Skip to Content
Author's profile photo John Appleby

The inevitable consequence of the democratization of content: plagiarism

I enjoyed reading the blog this morning by Jürgen L (wow, that was hard to make happen, you have to type @ jrgen.lins!) entitled A moderator explains: the plagiarism rule and what is still allowed.

Unfortunately, it is likely that Jürgen’s blog will be read by a lot of like-minded people: moderators, SAP Employees and long-term SCNers and not by anyone that could learn from it. It won’t reduce the amount of plagiarism, though public discussion is no bad thing.

When SAP created the new SCN, they decided to have content democratization, like Google and YouTube allow. That is to say, anyone can create content, and the top “liked” content should float to the top and become visible. What’s very clear to me from Jürgen’s blog is that this doesn’t work. I thought I’d lay out my thoughts on why this is.

Volume of content and likes

In Google and YouTube, there is a huge volume of content, most of which doesn’t get read or seen much. This works great if you have enough people “liking” or paying for promoted content that you can surface the good stuff. It also relies on there being a sufficient quantity of good content.

This doesn’t work on SCN, because the relatively small amount of plagiarism and bad content rises to the top, because those people can create ghost accounts easily, and a few likes is enough to rise content to the top. Take Jürgen’s blog for example – this is the “top” liked blog on SCN today. Above all the other content that’s on the site? Not that the blog is bad… but…

Acceptability and semantics of bad content

With Google and YouTube, we accept a very large quantity of bad, inappropriate and boring content. More interestingly, I might love “Will It Blend“, and you might think that it is a mindless waste of time and natural resources. There is no common semantic of good or bad content and Google and YouTube rely on complex algorithms to bring me the content that I want to see.

In SCN, there is a common meaning of good and bad content. We might have different areas of interest, but we know what’s a good blog or document or an appropriate question. Worse, SCN has no complex algorithm to vet content and surface good content – just a simple “like” button, and a set of moderators behind the scenes.

Moderators vs employees

Here is the next problem: Google and YouTube employ a large volume of moderators and have a set of complex algorithms that make it easier to moderate.

In SCN, there are a very small number of employees dedicated to this despite a large amount of content, and much of the moderation is done by a small number of dedicated people who do it for free. Most of them work for customers or partners. They are the gold of the community.

Does the democratization of content work on SCN?

In my opinion, the answer is: no. The solution to the plagiarism problem is not to allow everyone to post. Someone pointed out the other day – I think it was Laure Cetin – that almost all plagiarism comes from people who have not got the Rules of Engagement badge on SCN. So simple first step: only allow people with this badge to post. SCN could introduce a small number of barriers to posting documents and blogs. Or indeed just go back to the old system where new bloggers had to have their content moderated until they had proven themselves. This is the system that uses today.

But SAP should be careful about demotivating moderators and influencers: they create the vast majority of good content – and content is king. If the good writers go and the moderators go, then all that will be left is rubbish. Better, I’d say, to have less, good quality content.

Assigned Tags

      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas

      You have described the situation correctly and you are right, the good content doesn't really "rise to the top" here on SCN.  Instead, too many people are motivated by points.  I still remember what Kevin Benedict  once said about being "Top Contributor" on SCN - it doesn't even get you a free drink at the bar 🙂

      What if the moderators (who do this for free - we are unpaid volunteers) stopped moderating, like hold a strike, to improve the conditions on SCN? 

      I would not consider this; I still remember a speech years ago that Bill McDermott gave where he made the statement "No excuses".  The "no excuses" mantra really resonates with my moderating on SCN.  I am not giving excuses, just simply saying what the situation is.

      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for the reply Tammy.

      I tried to be careful with my words and I want to be clear - I'm not trying to encourage a strike 🙂 I believe actually that most of the moderators have the same attitude that you have. I do however believe that resigning yourself to a fate is also not necessary. Change is possible!

      I also believe that SAP needs to be mindful that just because the moderators are loyal, it doesn't mean that they should be ignored. That is a very dangerous game and whilst there are people like Julius von dem Bussche who will, for example, never agree with the points system, and SAP shouldn't always listen to everything the influencers say, the moderators are the lifeline of SCN and without them, there would be no community.

      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby
      Blog Post Author

      By the way I don't think there's a problem with people being motivated by points - it's just that bad behavior is rewarded with... points.

      Author's profile photo Richard Hirsch
      Richard Hirsch

      I like the idea of requiring people to read the Rules of Engagement before contributing.  If people are then caught plagiarizing then you tell them to reread the rules and warn them of the consequences of such actions. The second time such individuals are caught then you block the points for the plagiarized content. The next infringement means that those individuals lose the same amount of points as the content would have received.

      For such draconian measures to work, the rules for plagiarism must be very well written in order to avoid any arguments.

      Tools to automatically find such plagiarized texts would also be helpful. Such tools already exist because they are used to assure that the PhD and Masters' papers are original rather than copies of existing content on the Internet.

      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby
      Blog Post Author

      Agreed. I think most people have good intentions and struggle to start, so they borrow content.

      Author's profile photo Reagan Benjamin
      Reagan Benjamin

      I just pressed the "Report Abuse" link (not for this article) for an article which was just copied from

      I will wait and see how the moderator will act to that.

      Maybe there is a need to put a note stating what content can be copied from other sources if copying from an external source is permitted in small scale.

      There is a thread opened by Gareth Ryan discussing this issue.



      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby
      Blog Post Author

      I would agree that the Rules of Engagement do a bad job of describing acceptable use of copyright content: The SCN Rules of Engagement | SCN

      Author's profile photo Fred Verheul
      Fred Verheul

      Hi John,

      I think it's a nice idea to require people to 'read' (in quotes, because opening the document is enough) the Rules of Engagement before allowing them to post content.

      But that's only half the story. The other half, which you already mention but which deserves more attention IMO, is to give the #SCN team and the moderators more and better tools to do their job (well, not sure if it's a job to a moderator 🙂 ), just like what happens on Google and Youtube already. I might be wrong but I'm under the impression that these 'complex' algorithms are not available to the SCN team today. Seems to me that a so called data scientist should be able to make a difference here...

      Cheers, Fred

      Author's profile photo Luke Marson
      Luke Marson

      Top stuff John and a very important topic. Luckily the HCM space that I moderate and contribute to hasn't been flooded with plagiarism or poor content (although since I contribute a lot of the content I could be wrong on that comment 😉 ). However, there are many spaces where this is becoming a big problem that is exacerbated by the gamification platform.

      Ironically the people who are at the top of the points food-chain care less about points than at the bottom. Most of the highest points holders are there because they like to contribute and not because they want points. To become a top contributor you need to contribute quality content over time, so it is surprising that people think that they can get kudos or become some form of influencer by plagiarizing content over a, say, 3 year period.

      Keep up the great work.

      Author's profile photo Upendra Krishna
      Upendra Krishna

      Hi John,

      Great words, but there still are people after going through ROE are ignorant/stupid enough to copy paste the f1 help into the threads without any prior overview/ their own comments. I have reported a couple to the moderator.

      The job of a moderator would be more challenging to keep track of plagiarism as there will be need of measuring through each thread, so like Fred mentioned SCN could provide luxury in form of tools which would figure the odd one out for plagiarism and also multiple  identities created by one individual to gain numbers in a way to like/mark correct to his own question.



      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Upendra,

      I don't think there is a right or a wrong here. We need a mix of policy and technology changes combined with the existing fight from so many moderators. :/)


      Author's profile photo Upendra Krishna
      Upendra Krishna

      Well said, yes technology and policy changes are imminently needed.  If the SCN Geek scientists are going through this blog, hope they will enact accordingly.

      Author's profile photo Anshu Lilhori
      Anshu Lilhori

      Hi John,

      You have got knack for writing.Very well written with the proper choice of words.Easy to decipher as well.

      I strongly feel pre moderation of blogs and documents should be in place again as it was their earlier so that the best of the best content should start floating in SCN.

      Sometimes i have witnessed that the top quality content receive less likes and ratings as compared to the content which is not up to the mark.

      Even the moderation style varies from space to space in some spaces posting of only links or multiple links is big no,whereas in other spaces it is accepted and your report abuse gets rejected without any reason.

      Quality should be of more importance than Quantity.Today we have n number of contents available but somewhere down the line we have compromised with the quality of content.

      Its high time for all of us that we take some stringent measures to maintain the quality of content.



      Author's profile photo Benedict Venmani Felix
      Benedict Venmani Felix

      One big problem I see is the huge of content that needs moderation with less number of moderators. Why can't a new team of 'pre-moderators' be formed consisting of people who have got 'thought-leader' badges or topic leaders? Additionally set a threshold for each member for infractions. 'Two instances of plagiarism' and be guestified.... '5 abuse reports raised against your content' etc

      We can keep discussing or writing about upholding the sanctity of SCN but the people who do not care would'nt care to read or act upon it.



      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes

      I think the real root causes start with how SCN structures content and the fact there are people everywhere who personally choose to ignore the concept of not copying someone elses work as your own.

      The first problem to solve is we don't need 100+ blog areas to police given the number of resources.  There is no reason given the volume of blogs on SCN on a daily basis to break them up into 100+ different spaces reviewed by 100+ different people.  A very simple first step would be to create one master area for blogs and turn off blogging in all other spaces in SCN.  You still then can have the blog appear in the topic area that is assigned.  The next step is to have all posts in that space subject to moderator approval.  This could be done as the coffee corner was an example of turning off blogs and documents.

      In terms of the repeat offenders, once you establish that people are watching what is posted and content is vetted then people will just have to resort to copy/pasting back in discussions. At least there you have in 50% of the areas or more people who can look at this and since they don't worry about blogs then they can have a little more time for one of the areas. People will still attempt to copy/paste, but now at least there is a dedicated bouncer(thinking of the movie Road House) that tells them to leave and to tell their friends that the behavior is no longer tolerated here.

      The drawback is that blog postings don't get instant gratification, but perhaps switching to a benevolent authoritarian model is what we need 🙂 .

      Take care,


      Author's profile photo Jürgen Lins
      Jürgen Lins

      Better tools for moderators are not always a solution, maybe it could give me some relief but I actually doubt. A new ticket tool for the help desk will not stop the lousy tickets, you maybe able to classify them better than before, and do an analysis the year after, which finally may lead to a decision to train the user better, but short term there will nothing change, and with the fluctuation the trained user will be replaced with new untrained users over time. If less active moderators could become more active with a new tool....?

      We have today already a kind of warning when you create content in the Support Space, nevertheless several times a day discussions are posted there instead of the specific spaces. Maybe each word should be clicked to make sure that the message gets read.

      Yes it would be nice if reading the RoE could be a mandatory mission before posting of documents and blogs gets enabled. Still I have my doubts if it gets read. I just have to look at myself when buying something in the Internet, you always get the terms which have to be accepted. Honestly who is reading that word for word if you buy a screen protection for your mobile device for just 3 €. The only thing from a moderation point of view is that you can say: hey you have read the rules.

      There is not a single misbehavior, we have all kind of variations. E.g people who do not know how to post a question and use blogs instead. They did not copy help files, and they are not doing it for points and the rules had not helped here either. Then of course those who copy other peoples content (not just Some do it just once and they even beg pardon when they are caught. But some do not even stop after several warnings and rejection of content by different moderators. This is most mysterious as you do not even identify the purpose of this doing. Some fellow SCNer suspect already juvenile offenders, which finally turns out in S-user holders. The realization that the rules are enforced comes often after disabling the ID.

      When the content gets removed, then the points get removed too. With copyright conflicts it is a bit more complex as you cannot delete the content otherwise you lose the evidence, hence it gets hidden for the public and the points have to removed in an extra step. Similar it is with with points earned from fake users or cheating rings, it may take some time until the get removed but they get. We had recently a case where the points dropped  from above 10000 to zero.

      Arguments are always present, no matter if well written rejected. However, I rarely had discussions about the rejected content. Even the point cheaters that are caught early say often sorry and they do not intend to do again. Which is quite different if they get caught late.

      I already said in my blog that highlighting a part of a sentence and doing a Google search gives usually a quick result. Unfortunately I don't have an account at certain pay sites, otherwise some more content would have to go. I often get identical hits in Google when copied from a book, but  then I cant read the page where the exact content is. This would not be much better with another tool.

      It is not really a time problem for a single problematic post. The time issues comes with the mass of posts, there is not just plagiarism, even it is a pain. Still the biggest pain for me are the frequently asked and basic questions, not to forget all the cross postings and the reposting of questions after a rejection.

      I guess anyone of you can say that the time from Christmas to New Year is a silent time. Nevertheless I had more than 20 rejections today. And if I am off for a few minutes then the next basic question is posted and has already about 10 replies.

      What to do? Explain to the top contributors not to answers those questions and click abuse instead?  I tried it.... If it could help to make them pre-moderators? I dont think so. Especially as I know the recent history of some top-contributors.

      Anybody is a pre-moderator, the abuse button is just a click away. Still the potential points one could make if the moderator does not reject this question is more attracting than clicking abuse.

      Explain the rule breakers what they did wrong? I usually do it, I even use templates when possible. I get a feedback in about 10% of all direct messages.

      I cannot believe that we would get less plagiarism if we had fewer spaces where blogs/documents are allowed. We see already the blogs and documents across all spaces and Tammy and I are checking much more blogs and documents than only those that belong to our moderation area. I have the impression that the spaces with just a few moderators are doing actually better than the spaces that have more than 10 moderators listed.

      But I am open for any new idea, keep posting suggestions. I am sure they will be read and thought about.

      Author's profile photo Luís Pérez Grau
      Luís Pérez Grau

      with all your permission I would comment on the points part:

      IMHO strong commitment of the comunity is what we need, the same post again and again and again( I don't know how many times I see the typical "Hi I'm new into ***** where I can find good manuals?" , and yes, the points are there, so easy, so juicy, so yummy, everybody wants points for: a nice polo, feed their ego, get better jobs or more salary( more points, more knowledge/better professional) etc. Oh wait, I forgot, helping others. I won't say in which group I belong, but all I can say is my closet is full enough.

      The funny thing is, at some point and by surprise you get dragged to all this stuff, you want them, you wish them, you need them as the air you breath, points and points and points( hmmmm cookies....), it can become quite an obsession and you end up working for points, "hey I give you points if you do my job" .

      But guess what? you can get detox! I did it! or at least I think I did! I took some weeks and lots of sweaty towels.

      I really believe more than the 50% (at least in my area) of posts are already answered, 70% of post can lead you the answer, and the scn ends up being a mess, the post is repeated with different "correct" answers and you end up researching by yourself because you don't know who you can "trust".

      What actions I will do from now on:

      - Report Abuse for repeated topics

      - Stop answering for points.

      - Like answers of posts, blogs or documents which help me,  for points? nope, just to say "hey this stuff worked for me as well!"

      - Keep writing blogs, for points? nope, for fun.

      4 simple rules, which I believe can lead to improve this forum, In conclusion with more commitment of the community we can filter those repeated post, will be less points for everyone? yes, but anyway, even being top contributor won't get me free drinks on the bar so...



      Author's profile photo Michael Appleby
      Michael Appleby

      I think that if you review a list of moderators with 10 people, only 2-3 are active and the rest are drones.

      It is doubtful that a long list of moderators provides anything other than a false sense of security.

      BTW, absolutely love the idea of limiting blogs and documents to those who have the RoE badge.

      Regards, Mike

      SAP Rapid Innovation Group - RIG

      Author's profile photo Christopher Solomon
      Christopher Solomon

      It's a fine line isn't it? ....this isn't just a SCN problem. It's a problem with many/most of the "community" sites around the interwebz. How do you keep a community "active" without limiting, but correctly policing, content which in turn drives "views"/clicks that then grow the community? Catch-22 anyone?

      Like I said, most all "community" sites face this. If you do put in place any kind of vetting, "hoops" to jump through, gating, etc. then you run the risk of coming off elitist or people just "don't want to bother" to go through the effort (especially in this ADHD/"give it to me now" world we live in). On the other hand, if you leave the doors wide open, you run into the very familiar situation of plagiarism, repetitive content, "view count whores" (thanks to DH for hipping me to that term! haha), etc. that really make the "good stuff" almost impossible to find. In BOTH cases, letting either continue seems to have the same end....a community that dies a slow death... often while applying "Band-Aid" fixes up until the bitter end to try to fight it (and by the way, for every "fix", there will ALWAYS be those that find a way around it and still game the system). There just doesn't seem to be that good middle ground or "fix"...EXCEPT when a community themselves takes it upon themselves to correct the problem. Leaving it to a few moderators is NOT the same thing. The community has to CARE in order to ALL be a part of the solution.

      Author's profile photo Florian Henninger
      Florian Henninger

      There is everything said, what was in my mind. I just want to append this one point:

      Everybody should watch their own posts and close discussions, if there are the correct answer given or even figured it out by him/her -self. If the second options is true, then please, share the solution (and where the solution is from), because you also shared the question. This is just fair towards the community.

      i think, just using this pattern would improve the quality massively.

      And yes, I totally with all of you, who are annoyed about this doublepostings. I mean, if the solution is delivered in a post, why post it again. Just like the post, which is correct, that shows people, that there is a post in, which quality hits the right direction or better delivers the solution.




      I also like to collect points, but that is just a nice side effect by acting in SCN.

      Author's profile photo Steffi Warnecke
      Steffi Warnecke

      The community has to CARE in order to ALL be a part of the solution.

      Absolutly. But I think, a big part of the problem is, that the whole of the community has to UNDERSTAND that there is a problem. Just looking at the results of the RoE-poll (and the comments underneath) shows, that not everybody sees, reads and understands the rules the same way.

      And then of course are those, who don't care, what the rules say and see them more like "guidelines" and nothing strict like laws for this site.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Helpful is to provide a platform which lets the site content mature. Contributors who are professional (regardless whether they are old hats or newbies) will be attracted to it.

      Less helpful are childish things like points systems which encourage noisy content and plagarism is just one of the symptoms of such failure. The professional people bugger off sooner or later.

      We dont all have to be a bit happy solution, but it must be professional and interesting, such as a blog comment which starts with "Sorry to disagree with you, but..." or "Actually it is even better than that...".

      SCN has failed in this by hanging on to the silly points system.