Sunday, January 22, 2012

a pictureless post: on sharing and acknowledgement

An interesting thing happened recently: I checked my email one evening to find that someone had linked to a post about a satsuma candle...a "candle" which looked remarkably like the satsuma lamp I wrote about in December.

Now this has happened before: I'll post a project and then spot a similar one elsewhere. But I've thought of those more in the vein of, "Oh look, someone else had the same idea—what a funny coincidence." It's not like I've been posting the Theory of Relativity, after all.

This particular time was different. The satsuma lamp is an adaptation of a project that's been floating around the web for many years. I've seen it posted and reposted in various guises already, and I know exactly which modifications I added. So when I read phrases about, for example, scoring 1/3 of the way down the skin and drying it out overnight for a better burn, it didn't feel like much of a coincidence to me.

I will add that this blogger made a point of saying she had learned it from a friend at a dinner party; so some kind of argument could be made wherein the friend read my post, forgot where she read it but could still use her otherwise eidetic memory to give detailed instructions to the blogger dinner party guest, who transcribed her instructions verbatim. Whew.

I'll let you do your own math. In any case, it got me thinking.

This is the web, the worldwide web, and we all publish with the intention of sharing our ideas. We expect them to be passed around the way we ourselves pass around findings which inspire or amuse us. But knowing how quickly things can spread, it's important that we also share source and history. This is about connecting, not about competition.

Or is it?

With all this sharing, the web becomes bigger and noisier all the time. Perhaps when one's income is based on blogging, the desire for traffic and recognition trumps the ability to acknowledge that we are all part of the same world and all learn from each other. That's all I can come up with, anyway. Twitter friend Lori, whose homeschooling writings have been plagiarized on multiple occasions, put it more succinctly (we were on twitter, after all): laziness + entitlement. 

I will tell you, and not to my credit, that the satsuma post ate at me for a couple days before I was finally able to rethink it in a way that brought more joy than offense. I looked at my stats and learned that whereas for most of its life this blog has been a little side project of my twitter account, it somehow took a growth leap in December. I have followers and subscribers that I can't trace back to twitter anymore. Posts have been shared and pinned beyond my circle. I don't understand what tipped the balance, but I'm happy about that.

So along with my rant I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to all who are reading and appreciating and sharing—with or without attribution. I do truly love how the web has made our world both smaller and richer in this and so many other ways.

And I plan to take a simple precaution. I'm not at the point where I want to add watermarks or post warnings all over the blog (although I now have much greater sympathy for those who do), but I've decided to double post any new projects over on Instructables before I post them here. Instructables has a large readership and a supportive community, and S and I have used it in the past to publish our joint projects. I've also cross-posted from here to there, or vice versa, from time to time. I'll just make it a point to do so more consistently and hope it will be harder to pull a project from a big site like that without it being noticed.

In keeping with today's theme, I'd like to publicly thank the tweeps who responded, shared their own stories, and otherwise helped me to get to today's post. With gratitude to HSofia, Sam, Jen, Lori, & Cathy.


  1. Terrible about the plagiarism, rather freaky, too, but your post is, as always, gracious, optimistic, and far-thinking. Love you!

  2. love, you are a million times nicer, kinder, and more even-keeled than i. :)

    i'm sure many a plagiarizer has thought, "i *could* have heard about this elsewhere..." or "well, facts can't be copyrighted and the fact is, i wish i had written this first." ;^)

    just last week i was talking with an artist friend about someone who has ripped off her very unique work - completely ripped off her style, really horrible - and *that* person is being "pinned" and appreciated by people who don't realize she's cribbing off someone else's creativity. that's hard.

    i'm glad you are going to keep putting your work and creativity out into the world!


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