps, and all the rip offs will post date them, so it's clear who wrote it. It's annoying and does not suggest quality for the site doing the ripping off.
I do think that you might be being slightly precious about the neologisms though. When I googled for Twitterstalking, I found a reference from 2008 It's not surprising that different people can separately come up with the same or very similar terms for a phenomenon that is very much under discussion in different networks and communities. The Time Tweet you describe was common practice on CCK08.
Recently I found myself using the term 'transparent teaching' that I had unconsciously absorbed from a George Siemens blog post I had read. Naturally, I apologised and gave him his due once I realised.
Really the point I am trying to make is that lack of attribution is common and not always deliberate but easily corrected and refuted in a time stamped, searchable web.
P@ said…
I think you are right. The digital economy has to be founded on trust and reputation, in my view, just as the academic world is, and if people abuse that trust then they undermine the efforts people like you (and I) are making to share our thoughts and discoveries with the world.
Some people argue that nobody should be giving anything away, because others need to be able to earn money from their efforts. I don't quite agree with that. However, in a way, the acknowledgement that we expect is effectively payment for our work. It is the incentive for us to do more, and in a very real way the recognition it earns is a payment and has an impact on our employability and long term employment opportunities. We may not expect to be paid directly for what we produce, but it is unfair (and against licensing terms, if we put a CC-SA-with attribution licence on something) to re-use it without attribution.

Guess what? This is a key factor in building a Digital Identity. The This Is Me project tries to emphasise the importance of citing other people's efforts, and of making sure you get credit for your work. What I think we probably need is some way of highlighting when someone re-uses without giving credit (when either we, or someone else, notices it has happened) so that the new author has a chance to rectify their mistake, or can have their reputation affected by their lack of reciprocality.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for putting me right on the Twitter Stalking idea Frances :-) It's soo difficult to be original on the blogosphere isn't it? I still claim Lingua Tweeta though! It will be interesting to see if any of the copiers come back and acknowledge the source.

You probably detected that I'm play-acting a little here to make a serious point. I did the same kind of role play yesterday at the VLE Undead seminar to promote some debate. The key issue is Intellectual Property and Plagiarism on the web. Is there such a thing as plagiarism? If so, how is it measured? And how does Intellectual property play out on chared collaborative spaces such as wikis?
Steve Wheeler said…
I value those comments too Pat, and you make some serious points about the importance of digital identity. Graham Attwell, whom I was with yesterday in Wolverhampton for the VLE Undead debate, made an important statement I can repeat here: He said that digital identity is the new CV for the digital age. I think he has something there.
P@ said…
Thank you Steve,

Graham Attwell often has a point ;-)

I think your DI is both CV and a distributed ePortfolio (am I allowed to use that term, as it is now apparently trademarked? - probably under fair use, and as I am not referring to the actual product) - conversations like this, or even across blog sites and Twitter and all the other social media Web2.0 goodness that is out there, form a real, and hopefully lasting, record of our engagement, interest and knowledge about subjects. They represent evidence of our analytical abilities and our skills in synthesis. They are evidence of the impact we have on others - and with the current plans for the REF in academia in the UK that is vitally important.

I see the CV as a facet of your DI - tailored to suit a particular reader. In web terms, my CV for a job may be more like a suggested Google search, with keywords designed to help the reader find the relevant information, and skip the stuff which they have no interest in.
Mark Smithers said…
I sympathise with your thoughts Steve. I believe strongly in sharing ideas freely but I also believe that these should be attributed. There are occasions when mistakes happen and appropriate attribution doesn't happen. I recently noticed that one of my blog posts had been reproduced on an education consultant's web site. I wrote and told them that I was happy that they used my post but would appreciate an attribution as it was licensed CC-SA. They replied and said it was an error. All very polite but unfortunately the error remains uncorrected. In this case I'm not sure Frances is right. My post may well be pre-dated but the consultant concerned already has a wider reputation than me. The natural assumption for readers will be that it is his work.
Ths is important for me because my 'reputation' as an educational technologist is pretty much all I have and will, I hope, lead to the opportunity to work with and share ideas with other, smarter, people in edtech. Also I suspect that, if I ever want to return to the academy, my online reputation will be very important. Martin Weller has written quite a bit about this on his blog.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your insightful comment Mark - digital reputation is important, and maps across one's digital identity. This was in the back of my mind when I saw the several replicated posts (I deliberately didn't hyperlink any of them on my blog) of my own work word for word (albeit in Spanish). I wondered if the time/date stamp would hold any credence whatsoever - and of course we must also recognise that time and date stamps can be altered at will by bloggers.
I learned something through this comment stream. I had naively assumed that blog posts could only be post-dated but I just checked in Wordpress, and you are correct, you can pre-date a blog post. Perhaps a quality measure of a blog system/service would be that this was not available, thereby improving the reliability of the content.
We are still developing practices in the networked world, and I think that ways of claiming what's ours will emerge from discussions such as these. I have recently had some work stolen from unpublished material by a co-author so the benefits of publication are quite attractive to me. I can see that there is a tendency for the more connected to be attributed, as Mark describes.
Andy Hampton said…
Steve, as a published composer the issue is live for me too. Music, of course, is heavily protected and monetised and a single performance on European Cable Radio results in a 13p royalty 18 months later! I think I'd rather have the name check! My take on this is that you win some and you lose some. The more you put out there the more is attributed and the more is plagarised. Following you and people like James Clay, Josie Fraser, it would appear that invitations to speak at conferences etc. do flow from your digital presence, so, on the whole it IS all worth it. I am inviting Jane Hart to a Head's conference in 2011 and I 'met' her through Twitter.
P@ is just right. Attribution is essential in a sharing economy, so it's no overreaction to (at least) ask them to respect authorship or to remove the citation. Your "teaching with twitter" post is on top of the respective Google search, so they could have easily found the source.
Peter Winkley said…

I think that giving suitable recognition to the sources used is as important in the blogosphere as it is in the academic world. The mains advantage that blogging has in my opinion is that every idea is immediately time stamped and easy to trace(provided that the time stamp is not altered). The beauty of it is you can simply hyperlink top the original idea without having to worry about a standardised referencing system.

Further more i think it is cruical in order to give blogging enhanced credability. The ideas that we publish, to be accessed and reused for free form an intergral part of our online identity, and thus be treated with the same repect that we treat academic journals. At the end of the day anything contained within a blog is your intellectual property and should be respected as such.

However I do feelt that this is a rick we are well aware of when we publish these ideas.

I fear I may have rambled slightly so in short, yes you should have the right to have your ideas attributed to you. Afterall you have gone to the trouble of allowing them to be publicly available. I think the question is though was in intentional theft of ideas, or a genuine mistake? These practices are still developing and I for one am not aware of a recognised protocol for intellectual propety within blogs? However recognising someone elses work seems like common sense and good manners to me.

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