I’m not referring to Blog Scrapers or Splogs which are those blatant copycat blogs that steal content from other sites. Those don’t normally last long thanks to the emergence of powerful search tools and trackbacks within blogs. The more disturbing trend is the way bloggers are copying one another and covering the same subject matter almost verbatim. Perhaps it’s because they’re using the same press releases or even worse, other blog posts about the same topic.
Look, I understand the nature of the beast when it comes to tech blogs because I’ve written a ton of posts for such entities like Mashable.com. I know that the same press releases are sent to several blogs at the same time which explains why the same service is covered by so many different blogs at the same time. However, the goal should always be to craft content that’s as original as possible. By and large, I think the more successful blogs do a great job covering things with their own voice.
So it’s not really the elite blogs that fall victim to this trap most of the time. It’s basically the small to medium sized blogs that either unintentionally replicate without permission (being ever so kind there, huh?) or intentionally copy someone else’s work. Either way, it means less original material out there in the cloud and more regurgitated content and in many cases stolen material. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation for all involved: The original blogger, the copycat blogger and most importantly of all, the reader.
ReTweet or Surrender!
This practice of passing off someone else’s words as your own doesn’t stop at blogs. The same insidious crime occurs in many other forums as well. For example, people perform micro-plagiarism all the time on micro-logging services such as Twitter, Identica, Utterli and Pownce (R.I.P). Just because the theft is accomplished in 140 characters or less does not excuse the behavior. No matter what the size, a crime is a crime.
Let me give you some examples. I’ve seen some people (some well known and admired) take tweets from others with much smaller followings and share the same exact content with their own much larger audience. It always baffles me as to why they don’t simply retweet that person and give them some credit. Sometimes a tweet a changed but the main point of the message is shared. In that case, the person that originally shared the tweet should receive a hat tip of some kind from the person sharing it with his network. Again, there’s no excuse for taking credit for it.
Obviously, most of the time the same thing will be shared online at the same time because people are reading the same news services and blogs. There’s no way to pinpoint who originally broke any kind of news or information. However, there are clear examples of those retweeting someone’s tweet without any credit. I see it happen a lot because I’m privy to many exclusive news items and I’ve seen that content shared without any hat tip to the one that originally shared.
The good news is that the new twitter search tool makes it easier than ever to find out who said what first on twitter. The same is happening with other platforms. This all means that these virtual vultures need to be careful about what they’re doing and who their ripping off.