Aggregation or plagiarism? A case study

A few weeks ago, I began following @GabeElliott, a Yahoo! account executive whose stream linked to an insightful post about mobile marketing.

It was that snap decision you make based upon a cursory glance of a Twitter profile page. I quickly checked out his site, The Internet Vision, which had a good roundup of a variety of Web content on its home page. He’s an account executive with Yahoo!, one of the top Internet brands out there. And the headlines on the Twitter stream seemed provocative.

Follow.

Today, a link on the stream caught my attention: “Why I’m Craigslisting My iPads.” This meme has been popping up a lot lately, and as a prospective iPad buyer, I decided to check it out.

I read through the personal narrative, and after 257 words, I hit the “read more” link. It took me to TechCrunch’s article of the same name.

Here, I found the true byline. Upon closer examination, I noticed the TechCrunch link under The Internet Vision’s headline. Still, l felt duped.

So I checked out other posts on The Internet Vision site. Lo and behold, the majority of stories I clicked on had been reposted from other sites.

I’ve seen this type of content pilfering before with my own blog posts. Sites crawl the Internet for a topic and post a chunk of content with a link to the full post. They get the page view and click-through with minimal energy expended.

Some argue that this strategy is merely aggregation or curation; after all, it’s what Google News does. And The Internet Vision’s “About” page does disclose clearly that it has blended feeds into the site’s content. Perhaps it’s my own fault for not realizing the bargain I had struck in following him.

But I’d argue that Google News clearly marks its sources and blends multiple perspectives in an easy-to-use form. It uses short headlines and blurbs for the content. To me, using more than 30 words and posting a large photo without credit goes beyond curation.

At the least, it misleads. At its worst, it raises serious fair-use questions.

In any case, it left me feeling wronged by a social-media source.

Unfollow.

What do you think? Am I overreacting?

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4 thoughts on “Aggregation or plagiarism? A case study

  1. I say unfollow. Where this is most applicable to me is in my English classroom. Students have trouble understanding that borrowing materials from the Internet and claiming them as their own is wrong, and sites like you mentioned above, don’t help my cause is teaching giving credit where credit is due.

  2. I think it’s a matter of user expectation. When a web reader goes to Google News, he or she expects aggregation because it’s powered by a search engine. With a blog, however, the expectation is for original content from the blog author. Linking from blogs is essential — but that doesn’t mean ripping a portion of the article you’re pointing readers to. I’d rather see a post with some original reporting or commentary about the linked story.

    In short, I agree: Unfollow!

  3. Yeah, I’m with you on this.

    It’s one thing to link and blockquote from another source with attribution if it adds context or validation tp what you’re writing about. But to just lift… that’s plagiarism. If you really like someone else’s stuff, just tweet that link directly.

    • Belated thanks, everybody, for the affirmative comments. It’s good to know that an ethic of authenticity permeates the Web!

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