The big news right now in social media-land is that a Buzzfeed editor is a plagairist. Here’s coverage on that from TPM:
In one particularly damning example, Johnson allegedly copied a 2009 post on Yahoo! answers.
“Throughout the London Blitz, over a million incendiaries and around 50,000 high explosive bombs were dropped on London,” wrote Yahoo! user Jason B.
Johnson appears to have used identical language. Buzzfeed scrambled to alter that passage in the 2013 post after he was exposed by the Twitter duo.
When they say he used identical language, they are not talking about a larger passage, by the way. They are talking about that sentence.
After being called out on it, Buzzfeed rewrote the sentence:
London withstood a prolonged assault by the Nazis during the Blitz, with various estimates of the explosives dropped on the city ranging in the tens of thousands.
This is apparently success — to avoid plagairism Buzzfeed has replaced a set of useful and specific estimates with some vague hand-waving.
Look, I know how hard it can be to write a sentence, and how much research and thought can lie behind a single clause. But we need to get over this.
Here it’s a Buzzfeed writer. But every day in my own job I type original paragraphs that someone somewhere has written better, and every day in your job you do the same. How much time do we spend trying to find alternate ways to string together two numbers and a conjunction? We do this wheel-reinventing instead of doing work that extends the work of others and solves new problems.
Giving no credit was a dick move on Johnson’s part, absolutely. But writing facts out of the sentence to avoid plagairism is ridiculous. It’s time to create technology that lets credited reuse happen without showing visible stitches to the reader. Paragraph level tracking doesn’t exist yet in SFW, but it could. The Comprehensive Attribution Statement, if outfitted with an attribution primitve for de minimus use could be another way to go about this. I’m sure you can think of more approaches.
But this is a stupid game we’re playing, and it has to stop. It’s time we evolved. If you are reading this on Chrome or Mozilla you are benefitting from thousands of lines of code written by uncredited programmers, many of whom never made a dime. The system works because in the small community of *producers* they can point to their work’s reuse as an indication of their talent or commitment. In this sort of world, it’s hard to understand why mundane sentences about bomb statistics would merit special treatment.