Here comes everybody, copying

People are taking the old adage of faking it until you make it to its logical conclusion.

I often start writing with snatches of ideas from wherever I’ve found them, so I get it.

I scribble in my notes, kick off with bits of inspiration from whatever I’m reading. It’s a way to get the ideas flowing, to sidestep a dreaded blank page. As I work my way through and finesse the concepts, story, style into something that’s more my thing it usually takes its own shape.

But over the past year or so serious plagiarism has popped up again and again, and in unlikely quarters.

There have been countless other examples. Artists, authors, advertisers and virtually everyone else.

There have been plenty of big cases before now, the German science minister is even under pressure for plagiarism in a doctoral thesis over 30 years ago.

But with content farms and ‘curated’ blogs, under-resourced newsrooms and everyone being pushed to file more and more stories, it seems to be getting more prevalent.

There’s even a blog called Plagiarism Today tracking the issue. I love that Steve Buttry developed a quiz to make sure people in his newsroom get the attribution right.

Here’s one today. Dan Keogh picked up that Scientific American blogger Bec Crew‘s post had been plagiarised by a reporter from the Daily Mail.

Here’s Dan’s tweet:

He picked it up using a tool created to help Wikipedia pick up ‘duplicates’.

Ward Cunningham on making the wiki

He was stuck on a tricky software project. He had tried working alone, and with guys in his team, but nothing was working. So he came up with what he called the simplest online database that could possibly work.

This is when the internet was just becoming popular in 94-95, so let’s just make a site, and since, well I’m a lazy guy, I didn’t know how to organise it… I just said well let’s let the community organise it…it was a leap of faith, but people did a good job.

That’s from a short interview with Ward – here’s his first WikiWikiWeb.

15 years later, wikis are a household name, thanks to Wikipedia, but they started as an idea in Ward’s head.

He’s self deprecating as anything, but there was a particular mix of situations here. Ward was working on a very different project. The aim wasn’t creating a wiki. The wiki was an invention to help him with his main thing, using pattern languages in object-oriented programming.

It’s a classic necessity is the mother of invention story. But Ward had very strong programming skills, a good idea, and rather than battle through the more irritating job of arranging conference workshops or long distance calls, he put his idea for the wiki into practice.