The plague of plagiarism

This post was originally posted on September 23, 2009.

I was reminded of it after reading “I am a blogger. In other words, a piece of meat.”

I tend to believe that most people participating online do the right thing.

We invest time and energy in contributing to a collective understanding. I applaud Todd Defren and ShiftPR for sharing their work on the social media press release. Nielsen Online offers free use of their industrial-strength brand monitoring system through Blogpulse.

We celebrate the success of others. The community at large helped Chris Brogan and Julien Smith become New York Times best selling authors. We’ve cheered on my friends and former colleagues Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, and Ray Wang (and Deb Schultz) in creating Altimeter Group.

We give credit where and when credit is due. As Dachis Group builds momentum and understanding around Social Business Design, most people have acknowledged our work in adding their own thoughts to the conversation.

However, as social media has mainstreamed, snake oil salespeople have started popping up everywhere. It may be true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – so what? If flattery means siphoning off attention and awareness that leads to business, then criticize me to your heart’s content. I’d prefer to be distinct and profitable then copied and commoditized.

It’s a simple economic fact that producers need incentive to produce. Social media isn’t socialism. When I see work get plagiarized, my natural reaction is to pull back and share less. Which is unfortunate, because I’ve experienced how connecting and collaborating with a larger ecosystem has driven improved outcomes. However, this ensures the preservation of value for constituents who matter most – my clients.

As we sit poised before flu season, many people have prepared themselves with vaccines and behavioral changes. The equivalents in social media may be Creative Commons and behind-the-scenes process changes. Just as public health officials monitor for signs of outbreak, you can monitor using tools like Google Alerts, BackType/Tweets, and CopyScape.

I wonder if this will be enough.


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