Last week ended with a bit of a public brouhaha regarding a personal Facebook image post and an incredibly bold – defamatory? – blog post about said photo.
Like flies to sh...like moths to a flame, blog post after blog post began to pop up on both sides of the issue. I was mulching my yard all weekend so happily hid in the offline world as the storm swirled on in the digital space. I got the occasional, “Did you see??” text and the periodic, “You have to read this” message on my phone. I had a couple brief and private conversations on my thoughts (because you know I had to have thoughts), but really enjoyed focusing on removing weeds from my flower beds. They were those weeds with tiny thorns that pierce right through gardening gloves, so believe me, my hands were already full.
And then I read a post written by Jessica Gottlieb, which has since been removed from her site. Note: Every time I agree with Jessica, a unicorn dies, so I try really hard to not let that happen. But the title of the post struck a chord with me:
People Only Know What You Publish or Say
I tell my kids a variation of this every time they grumble through a homework assignment or class project. I am blessed with two intelligent and incredibly talented children who happen to have also inherited my I-only-want-to-do-this-if-I-want-to-do-it gene. This is the character trait that caused me to only attend college Calculus two out of three days a week and keeps the clean, folded laundry in the basket at the end of the bed. But as I tell my children, your teachers will only know your ability level based on what you show them, and homework is one way to do that.
Bloggers, like Jessica said to the person in that photo, they only know what we show.
Last month the blogging community raged over a WSJ.com article that took the words of a very intelligent, professional, and kind of amazing blogger out of context and used them to further what I believe was a mom blogger bashing agenda. This article was just the most recent in a long line of similar posts painting the image of bloggers at conferences as moms unleashed, running through swag suites like frothing animals, drinking themselves into oblivion then staying up all night to have pillow fights in their jammies, thrilled to be away from their controlling husbands and whining children.
The articles are utter nonsense. But members of our community were the original source of this insane flame that the mainstream media continues to fan.
I have been in these blogger bashing posts myself, including one after a Baltimore conference. The post referenced mom bloggers drinking mimosas out of children’s sippy cups while sitting in a conference session. Why did they write such a ridiculous, unprofessional thing? Because mom bloggers brought mimosas in sippy cups to the conference session like they were storing Zima in sports bottles in their lockers.
They only know what we show.
Two weekends ago I attended a conference where many of us – myself included – continued the ongoing conversation about the need for bloggers providing professional services to be contracted and paid for those services. Then last week a prominent blogger asked her community to work for weeks for a “chance” to be hired and paid. Brands watch us to know how to value our work based on how we value our work. Asking each other to work for free while we’re getting paid?
They only know what we show.
Last year I took on Viacom, a media giant, because they were scraping blogger content without permission as well as using plagiarized content on their site, NickMom. I wasn’t alone in my disgust and while the blogosphere took up pitchforks and torches and stormed their big brand doors, NickMom continued to excuse the behavior as acceptable in the online community. Bloggers shouted back, “No, content is our livlihood, words and images are how we create, share, pay our bills. You can’t use our work without permission AND attribution AND payment! NO! NO! NO!”
And then today I saw a post on Babble – another media giant – written by a member of that very same blogosphere, only there was one issue…
The post was plagiarized.
Thanks to Kelly Ripa reading the post on her daytime show, this piece from last October was suddenly being shared around the web, including on Facebook where the author and her co-writer shared this exchange:
Citing sources? Et tu, Brute?
The post, which lists and describes 9 things that women say to men, begins with this:
In case you didn’t see that in the screenshot, the words she typed were, “I’ve come up with…”
Only she didn’t. She got them from this video on YouTube.
Baffled, I reached out to my friends on Facebook to see if maybe I had finally lost my mind after speaking and thinking in 140 for five years. But nope, everyone saw what I saw – plagiarism on one of blogging’s top sites. The author responded to me and said that the first time she reposted this material without permission on her personal site, she did credit the original source. She regrets lying in the introduction paragraph on Babble. Babble, a highly respected site with talented writers, many of whom I call friends, responded on Twitter that they are taking this issue very seriously and looking into it.
Bloggers, they only know what we show.
Update 5/3/13 – The post referenced above has been removed, and Babble has issued this statement:
You spoke up, we heard. We sincerely apologize that the post in question failed to live up to our editorial standards, which includes a zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism. Thank you for bringing your concerns to us and for giving us the time to do our due diligence. Our relationship with the community is one we cherish and hold in high regard. We also value our editorial standards, which we take pride in executing consistently across our platforms, while still preserving, protecting and promoting the freedom that makes the medium of blogging so special. And we always want to be held accountable for this.
Our bloggers are well aware of our policies, which includes proper citation of sources and inspirations for content. But because bloggers are human, they make mistakes, and we continue to refine our procedures for addressing these quickly without impeding the creative energy of the community’s work. End of the day, we want your experience in our spaces to be good ones.
Thank you for helping us achieve that.
-Andrea Zimmerman, Senior Manager of Blogs & Social Media