This is a true story.
Once upon a time there were two bloggers — Nilam and Sandy. Of course, these two were not the only bloggers in the world; just the protagonists of this story. Though Nilam and Sandy wrote about very different topics, they had the greatest regard for each others’ writing styles. They would visit and comment on each other’s blogs, and over time became good blog friends.
One day, Nilam asked Sandy to write a guest post. Sandy readily obliged and submitted a post to Nilam, who edited it before publishing it. The guest post was well received, which made both Nilam and Sandy very happy.
A year went by. It was a year which saw both blogs registering a substantial increase in appreciation from their readers. It was also a year where both Nilam and Sandy continued writing regularly as well as, reading and commenting on each others’ blog posts. Life went on.
Last month something happened to change all this.
One evening, as Nilam was working on a new post, the computer pinged the arrival of a new mail in the inbox. On checking, Nilam found that it was the notification of Sandy’s latest blog post. Happily abandoning the post being written in favour of reading the latest offering from Sandy, Nilam clicked on the link and settled down to read it.
Nilam read Sandy’s post. And then read it again. And after that, instead of commenting on the post, Nilam sent an email request to Sandy to which there was an immediate response. It was a response that hurt Nilam immensely. At this point, let us backtrack a bit to see why Nilam sent that email to Sandy in the first place.
Sandy’s latest post had sent Nilam into a state of confusion and some shock. It was because Sandy had posted the guest post written for Nilam in the first place with some modifications and without mentioning that an earlier version existed — there was no linkback or acknowledgement to the original guest post on Nilam’s blog. Thinking that Sandy might have inadvertently forgotten to provide the linkback or the acknowledgement, Nilam sent a mail with a request to provide that linkback. Sandy’s response was while the theme of both the posts was the same, they were different. It was to be inferred from the mail that no linkback or acknowledgement would be provided.
While Nilam was wondering as to what options were open for a dialogue with Sandy on this matter, something unexpected happened the next day: Sandy unfollowed / unfriended Nilam on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Already upset over what had happened, Nilam now felt sick and humiliated, and took the decision of deleting Sandy’s guest post from the blog.
After brooding for a couple of days, Nilam took the decision to share this incident informally with some fellow bloggers. The reactions, in my opinion, were an eye-opener and some of them are summarised below:
So what? It is Sandy’s post after all, even though it was originally written for Nilam. After all Sandy has the copyright.
The posts are same, same. But different.
Why is Nilam making such a fuss? It is not as if Sandy has plagiarised.
Linkbacks are not compulsory, it is entirely the blogger’s wish whether it should be given or not.
This is between friends. Why should we get involved?
Nilam should write a post immediately and expose Sandy.
OMG, one can never really trust anyone can we?
When I first got to know about this incident from Nilam, I was confused and puzzled, which then turned to concern and finally disgust as the whole incident unfolded bit by bit. Though I’m not entirely sure who I’m more disgusted with — Sandy for not acknowledging the existence of a previously written guest post or the response of some fellow bloggers. Suffice it to say that I would like to respond to some of the reactions from fellow bloggers.
To the blogger who said Sandy has the copyright and was therefore free to re-use it: You’re right. Sandy has the copyright as the writer/author of the guest post, and is technically free to use the post as it is or with modifications. But this comes with a caveat: acknowledging the original place of publication.
To the blogger who said Sandy has not plagiarised. You’re wrong. What Sandy has done would be treated as plagiarism in academic and research circles. This form of plagiarism is known as self-plagiarism, which happens when an author uses entire portions or part of a previously written work in a subsequent piece of writing without acknowledging the original place it was written/posted/published in.
To the blogger who said linkbacks are not compulsory: You’re right, they’re not compulsory. But if linkbacks to previous posts on one’s own blog can be provided, why can’t a linkback be given to your guest post in another blog? If not anything else, it is plain good manners.
To the blogger who said that one should not get involved as this is between friends: You’re wrong. Sure, whether Sandy and Nilam make up or not is between the two of them,. But the larger issue of ethics, self-palgiarism and of non-acknowledgement concerns all of us and most of us have either faced or known some cases. As we are all part of the blogging community, don’t you think we have to get involved?
To the blogger who advised Nilam to write a post to expose Sandy. You’re right. And I wish that Nilam had listened to you. And I also wish that Nilam had not deleted Sandy’s guest post. While I understand and appreciate that Nilam did not want to create any unnecessary controversy or unpleasantness, deleting a blog post and keeping quiet is not the solution. There are times when silence is golden, but this was not one of those times. Also, by deleting the guest post, Nilam has destroyed proof of the existence of Sandy’s guest post.
This whole incident has revealed the dark side of blogging — the lack of ethics and manners at its most basic, the fragility of blog friendships, egos and miscommunication, indecision and impulsiveness of bloggers, bloggers as fence-sitters, and what not. Seeing the way Nilam has not gone public about Sandy, I wonder how many such incidents happen and are never spoken about or shared with others. Are blogger vs. blogger incidents a common occurrence or a rarity?
I am deeply saddened and disturbed by this whole Blogger Nilam vs. Blogger Sandy, and more so because I know both Nilam and Sandy. In my opinion, this whole incident was completely avoidable as Nilam’s request for a linkback was fair and justified and I am unable to comprehend why Sandy refused to give it. I have given permission to a guest blogger on my blog to use the photographs in the guest post in a post on his blog. I didn’t even have to ask for a linkback, it was automatically given! I don’t think it needs to be pointed out that this is simple blogging etiquette.
What do you think about the whole thing, dear reader? Do your thoughts on this matter as I feel it is important for such discussions to come out in the open. Please do not just read this post and go away; join in the discussion…
1. All names have been changed to preserve anonymity. Thank you, AS, for suggesting the names Nilam and Sandy to my original unimaginative Blogger A and Blogger B.
2. For those interested in reading more about self-plagiarism, you could the White Paper on this topic.
3. Comment moderation has been deliberately turned on as I want to maintain the anonymity of Nilam and Sandy. For those of you who have guessed the identities of the bloggers in question, I request you to refrain from using their real names or giving links to their blogs while commenting. I will remove such references before publishing your comments.
Updated on November 10, 2012 at 2.00 pm:
4. The reactions of fellow bloggers quoted in this post have been written by me for this post based on the general feedback that Nilam received. This was done to base discussion the issues raised.
5. And to the those who have tweeted, mailed and texted me, no I am not Nilam. And I am also not Sandy.