Lessons Learned

It’s Life List Friday and my guest today, David Walker, reminds us to be wary of our own actions.

As most of you know, a few days ago, the writing community was dealt quite a blow via deception and disrespect. It sent those hit hardest reeling from disappointment, hurt and betrayal. The vile actions of the perpetrator prompted us to pull back and assess what we can learn from the recent events.  The act was plagiarism. The lesson is to monitor your own work for the slightest absence of attribution to another writer for reposting their content.



I’m happy to have you here, David, to discuss this delicate matter.

Thank you, Marcia.

Those of you who read my blog this past Monday know that this has been a tough week for me emotionally. I don’t want to dredge up those gory details again, but I do want to thank my writer friends for the outpouring of love, concern and support they expressed in comments on the blog. I also want to see if we can all learn something from what happened.

This has made me much more careful with my own stuff. I had something really cute I’d received in an email that I thought about using for this very blog. There had been no attribution in the email, so my normal thought would be it’s okay to use it. Because of all that’s gone on this week, I decided to see if I could check a little further. I pasted the opening line into Google and discovered that the entire email was listed there and attributed to an author.

Had I not had all of this on my mind I might have gone ahead and used it, making me guilty of plagiarism myself.

Maybe you’re always extremely careful about things of this nature and don’t need any kind of warning. Maybe you get a little sloppy now and then like I do and need to be more cautious in using anything others send you. The subject of my Monday blog was much more serious and intentional than what I’m discussing here, but plagiarism is plagiarism. We must guard against even accidentally crossing that line.

How about you? When you find a cute or powerful saying you’d like to use, do you check to find out whether or not it’s attributable to a specific source, or do you decide, since it was short and was on the internet, it must be okay to use it?

Thank you for giving us all something to think about, David. Checking the source of our information and giving credit to those who deserve it is imperative. I think we’ll all be more diligent about attribution in the future.

David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather and a grounded pilot. He cofounded Warrior Writers Boot Camp with Kristen Lamb. You can read more of his posts at http://davwalk.wordpress.com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.

David WalkerHere’s a little more from David:

A graduate of Duke University, I spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of my career was spent in Texas, but for a few years I traveled many other states. I started writing about 20 years ago, and have six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since my retirement from insurance a few years ago, I have devoted my time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel myself.

You know I love hearing from you! We’re really interested in your thoughts.


28 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. Great advice and a lesson we all need to keep in the forethought of our minds. I can think of a situation recently where I stumbled into a blog, read a great post, but then got sidetracked and forgot to bookmark it. So of course, thinking about the post gave me an idea for my own post on the same tangent a few days later. By then, I couldn’t find the original blogger and post no matter how hard I tried. So even though the tangent I was thinking of going off on was my own, I never wrote the post. I didn’t want to do so if I couldn’t attribute the idea to the blogger who sparked it in me.

    • @Pam I think in that situation you’re okay, since there is no such thing as an original idea and you would have written it completely differently. But definitely if it makes you uncomfortable to do so, don’t go there.

      @Tameri Everything can be a lesson and we all make mistakes. It’s honest and smart person who learns from them.

  2. I think it’s great that you’ve found a way to turn a ghastly situation into something positive and learned from it. You’re right – we can all learn a little something from this and check our sources. Thanks for the reminder that we are all fallible.

  3. The plagerism incident was so devastating. I so didn’t want to believe a fellow writer/blogger would do that. I am so careful with any material I use that doesn’t belong to me. I only use images that are mine or that are CC lisenced. I always attribute and link back to the original picture. Same deal if I use a quote. If I’m inspired by a blog post, I like to link to that too. I think it’s always just better to err on the side of caution and courtesy.

    Thanks for reminding us.

    • You’re so right, Sonia, “err on the side of caution and courtesy.” Some people are just greedy and lazy enough to blatantly steal. Others innocently make the mistake of assuming something is there for the taking. Thanks for your input.

  4. Wow! I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with family matters and haven’t read all of the blogs I usually hit so have just learned about the Mims situation now. (Thanks Marcia!) I just went back now and read David’s post about it. Some months ago, during her blogging course, Kristen recommended Terrell to me for editing services. I was really quite surprised when my first interactions with him caused me to be very unimpressed, both with his use of language and generally unprofessional approach. I decided he was not someone I wanted to work with but wondered why Kristen was recommending him. Obviously he pulled the wool over a lot of eyes. I’m sorry for all of you at Warrior but am positive the excellent reputations the rest of you have established will see you through.

  5. As both a photographer and a writer, it worries me to hear so many people question the right to use images from Google images.
    Google images is only a search function, and implies nothing regarding ownership. It’s plagiarism to use images without attributing the source. It’s etiquette to link the image to the source. It is necessary to go to the page and learn the context of an image- many times you’ll find strict copyright conditions within the site.

    There are programs that crawl the web through the use of invisible watermarks embedded in images. Their purpose is to protect the IP of photographers, who also dedicate considerable skill, effort, training and development to their craft.

    Don’t get caught out. If in any doubt; attribute.

      • Thanks for this. I often used google images thinking they were free. When you google free images, the google images site comes up with others. But I ahve started attributing the site that posted them even if they are not the owners. It seems the only info available from the images on Google are the current site’s URL. I hope that’s enough.

  6. Smart advice David. The issue has been heavily on my mind as well. Sonia gave me the heads up that someone took an entire post I had written and published it on their blog with no credit to me. We only found out because they didn’t even unlink to her blog I had included. Now I’m under my own process of contacting admins. It’s scary and frustrating. I’m glad you’re reminding everyone to take their words and the words of others seriously. Thank you David.

  7. This whole Mims Scandal this week really makes me shake my head. I agree with Gary that this was about money, not writing.

    One of the thing that’s been on my mind, baffling me this week: Why DON’T people link back to the original post when it helps with their own marketing? Seriously. Imitation is one of the sincerest forms of flattery, as long as you credit it back.

    Why don’t poeple remember that nearly everyone who blogs sees traffic come in and clicks on the referrer link to see what’s going on over there at that fledgling site they’ve never heard of. Human nature makes the “big guy” come look at what you did with their words. And if they like it, that person higher on the food chain will RECOMMEND that others read your blog. Your post helps advertise for them and most people like to help back.

    But now I’m wondering about the pics I get from Google Images…hmmm….

  8. Hi David, I just read your post of October 17 to help me put what you were saying in context. I don’t know anything about the fellow at issue other than what you describe. My initial reaction is that he never really wanted to be a writer. My bet is that he just wanted to see how far his fraud could take him. If you have half a brain and want to be a writer, you know you just can’t start copying and pasting stuff, wholesale.

    It’s a sad story and it’s too bad you had to be one of the minor characters in it. Smart, thoughtful folks, won’t let the incident cast any aspersions on you.

  9. It’s a sad story, and I think one that we will hear more about in the future, unfortunately. I feel sorry for the perpetrator in this instance, as he must have felt intense personal pressure to be something he was not. Many people seek shortcuts to success, he’s not alone. Perhaps nobody likes to realize their writing is not up to scratch, and requires work – but that’s the beauty of being a part of a supportive community. I long for constructive criticism as it is essential to real and continued growth – which is what he essentially duped himself out of.
    Thank you for sharing your experience, and stay strong.

  10. I read a story about a company who was taking flower arrangement pictures from Etsy and attributing them as their own creations. Someone caught this and the Etsy owner confronted the company via Facebook they they not only didn’t respond, they blocked the Etsy owner. She said she would be fine with them using the picture as long as it was attributed to her, and she would have understood if it was a simple mistake. I think we we accidentally plagiarize most people will understand and simply ask that you give them their dues. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be careful.

  11. Hi all–I was not aware of this post either. Was it an article in The Times? If so, I’d love a link to it. I’m sorry to hear that it has been a hard week emotionally for you Marcia, and don’t know the details. But hang in there for us all and your sweet Self!

    Re: the plagiarism…what about putting a small copyright by anything you post that comes from elsewhere? Now that I’m putting stories from my book out there, I’m more and more aware of this. When we go to the trouble of publishing, we authors do deserve some measure of protection. But, of course, the Internet is the Wild West and we all post at our own peril/discretion.

    • Hi Susan, there’s a link in David’s first paragraph to his post. Thanks, for your concern, Susie, but it’s David who has had a tough week. I will go make it more clear where his guest post begins.
      For myself and with regard to my blog, I don’t mind anyone using my info as long as they credit me back for it. I sure don’t want them stealing from me! But you’re right, it’s the Wild West and things of that nature do and will continue to happen. This particular guy has ruined his career as a writer. Don’t know how he thought he would get away with it.

  12. I did not hear about this case so am clueless as to what happened. Whenever I find something I may want to reference I now check it in Google and give all the correct links to that person. Many times I will get in touch to ask if I can borrow something again giving them full credit. I sometimes find posts that have similar ideas but I never think they have taken it from me. But we must be careful to give folks their due since it is their work we are referencing.

    • Hi Donna, there’s a link in David’s first paragraph to his blog post. The person in question copied and pasted whole articles as his own and dragged other respected names down with him, David’s for one. There is a comment on David’s post at his site from Kristen Lamb, the other person who was dragged into the mess and it explains some of what happened.

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