Content Sharing and Attribution Isn’t the Wild Wild West
Where we find ourselves now, an internet full of content, it is second nature to share what we find with others. That’s the point of putting content online. We want it to be shared. We want to connect. We want to spread messages and generate conversation. Especially relevant now (era COVID-19) when we are stuck at home with only the internet to connect us. However, when we are sharing content in posts etc., we need to ensure that we give credit to those who created the content or cite where we retrieved it from if there is not a paper trail included on a post.
I recently had a situation where I was reading over some LinkedIn posts and saw a mention of me in the comments. The original post was from a gentleman claiming to be an ally of women/Women in Agile, but the post had a quote that I recognized to be taken directly from some of my content. It was a quote I had gotten directly in an anonymous interview for my 2015 Increasing Women’s Involvement in the Agile Community graduate thesis.
Now, I don’t know whether this quote was taken directly from the thesis paper (doubtful as it’s a long paper) or from a presentation that I had shared somewhere and it had been re-shared etc. with or without attribution to the original source. Regardless, I was cordial about it once I recognized the content as my own.
I reached out the man first via the post comments. When I received no response I messaged and asked him 1) where he had found that quote (which to his credit, he did not say in the post was his own content) and 2) if he could please give me attribution for it. Our conversation went like this:
JAN 27 Natalie Warnert 8:26 AM Hey there – can you please out a citation on the quote in your post? It originally came from my work and if you found it somewhere else and they hadn’t cited it, I would like to know that as well.
FEB 6 Natalie Warnert 4:07 PM Hello <redacted>, Respectfully, this is my third request for you to add a citation to your post from last week where you used a quote that I have in numerous presentations and in my masters thesis that was taken directly from my primary research. To show you value women’s work and diversity, it is of the utmost importance we receive credit when others use our work. If you did not get this from some of my work I would like to know where you found the quote so I can understand where others are taking credit without giving it. Thank you for understanding and taking care of this. Regards, Natalie
FEB 7 <Redacted> 1:57 PM I see ideas from lots of people. I haven’t spent time tracking their lineage. If the trail includes attribution then so do I.
FEB 7 Natalie Warnert 1:58 PM I’m asking you to attribute it to me. It’s very clear it’s a quote that was copied and pasted and it is mine.
Not something I would expect from an ally. He has stopped responding and to my knowledge never did give me credit for the work that I put in. Now I totally get that people aren’t great at this and that maybe where he found the quote it was not attributed because of someone else’s oversight, but when I can prove it’s mine simple attribution should not be much of a problem. This does not only happen to women either, but in the context of someone claiming to value diversity and choosing the title of Women in Agile ally, this is such an easy step to take to truly show your commitment.
In the internet age, we tend to forget that we would have failed an assignment in school if we were caught plagiarizing and I’m not saying explicitly that is what this is (because he was not passing off the quote as his own). However, also in the internet age it is SO easy to link to something or share it (and that includes the trail of attribution)! So I ask you, please link to where you find things. RT and Share to your heart’s content but make sure those who crafted the content get the credit for their hard work.
It’s a truly personal thing when I look back at a quote that I recall sitting in the interview with the woman and not seeing that hard work (and wow was that thesis hard work) being recognized. As I write my book, How Nonprofits Can Learn From Thinking Like a Lean Startup, I hope to make the writing process open and collaborative. That also makes me concerned as I will be sharing drafts of my content and hoping that others do not take it as their own or share it without linking back to the source. Just something to think about when you are interneting. For more information see the Creative Commons License.
*Fun fact, in wordpress when you use the quote “block” it gives you a place to put a citation.
**Less fun fact, I’ve not always been great at attributing images on this blog. I am trying now to post the source but if you see an image and know its origin, please let me know and I will cite it ASAP. I want to make that right where I can. I don’t expect folks to be perfect, but just to be better and open to growth.