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There seems to be a general state of amnesia when it comes to SDN contributions. More and more scribblings ‘borrow’ content without acknowledging the original content. Now before we start a ‘Da Vinci code’-like plagiarism trial – from which, incidentally, only Dan Brown benefited, both in terms of popularity for his book, and indirectly by the free advertisement for the film – let’s take a look at some of the terminology as defined in Wikipedia. Plagiarism stands for ‘the passing off of another person’s work as one’s own…claiming credit for writing done by someone else’. Furthermore a distinction is drawn between accidental plagiarism, which is ‘the result of poor citation or referencing or of poor preparation or a misunderstanding of plagiarism’, and deliberate plagiarism, where one attempts to make an impression ‘by removing tell-tale evidence so the plagiarism is hard to spot’.
In the case of SDN we have seen a mixture of both kinds in areas like:

  • web logs, where the ‘authors’ of web logs appropriate whole sections of existing tutorials and reference material. The question is what these people expect to achieve with this, since these acts of, let’s call it laziness since they often don’t even bother to change the wording, can be spotted immediately. Some of these web logs are removed or else the SDN administrators oblige them to add references when the offenders are caught.
    I’ve also seen web logs (actually some of them do still exist) on subjects that are only covering subjects and yet where they provide the same solutions as conclusion. The added value was/is rather minimalist. All of this without making any reference to the original web log, as if it didn’t exist, and to leave the impression that the author is the first to come up with that solution.
    If that isn’t enough, sometimes other people wangle in on it – this time referring to the non original content – and extending that with content that was already covered even earlier without making any reference to it either.
  • forums are a breed apart. I’ve seen a lot of offences over there. The following offences have been passed in review:
    • answers that come straight from help.sap.com or web logs without acknowledgement
    • idem ditto for code samples for which people claim ownership, which seems rather doubtful when the well known SFLIGHT data is used
    • answers come from another thread where the same question was asked
    • people rephrase answers within the same forum thread in order to glean some points
    • lately we’ve even seen people asking literally the same questions in order to commit fraud with points, but I’ve already elaborated on this in a previous From the Grumpy Old Man: The points of no return

“Wait a minute”, I know you’ll say, “isn’t Grumpy a bit pharisaic? After all, your web log titles appear rather familiar to me”. That is probably the case, I use many titles of songs and movies – incidentally for this web log it came from a bottle of beer – to ‘garnish’ my web logs. I frequently mash up these titles as one is in the habit of doing in a certain branch of the film industry (you know, the one that made VHS a standard). However, it’s done so obviously that I don’t claim any credit for it.
Could one claim that “Hello” by Lionel Richie was nicked from “Hello Again” by Neil Diamond? Or that “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette was a copy of  “Stand By Me” by  Ben E. King? Or does “Crazy For You” by Madonna resemble “Crazy” by Patsy Cline a bit too closely? Not enough to speak of plagiarism, not even to claim that these all refer to each other. There are off course some (obvious?) exceptions.
It’s exactly the same thing for newspapers, magazines, etc. If an event has already been covered by someone else, should others refrain from that subject? I don’t think so. It would be a dull world, and a rather one-sided way of viewing things, if there were only one ‘truth’.

Now what can I do in order to prevent being accused of plagiarism? After all, everything has already been said and done. Indeed, since the invention of typography – according to some this was many thousands of years before Gutenberg (thus also plagiarism?) – it’s hard to find something that hasn’t already been printed in some form or other. The challenge is to cover things in an original way. You might be inspired by others, but be honest enough to indicate who the genius was who made the original discovery/breakthrough. Even better, don’t replicate the original content (with the danger that you put things out of context) and just add a link to it. And no, I won’t go into the discussion on whether laws prohibit it or not in country X. It is also a matter of ethics, but that has already been the subject of another See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil and Write No Evil – To remove postings on SDN forums or not? 😉

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  1. Michal Krawczyk
    at least 4 out of 5

    “1. answers that come straight from help.sap.com or web logs without acknowledgement
    2. answers come from another thread where the same question was asked
    3. people rephrase answers within the same forum thread in order to glean some points
    4. lately we’ve even seen people asking literally the same questions in order to commit fraud with points, but I’ve already elaborated on this in a previous Grumpy.”

    come because of the POINT system on forums
    it’s very hard for me to understand
    why do you all defend it…

    I’m not saying that we don’t need “recogniton systems”
    but maybe it should be based on experts
    opinions and not on points…
    (I’m only talking about the forums)
    this would certainly push people
    to give MORE quality answers – I’m 100% sure

    is that not clear why we see such strange situations really?

    Regards,
    michal 

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      1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
        Hi,

        I’ve been saying this previously, but would you abolish e-mail due to the existence of spam?
        Would you get answers anyway if the points system wasn’t there? It is still up to the questioner to decide if something is valuable or not.
        Anyway, that wasn’t the topic of this Grumpy though.

        Eddy

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        1. Michal Krawczyk
          Hi Eddy,

          >>>>Would you get answers anyway if the points system wasn’t there?

          you doubt???
          there would be much more quality answers
          then we have today just check microsoft forums again:) no points there …
          maybe you woldn’t get the answer as quiclky
          as on SDN but is the answer’s speed
          a good thing? I’d rather wait for a whole day
          for one perfect answer… and often we get
          10 in 5 minutes but none of them is good…

          >>>>Anyway, that wasn’t the topic of this Grumpy though.

          sorry for that  but I just couldn’t resist
          when you presented all those issues
          one by one…
          hope you don’t mind 🙂

          Regards,
          michal

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          1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
            Hi Michal,

            I don’t think that the quality of answers is directly related with the system but with the attitude of people. In the past, I’ve been submitting questions on Linux forums (without system) and I didn’t get any (proper) answer. The nerds or experts probably didn’t find my questions challenging enough to answer. It weren’t RTFM questions though.

            I remember from last years SDN Meets Labs that the SDN admins said they have seen a noticeable difference after the introduction of the system and they even use the speed of answers as an arguement pro SDN.
            People seem to expect it too. Despite the existence of rules of engagement, people still say that their question is URGENT.

            >hope you don’t mind 🙂
            No problem with that. I appreciate the comment.

            Eddy

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  2. Dirk Herzog
    I only see the rewording and fraud as problems. Even if somebody wrote:
    X.Y. answered this question here in this blog with link and all.
    there still were no chance to hand out points to X.Y. for this answer. So all the people who wade through SAP help and SDN to find out correct answers to collect some points are GOOD for SDN and for SAP, if they quote correctly or claim it their own. If I had to answer all those questions I already answered two years ago on myself, many people would still be waiting for their answers 😉
    Only the rewording of answers hurts sometimes but even I did it sometimes when there were correct answers but I feared that nobody would understand them.

    So be happy about the correct answers you give and get and ignore all those points hunters out there.

    But something just came to my mind. Wouldn’t it be great if there were an easy method to reply by pointing to another answer? The original author of the reply would then get half the points of the current replyer (is there such a word?). The boost of points would then help to find out quality posters.

    Best regards
       Dirk

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    1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
      Hi,

      In order to do this, one needs to actually point to the original content and that is (as I want to point out in this Grumpy) a lot of times not the case.

      Eddy

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      1. Michal Krawczyk
        Eddy,

        but the answer “why they do it”
        why they copy the original content
        and not use names of the original authors
        is frankly saying the point system:)

        they do it as they want to be the first who
        answer it – but can you see the CAUSE OF it ?
        or just the effect – plagiarism?

        Regards,
        michal

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        1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
          Michal,

          Should one punish honest people by scraping the system because of some villains?

          I rather like the idea by Rodney P. Riegle in http://www.coe.ilstu.edu/rpriegle/wwwdocs/plagiari.htm

          “Indeed, it is in society’s best interest to get good ideas into the public arena and so we will develop ways of rewarding scholars who have good ideas. But this reward will not include punitive educational policies or practices which are counter-productive in the Age of Information.”

          Eddy

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  3. Amol Joshi
    Eddy /Michal,

    Have you seen the points system on experts-exchange.com? You get some points when you register and when you ask a question and after getting an answer, you assign points which reduces your own balance. In case , people do not assign points because their own balance reduces, moderators, who are the experts on that subject they forcefully make the person who asked the question to accept the most suitable answer.A better version of this concept might really help SDN.

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  4. Stephen Johannes
    Eddie,

    Another great thing happening in the SDN forums, is the open pirating of SAP-copyrighted course material. I have seen several threads in the CRM forums where people are illegally distributing the course material for SAP training classes.  My only question is where is the “SAP moderator” for this forum?  I guess the culture of “stealing” applies to everything.

    Just my thoughts,

    Stephen

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    1. Marilyn Pratt
      First, a thanks to Eddy for the vibrant conversation that he skillfully evokes.  Eddy, you are my hero, grumpy or no.
      Secondly, being an ex-ABAP instructor, what you point out Stephen concerning the pirating of education curriculum really is upsetting.  In the past, I sent emails directly to education when I happened upon such ugliness.  Some bright person, was even spamming me with invitations to attend a pirated class online….I merely made sure that education and legal were apprised.
      If you are a good citizen you can report such abuse directly to SAP:
      Contact SAP

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  5. Valery Silaev
    …otherwise why no other topic raises so much discussion and feedback??? Take a look at recent blogs — what else can compete with this post and “wipro’s 100K” by Mark???

    Any system with points/results/metrics starts is like sport. And there is nothing wrong with sport(-like) competition.
    At least, till time of dope scandals caused by the will to be the first _at any price_.

    SDN points reward system is not different. Time for fair play.

    My opinion, is that plagiarism in blog posts kills blog right after the issue will be discovered _by readers_: everyone prefer brand new and original content rather then (stollen) second-hand.

    Issues with plagiarism in forum posts would be self-resolved, if SND-ers start to _search_ for information. Please, Mark & Co, include this at top of every forum’s main page: < span style=”font-size: 72pt; color: red; font-weight: bold”>SEARCH BEFORE ASK! 😉

    VS

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