Since starting IEP, I talk a lot about the misuse and abuse of online content and what needs to change. Last week it became personal – people using my work uncredited and without permission in various ways. Some of it I can do something about. Some of it won’t change until people are taught why they need behave differently.
This community, cyber village, blogosphere, group of people working hard to carve out their place in the ether – whatever you want to call it – we can’t make this work without one another.
We must give credit where it is due. Otherwise things like this happen:
Jill wrote a post about a week ago on her blog, Baby Rabies. She’d seen a website advertised on a car for menarche parties: soirées to celebrate a girl’s first period.
(I couldn’t have created a more random-yet-very-specific topic to use if I tried.)
Believe it or not, Jill is not the first person to have ever written about menarche parties. But before her post it had been a pretty long while since anyone had – a very long stretch in internet time. But you could see by google search alone that she had sparked a trend.
Within 24 hours, menarche party posts were popping up around the country, mentioning the website she saw on that car. Other people had opinions to share on the subject, too. That’s a good thing. But not one cited her as the source. That’s not so good. And as more posts were written, it wasn’t just Jill who wasn’t given credit. Most posts cited little more than the party website.
Some of these posts and articles received thousands of likes on Facebook. Tens of thousands of page views. They were tweeted and pinned. If even just a few of the dozens that jumped on the menarche party bandwagon had mentioned they heard about this via Baby Rabies, Jill would have received traffic. She would have had the potential to build readership and possible revenue.
That’s the way it should work. This is a community.
At the time, you could watch google to see the timeline and the collateral damage. As the larger websites began posting their pieces, her post moved from the top search results. Now if someone searches the topic, hers is no longer at the top of page one. Or even on page one.
You are no less original or creative or talented as a writer when you cite sources. Not doing so isn’t just unethical, it’s lazy. And everyone knows better. In school, we were taught to write bibliographies before we could even spell the word. We know that sources should be credited. We know this stuff.
There is no difference in the value between something written for a personal blog versus a paying gig. But I expect a certain professionalism from someone who receives a byline and a paycheck. It’s why I believe online publications NEED to have style guides. They need to behave like print publications.
RULE: Always cite your sources. Hyperlink to posts that inspire yours. (Examples of how I do it here and here.)
When someone provides information or inspiration – be it by blog post or book or magazine – don’t take it and think it’s yours.
Cite your sources, write something awesome and make that yours.
Whenever someone finds themselves not taken seriously as a blogger, it’s stuff like this that that fuels it. Working online and in print, it makes me crazy to hear print writers and journalists believe they’re above bloggers.
(People say a lot of things when they don’t know what they’re talking about.)
Some of the most incredible, most powerful online voices I’ve heard were at the BlogHer Voice of the Year Keynote last year. Which is why I share my experience whenever people speak about social media conferences as being just about swag and parties.
(Again, people say a lot of things when they don’t know what they’re talking about.)
Last August, I stood in that massive pavilion, photographing through tears as I listened to some incredible bloggers share their words (not the easiest way to do a job). It was inspiring. It was exciting. It made me so proud to say I’m a blogger.
I’ll be a broken record: if we want to be taken seriously as a bloggers, we have to take blogging seriously. Do it the best we can. Because success really is the best revenge. It may seem as cliche as posters of kittens in hammocks saying “Hang in there,” but I swear it’s true. (Off topic, when I was a kid, I just thought the kitten in a hammock was supposed to be cute. It was years before I got the hammock/hanging connection.)
I hope that I never stop being disappointed by people who scrape content or steal ideas or use other people’s work without asking. I don’t ever want the day to come where I grow cynical about people’s capacity to do the right thing.