Monday, November 20, 2006

Discussion on Personnel Changes?

My take: Ender, it's your blog. You hold the keys, you put in the work, you took whatever risks were taken - the rest of us are along for the ride. That being said, it is a proprietary blog presented as a collective, community blog.

I'm not really questioning your decision to pull Topazz from the contributor's list - I'm decidedly ambivalent about the whole matter. I'm just wondering if the decisive editorial action took anyone else by surprise, whether a discussion on the manner(s) in which a wrong like this could be redressed would be either interesting or worthwhile, or whether I'm alone in at least wondering about the most appropriate action in such a situation would be.

I guess I'm ambivalent is all. That you're not (and that you're the one calling the shots) doesn't bother me - just curious about other's thoughts on the matter. If this had occurred in a traditional setting (if Topazz were a newspaper collumnist, for example, or perhaps author of an article for her departmental newsletter), is there a uniform standard that would be applied? Given this isn't remotely my area, and aside from a vague awareness of people like Glass, I don't really know the answer.

I imagine Geoff will pull her star, for whatever it's worth. She'll still have a chance to rehabilitate her reputation on the Fray, if she chooses. Would you (collectively, not just directed at Ender) ever consider having her back? Again - I'm still sorting out my own feelings on the matter.


Dawn Coyote said...

Reply to TK: later.

Game: guess what I think.

TenaciousK said...

Respond to DC's game: later.

My own game: Guess what I think about you think.

Dawn Coyote said...


How pathetic are we?

Seriously - if, as Schad says, one can ascertain character over time (paraphrasing!), I'm curious as to how well I've telegraphed mine.

maximo said...

this is methadone.
this is methadone?
this is methadone!

TenaciousK said...

This is methadone. Not really as addictive, less of a rush, still a narcotic...

My first thought? Really? She's probably right; she usually is.

Next thought - perception of harm in plagiarism is a product of the degree to which you view writing as a professional product. You, Switters, various academics - writers, and this is theft. Students, most myspace account-holders, people who are more interested in impressing than producing? Less of a big deal.

Last thought - should hold off on this discussion till tomorrow, or so. I've got things to do, places to go, people to see, and deadlines to meet. Feel free to discuss in my absence.

Right Max? Because after all - that's the difference between a functional addict and a dope fiend. Can't let the fix get in the way of necessary evils, like professional responsibilities, personal obligations, etc. I got my fix - I'll be back when the withdrawals start to hit.

PS. Over on the Fray, it struck me that BV might be making a good point (if this is the point she was making). If one wants to apologize appropriately, one should first be apologizing to the person they stole from. So, my advice to Topazz: an open letter to the author of the lifted material - sent, and posted, and post the response and all future correspondence. Full disclosure.

And then, go and sin no more. And know that bright people will be scrutinizing your most clever-sounding ideas. I mean, if that won't keep you honest, then, Sheesh!

Now really, later.

JohnMcG said...

First, I'm not surprised by the swiftness of Ender's actions; his history on this subject demands it.

Second, while Ender may make noises about us it being a democracy, somebody has to make quick decisions, someone has to charter the direction of this place, and he has stepped up to do that. We can't have a virtual meeting every time a decision has to be made, and Ender's as good a person as any to do it.

Third, I do think that plagiarism in incompatible with what we want to have here, and this justifies the action. It probably would be good to write some ground rules, or even a sign-off that out status as contributors here is at the editor's sole discretion.

I'd be open to having topazz back after a period of exile.

JohnMcG said...

I would argue that we the readers were the primary party harmed, rather than the author of the original piece. It's probably not much skin off the author's nose that her paragraph found its way onto a blog and message board.

But we (and I'm stretching using the first person here, since I only skimmed the post) were led to believe this was the original work of a writer we had been reading, and we were duped, so I think it's appropriate that the first apology be directed to us.

Dawn Coyote said...

googled for this: But while plagiarism may not be a crime, it is heavily sanctioned in professions that are based on the written word. I know of one professor of sociology who lost his job almost overnight because he plagiarized someone else's work. And in journalism the consequences of being exposed as a plagiarist would be the same.
. . .
I immediately contacted the author of the 'article' and requested that he email everyone to whom he had sent the article, explaining that it was plagiarized, and that they should on no account publish it. I added that if he did not withdraw the article from circulation I would contact his web host and the moderators of any lists that distributed the article.
. . .
In a way, it's a compliment when someone plagiarizes your work: it means you're writing good stuff. But that's little consolation. If you make your living from writing on the Internet, plagiarism could be the greatest threat to your livelihood.


WikiFray said...

To be honest, I rather resent topazz for forcing me to remove her. The only real, tangible consequence of this whole affair will be that my action will be heralded and reheralded by my fray detractors as proof that I’m some sort of overlord wannabee. That said, my take:


Unlike our little domicile (the fray), the wider internet is decidedly unambiguous about the severity of the crime of plagiarism. Put bluntly, there is no greater sin as far as they’re concerned. And they’re right to feel that way. The blogosphere, or whatever you want to call it, is fighting an uphill battle to become relevant, so if they skewer professionals for plagiarism, they are obliged to crucify one of there own if/when they are discovered.

Do you think that they care that topazz is a nice person? No. They don’t know topazz from Adam, and to be honest, getting to know topazz pales in comparison to the fun they’d have in not only labeling her a plagiarist, but labeling all those associated with her as suspect plagiarists, or at best willing collaborators. In other words, every post on this blog is not only tainted if one is found to have been plagiarized, but it’s simply more efficient and satisfying to tar and feather the lot of us than to trust topazz was the exception.

Now it’s important to note, if it weren’t for BullshitDetector, topazz’s plagiarism would have gone unnoted. It would have been archived, but not forgotten by the search engines. And in a year or two or more, when/if WikiFray is successful enough that it has enemies, what kind of damage would it have caused?

Bottom line, when topazz uploaded her plagiarism to WikiFray, she put everything we’re trying to do here in jeopardy. Maybe not. But maybe. That’s the insult, and that’s why I didn’t hesitate to remove her privileges and expunge her posts. WikiFray ascribes to the highest standards. We make no exceptions. If there is some sort of consensus that differs, I’ll step aside.


I’ve never, ever, in all my history on the fray, given plagiarists anything but the back of my hand. The fact that it’s someone I think is better than plagiarism doesn’t change the fact that the offense is the same. In fact, the more I think about it, the more inclined I am to hold topazz that much more accountable. She’s a mentally fit adult.

Schadenfreude said...

Anybody consider that topazz isn't denny? Nobody was actively looking for plagiarism in her posts and yet she was caught (possibly twice).

As far as this blog is concerned, I agree with Ender, although I would agree with TenaciousK that there should be some more explicit consensus and some process in place, so that people will know what's happening and why.

Ultimately, though, someone's got to have the last word. If it's a true collective, then that person should be chosen, rather than self-appointed (that means no moving the site again without consent!).

TenaciousK said...

Ender, Dawn, John: Thanks for the excellent responses. I really would like to get back to this (but not today), and I hope some of the contributors here who were going easier on her on the BOTF thread will also pipe in. You'all have given me a lot to chew on, however. I'm particularly ignorant of blog culture, so Ender's description of the manner in which a plagiarist will be treated in the blogosphere is provocative.

My own background is more on the academic side, where there seems to be relatively little plagiarism, at least in an overt sense, but there is quite a lot of, oh what you might call (generously), "Cross-fertilization of ideas." In that sense, I think the standard for plagiarism tolerance has actually loosened - another victim of the "publish or perish" culture. On the other hand, fabricated research has also become more of a problem, which of course isn't tolerated at all.

I guess I was feeling a little more sympathetic towards Topazz than you were, Ender, because that's the world I believe she is working in. That being said, however - lifting work directly, without an attempt to digest, or even reword or paraphrase, has never been tolerated. The other is still discouraged as well - but I think tolerances have shifted in the direction of greater lattitude.

Anyway, I'd like to get back to this - gotta' run. Thanks for the great responses, though.

JohnMcG said...

I know I sound like a kiss-ass, but the credibility thing is a good point -- imagine how much fun we would have had if one of the Kos trusted users were found guilty of plagiarism. I know we're not pretending that we're reinventing democracy here, but at the same time we don't want our voices muffled for avoidable reasons.

LentenStuffe said...

DailyKos Anyone? What a bunch of losers you are! How many of you got your haemorrhoids in a flare over the switters banning because, well, his satire didn't meet with kossack standards? How dare they presume to impose their diminished values on our Wunderkind. How dare they troll, blame, ban, attack and publicly immolate our wonderboy! Yet, here y'all go, becoming your own nemesis, doing what you only latterly found so reprehensible. You double-crossing, lying sacks of sputum!

The worst of all is Ender's weak-willed and self-serving affectation: "I hate her that she made me do it!" Yeah, right, you kossack-capo. It's the Jews fault that we had to kill them.

Did I mention Fuck Y'all?

Dawn Coyote said...

More googling: author, author

Note to ZB: Hi, Hauteur.

LentenStuffe said...


Sorry, my dear, but the hypocrisy here is both rank and mendacious. You will force a decent person walk your plank over a mere trifle.

There is zero honesty in the Fray, and there's no way to verify anything resembling virtue. Y'all can install yourselves as judge and jury of a person'a character but, as with the Dkos fiasco, you ought to be saying 'there but for the grace of god go I'. In other words, not one of you has anything over Topazz. And I find the pretense to the contrary emetical. Does anybody really give a shit whether she stole a paragraph or not? No. It's not about plagiarism. It's about small-mindedness masquerading as election, then forming a clique to mutually jerk each other off.

Is any one of you incorruptible? No! You all come with a price tag. Some of you are cheaper than others but, as Oscar Wilde said, that's simply a quibble over price after the fact of character has been established.

Dawn Coyote said...

Well, ZB, for me it really is about plagiarism, and also about the integrity of this blog. The truth is, I discovered topazz's transgression on Saturday, but for a variety of reasons (none particularly defensible), I didn't say anything. I like topazz a lot. If another writer took something I'd written and passed it off as his/her own, I'd be pissed. I was pissed on behalf of the author of that article, yet I like topazz...

I considered emailing Ender, but didn't. Does that make me a passive collaborator? You know, it sorta does. In light of Ender's comment above, I now regret that. I wasn't looking at the larger implications, just doing what was comfortable for me.

Honestly, I have a lot of respect for Ender's efforts here, and while I don't think we ought to take ourselves too seriously, I do hope we take ourselves a little bit seriously. I wouldn't be here, otherwise.

Personal feelings aside (I typically agree with Ender, Schad, and Gregor, and find the accusations of bloodthirstiness amusing), if we were paid contributors to this blog, I'd support topazz's firing, and I'd help her look for a new job.

Note to no one in particular: we need more female contributors.

Also: apologies. I'm lame.

fluffy black puppies said...

oh, barf.

all of you.

MsZilla said...

WTHeck!? I get a new gamesystem and this place does some sort of loop. Let me dig up and read around before I open my yap too hard.

I just want to point out to LentenStuffe that his mother rides a vacuum cleaner. And his father smells of elderberries.

Even if you're right, you're still being a dick.

LentenStuffe said...


A "Dick" aint too bad, as far as unoriginal slurs go. Heck, I've been called worse. For example, today on the fray some crypto-anglo-challenged Chinese poster, if you can believe that one, called me a "Gook" of all things. Moi! Swear to Christ!

I sure hope that you are aware you have plagiarized the Monty Python crew in insulting me, and you didn't so much as footnote, add single quotes, or supply a bibliographical reference. But, it's your board. Who am I to interject with MLA standards of citation.

That said, has it occurred to you at all that an insult (lame as it is) from yourself might actually be an affirmation of my intent.

Yea, I'm a dick! Sure, so what? Who gives a fuck? At least I'm not pretending to be God, though a character of my creating thinks he is!

august said...

Logistics -- I don't have a problem with Ender making quick decisions when necessary.

Schad -- there was no small discussion about beta move.

fbp et. al. -- barf maybe, but I've put enough work into wag/wiki (although admittedly not lately -- sorry) that I feel hurt. I feel other stuff too, but will save for conversation w/topazz.

rundeep said...

I'm with fluffy. Especially upon reading the article Dawn cites. This is the lone example of the "heavily sanctioned":


"And if you've matched the ezine to the product you're selling, you've reached your target audience."

Plagiarized version:

"If you have correctly matched the ezine or newsletter to the product you're selling, then you will have reached your target audience."

I mean, please. If I say "please find enclosed the following bland thought" have I plagiarized the writer of "Enclosed please find my banal thought"?

I want to be clear that I don't condone what she did. But she did not lift an entire article, or even the most trenchant part of it (if anything in that trite little piece of crap could be called trenchant). It's the rapaciousness of the attack that bothered me, the immediate and unwarranted assumption that it was not a lone transgression and an unwillingness to say at what point, if ever, it would be forgiven.

Had she actually taken some original work product or true, marketable insight, I might be more disciplinary. But this was just trite.

And you two have telegraphed your characters quite well.

It's ender's party. He should do what he wants to.

JohnMcG said...


We are not playing God; we are discussing what we consider in bounds in an enterprise we have put significant effort into.

And unless you have specific evidence of anyone else's plagiarism on a scale similar to this, don'tcome to me with this "there but for the grace of God.." crap. (Or talk of stones and glass houses).

I'm not judging topazz's character; I'm saying I'd rather not share the masthead with someone who committed pretty obvious plagiarism. I wouldn't want someone on my programming team who regularly made errors.

TenaciousK said...

[sigh] I just can't keep my biiig mouth shut.

I wrote a response too long to but in a discussion thread, and top-posted it. If you can stomach any more of this conversation, feel free to look there.

PS. RunDeep - who were you referring to as telegraphing character, and what character has been telegraphed? Ambiguity like that makes me paranoid...

bright said...

Thanks TK - that is exactly what I meant.

twiffer said...

lentenstuffe: big difference re: banning someone because you don't like what they are saying and banning because they plagarized.

i like topazz too. i've met her and enjoyed her company. i think she's a good person. don't know the extent of what she did, but she fessed up and said "i plagarized this". the willingness to accept consequences for her actions is a sign of good character. however, that doesn't mean there shouldn't be consequences.

as a writer yourself, i'm surprised at you considering any plagarism insignificant. nor does it matter if others think it amounts to plagarism. topazz does.

also doesn't matter if she did not profit by it. consider if denny took credit for one of your poems. you'd track him down and wring his neck (well, i would). doesn't matter if it's just on the p-fray; it's someone else taking credit for what you have created.

MsZilla said...


Why would they call you a "gook"!? It's amazing what people come up with. I was accused of being a big, Neanderthal-type male recently on another board. I laughed a lot.

I'm glad you caught the first reference. The quote was a too-subtle way of showing that in some respects I was agreeing with you. We all refer to and quote each other all the time. Especially when you get into the geekier circles. You can have whole conversations consisting of snippets of quoted materials if you get a good sofware development team in a room.

(You missed the second quote. Calling you a 'dick' in that fashion was actually reference from the first Xmen movie.)

I'm not defending what she did; I don't think she wants that from what I've read. But someone needs to come up with a decent line to work with here. At least a darker gray area.

Is there a difference between me using a well-known phrase from someone else's work as a sort of joking conversational shorthand and hauling a whole paragraph out of something and not attributing it? If so, how much? And who decides what consequences?

Sounds like at least here, blatant plagarism equates to banning. Okay. I can respect that.