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……or “What Happens When Caught Plagiarizing”

   

There has been a spate of plagiarizing behavior going on behind the scenes and sometimes even visibly here, meaning we have seen a rise in folks submitting copied, unaccredited content, in articles and in blog entries.  These aren’t just isolated instances; we are seeing this happening repeatedly. To the embarrassment of the authors, some are caught and their content is pulled from the queue.  But some of those content thieves continue privately to protest their innocence, some brazenly continue in this ugly habit, others apologize but don’t remedy.

Public shaming is very unpleasant and while we try to avoid this happening by educating folks who don’t understand our zero tolerance plagiary policy, the problem continues.

While I’m sorry for the discomfort that public exposure of these infractions creates, the message obviously needs declaring, again, publicly and unconditionally.

 

To do so, I’ll quote my colleague Chris Whealywho articulated this simply and best.

 

“Plagiarism is not an acceptable practice.  The logic works like this: plagiarism is theft -> theft is socially unacceptable behavior -> socially unacceptable behavior lowers your social status”

 

  

Contributors found quoting or reusing content without proper acknowledgement and without adding additional value to the community trove of collective knowledge assets, will find their content pulled and they might even find themselves removed from participation.

Gali has done an excellent job of gathering leading practices around blog creation in Community Guidelines  found on every page’s left navigation. Those who persist in ignoring the engagement rules do so at their peril.

 

Thanks to those who care about the quality of the site and the behavior of it’s community members.

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22 Comments

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  1. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
    Marilyn:

    I’m sure that your blog is going to help people to get more aware of the contents of the blogs…Plagiarism can’t be permitted…

    I think that blogging is not a right…It’s a benefit that SCN gives to us…We must be thanked and follow the rules.

    Greetings,

    Blag.

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Sadly, I am just in the blog queue discovering more and more cases of this ugly behavior.  This time:      
      “Evaluation criteria for MDM solution” by Nisha Lalwani, Company: Satyam
      So Nisha is just in time to get sent a link to this and be removed as a blogger.
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    1. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
      Nice suggestion Vijay…But I think…Would people read it? We had Rules of Engagement in the forum, but still we have point hunters, code & paste, e-mails and stuff like that…

      Greetings,

      Blag.

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      1. Vijay Vijayasankar
        You have a point, Blag – may be it won’t work.

        I was just really disturbed at this whole episode, and I am sure several other are. It will completely reduce the value of SDN if more people take this route. I hope their employers will get notified by SDN admins of such unprofessional behavior.

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  2. Richard Hirsch
    The motivation behind plagiarism is linked to the desire for recognition – either in the form of SDN points or just PR for individuals or their corporations.

    If you want to hit these people where “they live”, then just reduce their points by “40” ( which I think is the minimum points awarded for a blog).

    Of course, in order to do this, you have to define “plagiarism”. Is it a paragraph copied from somewhere else? Or an entire blog? What about double posts in a “private” blog and on SDN?

    If you really what do make sure you have quality blogs with no plagiarism then set up points for whistleblowers who find plagiarism in blogs. This might have the added bonus that blog readership would increase tenfold.

    D.

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      First the easy answer about plagiary. You need look no further than the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Google it and  find the explicit guidelines about electronic citations.  Anyone doing a masters degree and thesis would be exposed to those rules.  They are pretty straightforward and anyone writing a school paper should be following them (although I know many of us, self included have lapses)

      Now for the second easy answer: No more minimum points for blogs. 

      Maybe that should be really broadcast again, if you haven’t received the memo, because I know that you listen quite well here to what is said. I believe Craig made it very clear and even blogged about it.  No value, no points.  Less governance from our team, more evaluation by moderators.  Everyone gets a chance to provide blog contents.  Most need to take a good, long, hard look at Community Guidelines on the left-hand navigation.

      Hard question: So are you volunteering to broker the whistleblowers?  I wouldn’t raise my hand for that one so fast.  Have you any idea of the volume of activity that might encourage?  Would it be helpful?  Perhaps some of the community wouldn’t find it appetizing to start giving out bonus points for such engagement in the negative activity associated with trawling for redundancy.  In any event, the emphasis must be on quality and not on points. 

      Lastly, and perhaps the most complex part of the issue to linking point generation to community engagement: The only justification to care about points from our perspective is to ensure that we produce, as a community, enough of those joint banners of contribution to provide a generous gift to the World Food Programme as a concerted community effort.  The rest of the points conversation is superfluous, to my thinking.  Anything that encourages point-mongering and false inflation of reputation is negative activity.

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      1. Richard Hirsch
        Now that moderators are more involved with blog evaluation, does this means that they have greater responsibility to research each blog before it is published to make sure it is not plagiarism. It would be great if the community itself assisted these individuals in assuring quality blogs. Instead of giving points for whistle-blowers (I agree with you that the use of points that promote “negative activity” wouldn’t really reflect well on the community.), what about a button in the blogs like that which exists in the forums “Click to report abuse…”.

        I agree with you that blogs should be about creating quality content rather than collecting points. The act of creation is what I enjoy. The presence of plagiarism shows that others are motivated by other factors. Despite the fact T-shirts are no longer awarded, the collection of points in SDN is still seen as linked to a user’s reputation.

        This emphasis is also present in the SDN UI itself. When I open the front page of SDN or BPX and look at the “Contributors Corner”, then I immediately see how my points I have.  What about changing this to the current amount that SAP is planning to gift to World Food Programme based on the number of points that the community as a whole has collected.

        D.

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        1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
          I like your suggestion to have some kind of update as to how we as a community are progressing in the World Food Programme initiative.  We can think low tech as well.  It might be something as simple as an announcement post that we update on a regular basis in the forum.  We have that capacity now.  It might as you mentioned be embedded into a tally that is done at the level of the navigation.  I’d like to go towards those things I personally can help implement immediately without much mediation and editing of the framework, so I like to see the forum general announcement post.  I’ll share that we dreamed of a widget but I would caution that polling the system for live point updates mightn’t be a great idea given the huge numbers of concurrent users we now support.  Keep the ideas coming.
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          1. Siddhesh Ghag
            I think one way could be to Rate user profiles as ..

            Trained, Experienced, Experts, Master, Guru, Savant etc..

            and hide the points, make it public that your rating depends on the content you post on weblog, the number of questions you answered(not simply posts) on Forum posts or similar parameters.

            Regards,
            Siddhesh

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  3. Michael Hill
    This is an excellent blog.  I am wondering if instead of just deleting the blogs and taking away points, maybe violators should be put in the spotlight with a hall of shame.  If you are caught plagiarizing content, in addition to removing your blog, your face would show up on SDN as a thief in a hall of shame…kind of a scarlet letter A approach.
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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      We’ve already had this discussion as regards point mongers and come to the conclusion that putting everyones’ heads on pikes is pretty gruesome.  The community has made examples of  some folks, some of that was done before they were vaporized, some to folks who stayed around and mended their ways.  I think the general direction has been to keep the atmosphere as positive and civil as possible.  I suddenly had images of “Lord of the Flies”, not just the Scarlet Letter.  Sometimes its a short distance from shaming to lynching.  I’d prefer to focus right now on the “ticker-tape” of how well we are doing in our goals of providing the fund with the necessary allocations.  Last week blogger James Governor shared with me that the program is in danger internationally and risks liquidation.  To me focusing on that seems more pressing than zapping some community-misconduct.
      Shame on the world when this could be the fate of our program, WFP plea for $500m to avoid food aid cut  I think each of us could help mobilize our own organizations to see that this doesn’t happen.
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      1. Michael Nicholls
        I suppose we could have a “Plagiarised content” blog topic area where anyone could post their(?) material. Posters would earn negative points for any postings, but at least they can put on their CV that they’ve blogged on SDN!
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  4. Dennis Howlett
    What follows is based on personal experience at another place where I have management responsibility.

    We all make mistakes and mistakes should always be forgiven. However, plagiarism is unforgivable for all the reputational reasons outlined earlier. What’s more, it serves to destroy the value of the good work that many others put into the community. In other words it is a cancer.

    It is important to remember that blogs are media and in responsible media, if you plagiarize, you get fired. It’s that simple.

    It is equally important to remember that any content on SCN will reflect both positively and negatively onto the sponsoring company. That’s not a matter of debate but a matter of fact, especially as the community carries the company’s logo.

    Plagiarism is very easy to spot so that’s not an issue. The issue is how it gets handled.

    My personal view is that those adjudged to be guilty are instantly banned, their content terminated and their employer (if any) notified.  That sounds horribly draconian but in a world where the only thing you have is your reputation, then it is the only choice.

    Make that clear in an appropriate manner and there can be no doubt as to what will happen.

    No-one wants to arbitrate over these kinds of decisions and to that extent safeguards should be included such as a peer review by those who are entrusted with managing the community to ensure there is no question of vindictiveness or singling out.

    Sad though this may seem, I am sure that setting a few examples will solve the problem. I hope it does not come to that.

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  5. Nathan Genez
    The main reason why I contribute to SDN/BPX is because it is a place of great content, particularly high quality content.  Like most SAP professionals I want to be associated with other high-achieving SAP experts and SDN is fast becoming the platform of choice to build that professional and knowledge-based network.  But it seems that the percentage of content that I would rate highly is fast diminishing…  it’s probably at about 10% with the other 90% polluting the system.

    I don’t have an answer or remedy…  most of what was posted earlier sounds fine to me so long as something is done.

    -nathan

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      90% pollution is unsustainable.  That means we will need lots of consensus and further help in managing, moderating, educating, deferring.  Daunting task as the size of the community grows, but it sounds like it is very worthwhile pursuing.  I wish us all success in this quality quest.
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  6. Dagfinn Parnas
    Given the size and rapid growth of SCN I think we have to go more and more away from a few select people administrating the system and move towards a self-managing system with varying degree of power user.

    For example the forums.
    I would like to get a prioritized list of threads based on the reputation of the person who asked it. Why? Because I find that generally they ask more interesting and well-defined questions (and I know they done some approaches at solving the problems themselves)
    I might also answer questions from people with no or bad reputation, but I want to focus on the people with a good reputation.

    How do you create reputation? One dimension in points, but the other is rating based feedback from blogs and other forum replies. The main problem here is avoiding people who know each other from increasing each others reputation.

    Blogs are harder to handle this way, but Digg.com approach could be viable for SCN since it promotes new content (traditional list could co-exist if wanted).

    Just my two cents (euro cents that is, dollar aint worth much)

    Regards
    Dagfinn

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    1. Marilyn Pratt Post author
      Well your talking to an ex-commune member, so I think I get it 🙂
      It would be interesting if a favorites list, like in the business card could be a potential filter.  I’m sure part of the problem is that every time you create an activity that does data mining or query you slow the system for the other 8,000 concurrent forum members.  I’ll have to ask my colleagues who understand the workings of this better, but in theory you might take recommendations from favorites or friends in order to screen noise….
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