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Opinion Editorials

Redbook rips off blogger’s idea, fans demand attribution

When traditional and digital media collide, their solutions look quite different, but are equally harsh, and when attribution is not given to either, both quarrel.

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Attribution: the growing divide between traditional and digital media

While internet quarrels are nothing new, nor are arguments over giving attribution, nor is the idea that there is no such thing as an original idea, there is a tiff going on right now that highlights the chasm between the digital world and traditional media.

According to the Consumerist, in 2011, blogger Jenn Yates posted a tutorial on how to turn wire hangers into flip flop shoe storage, and in a recent printing of Redbook, a hand drawn image appeared in the magazine of her idea, but did not feature any attribution or credit, despite the similarity being so close to the original image, that the same color flip flop and placement of the buckle is featured in the Redbook sketch (see comparisons in the image above).

The recipe for bloggers is to come to the other blogger’s defense, denouncing the traditional medium and calling for apologies or corrections. Sometimes the old school publications cave, other times they choose to take the hit, whether small or large. Parallel to that is the old school move of using lawyers to send cease and desist letters to bloggers with legal threats. Both are harsh, and both have proven to be equally effective and ineffective.

How did we get here, why does it matter?

So why does this particular quarrel matter? Why now? Because the web is changing, and copyright laws and ethics are being convoluted as more gray area is established with the increasing popularity of the visual web, as more web users flock to social networks and blogs that feature images rather than walls of words, not only as a novelty but as a time saver.

Yates’ idea has been shared across social networks, and the image has been used on Pinterest and other services, many times without attribution. It has entered the public consciousness, which points to the curse of the visual web – image piracy without consequence because the “problem” is so widespread that it truly is impossible to monitor 100% of all sites at all times, even with technologies allowing for image tracking and use.

Despite that curse, the visual web has given rise to many blessings, as information is disseminated, people are inspired and informed, and improved, both personally and professionally, and beyond that, sites like Pinterest are proven to drive substantial traffic to blogs.

But the twist with the visual web and how it ties into Yates’ flip flop storage idea, is that at what point does an idea become public domain? After it’s been featured 200 times on Pinterest? Or maybe 300 times? Or maybe after 12 months? There is no formula for it, that would be ridiculous, but anyone who has spent time on any visual site or even Facebook for that matter, has seen Yates’ brilliant idea without being aware that she was the originator.

And do people care when they see a neat idea online that it wasn’t attributed to the true, original source? No, they just want to bend up wires and make flip flop hangers. It’s not like the idea was patented, trademarked, or even sold, so the dilemma lies in attribution.

What can traditional media do to suck less?

The crux of why digital and traditional media are clashing on this particular issue is that the digital content creator may or may not make money from their original ideas, but traditional content creators make money whether their ideas are pirated or not, and traditional media have harsh lawyers and deep pockets, whereas bloggers usually only have each other.

So what can traditional media do? Obviously, traditional media must look at their attribution policies. Is it realistic to expect that a magazine like Redbook would look so deeply beyond the web of hundreds of links to the flip flop storage idea, many of which are not attributed themselves, to discover the original source? No, but they should, given their resources to do so. Should bloggers be expected to research deeply enough to know the original source? Sure, but their resources are limited, so it is reasonable to expect attribution to the last known source.

Turn on cable news on any given night, or local news, and I guarantee, you’ll see a video that is attributed to YouTube, as if YouTube shot a video of a tornado themselves, not an actual person. You’ll see images lifted from Twitter, simply attributed to Twitter, as if a Twitter robot went to the Rolling Stones concert and shot pictures and posted them online.

The takeaway

Traditional media refuses to acknowledge, or hell, even understand that the internet and social networks are made up of people, not faceless robots, and just as their lawyers expect and enforce attribution of their content, they must play nicely too. No more “video courtesy of YouTube,” rather print and television need to step up and say “video courtesy of YouTube.com/username,” because if you ever wrote a blog and said, “image courtesy of a tv news channel,” they could, and probably would sue.

While the debate continues as to what attribution of ideas should look like as copyright notions erode under the weight of the visual web, the first step is for traditional media to be fair, as they have always expected bloggers to do the same.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. AmyVernon

    December 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Yes! It bugs the heck out of me when images/videos are attributed to the site and not the person. At the very least, the medium should say, “from @AGBeat on Twitter” or whoever tweeted.

    I would argue that perhaps traditional media doesn’t have the same level of resources they once had and might not really have the resources to deeply research through hundreds of links to find the originator. That said, I often will go back a few links to see if I can easily find the originator, or at least who seems to be the originator.

    I say “seems to be,” because many times those ripoffs seem like they’re the originator and it can be hard to go past there. But at the very least, they can *try.* Which they aren’t yet doing.

  2. Bryan Chaney

    December 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    I just posted an image I found on flickr, for my job. Posted flicker credit and the username. Because it’s the right thing to do…and didn’t take away the like-ability of the post one bit.

  3. Chrissy Morin

    December 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I just found a whole tutorial for how to find the originator of an image on Google.. I’m certain with a huge staff they could have figured it out.. They probably didn’t think the owner of the idea would find it or figure it out! big #FAIL for Redbook!

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Opinion Editorials

Strong leaders can use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) In the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders fumbled through it, while others quietly safeguarded their company’s future.

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Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how strong leaders can see their teams, their companies, and their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always but is amplified when a crisis occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve their teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything was disrupted and people are adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when leaders game plan, strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

7 sure-fire ways to carve out alone time when you’re working from home

(EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need downtime, me-time, and self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health but also our productivity at work will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well-rested, and well-treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time while working from home.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keep us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

The one easy job interview question that often trips up applicants

(EDITORIAL) The easiest interview questions can be the hardest to answer, don’t let this one trip you up – come prepared!

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Women sitting nervously representing waiting for a remote job interview.

A job interview is tough, and preparing for them can seem impossible. There are some questions you can expect: what is your experience in this position? How would you handle this situation? And so on.

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But what about this question: what makes you happy? Though it may seem straightforward, getting to the right answer is not such an easy path.

Work engagement

According to research, less and less employees feel like they are truly engaged at work. Some blame the work environment but truth be told, it is not a company’s responsibility to make you happy.

Without a passion for what you are doing, you will never enjoy the job.

It is the best case for everyone. More engaged workers are more productive in addition to feeling like they serve a purpose.

Do your due diligence

So before finding yourself in an interview where you have to take an awkward pause before answering this question, the best thing is to do some research. It all starts with the job search.

When looking for a job it is easy to get caught up in high profile company names and perks.

For instance, although “Social Media Coordinator” may not be your thing, the position is open at the cool advertising agency downtown. Or perhaps the company offers flexible hours and free lunch Fridays. The problem is that these perks aren’t worth it in the long run. Working for a cool company can be exciting at first, but it is not sustainable without passion for the position.

It’s important to pay attention to is the position you are applying for.

Is this work that you are passionate about? Take a look at the job responsibilities and functions. Besides figuring out if those are things that you can do, ask yourself if they are things that you want to do. Is this an opportunity that will match your strengths and give you purpose?

Let your passion protrude

With all things considered, when asked “what makes you happy” at the next interview, you will be able to answer honestly. Your passion will be apparent without having to put on an act.

Even if they don’t ask that question, there is no downside to knowing what makes you happy.

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