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Opinion Editorials

Plagiarism is Theft

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I am amazed that I have to write this post but I do have to write it. Plagiarism is when you copy something someone else wrote and use it as your own content without the authors permission. Last night I had some fun with someone who was taking my content via feed and using it for a splog. He is no longer taking my content but continues to take content from all over the country and acts surprised and offended when the owners of the content ask him to stop. It is just an act, he knows that what he is doing.

When I discovered that his blog had several of my photos on it I uploaded some new pictures and gave them the same name as the files he was linking to. The pictures remain in place on my blog because I renamed those files and uploaded them again. The screen print below shows the graphic that was displayed on his splog in place of one of my photos. Easy to do and this one is rather mild compared to some of the others that I uploaded. A great way to have a good time and to make a thief’s blog look bad.

Even though my content is no longer being taken it has been taken before and will be taken again. I guess my anger at this thief is in part because of the photos. They are mine and I admit I almost feel violated when someone takes them.

The thief is still taking content and he will continue to do so and he is a Realtor. He says he is not doing anything wrong and that he is helping us by promoting our blogs.

Some of the people he is stealing from don’t even understand that they are being harmed. He sent me an email saying that he was surprised that I did not want my blog promoted and I could get an extra 20 visits a month through his splog. For one thing I am not going to notice 20 new visits a month, or even an hour for that matter. I never asked for his help and don’t need it and I don’t like seeing my content on a splog. The way he was displaying the content no one would need to visit my blog to read it because he had it all on his splog. The way the link to my blog was displayed most readers would not notice it and would assume the splogger was the author of the content.

People who have splogs and who steal content often use the excuse that they were just trying to help promote the blog that they were stealing from. It is like they all read the same book and say the same things. I think they go to school somewhere to learn how to steal content. Please do not fall for this line of crap. Your content does the most good on your own blog. Yes blogs can be syndicated. St. Paul Real Estate is picked up by some local blogs with my permission. They receive a mini feed via RSS and get an excerpt from my posts and have a link back to my blog. My photos are never included in these feeds.

The Realtor with the splog is using it for lead generation and for selling ads. The content he is stealing is being used for commercial purposes.

I spend a fair amount of time dealing with plagiarism. I start with a cease and desist letter and then I escalate until I get the job done. Sometimes I change a few graphics too. I don’t sit and wait to see what will happen, and I don’t tolerate plagiarism, and you shouldn’t either.

Here is a link to some information on how to stop plagiarism and what it is. Here is a link to some copyright myths. On the Internet content is king. Please do not allow others to steal your content.

*I know my blog isn’t the best in the US but figured I could get in a little advertising 

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Steven

    December 11, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    It saddens me to have to read this. I am pleased that you care enough to share this important information like this. Everyone should know their rights. Thanks for the great links.

    I love your new pictures. “best” is up for debate “Excellent” is for sure.

  2. Shailesh Ghimire

    December 11, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    Teresa,

    This is a huge problem these days. There are at least half a dozen blogs that steal my blog content on a regular basis. The first time I discovered it I was peeved. I wrote letters and contacted the host. But to no avail. They sent me huge documents I had to fill out to file a complaint under the DMCA ( Digital Millennium Copyright Act (of 1998).

    I knw Jay Thompson had success with one. Here is his post: https://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com/content-thieving-splog-is-offline/399

    However, the problem is so pervasive and widespread it’s hard for the little guy to fight this thing. I think Benn said it best in one of his posts. Allowing the blogger to reject a subscriber. Until then I don’t have the time to go after these guys.

  3. Todd Carpenter

    December 12, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Shailesh, when blog hosts send me DMCA paperwork, I simply respond that IF I have to fill out a bunch of legal forms, I will need to consult a lawyer, and at that point, I will consider filing a lawsuit against you.

    I always contact the web host. They are the ones who are actually breaking the law. They know they are liable. The sploggers know what they are doing. The web hosts know what a splog is. Threatening action against the host is usually all it takes.

  4. Denver Mortgage

    December 12, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Copyscape provides a free plagiarism checking service. You just type in your url.

    https://www.copyscape.com/

  5. Robert D. Ashby

    December 12, 2007 at 9:11 am

    I have not caught my blog being plagiarized yet, but my main web site has pages have been plagiarized as has my domain name. I am working with lawyers on some of the cases right now.

    I also agree with Todd in that you can notify the host and they will remove the site quickly as they know they can be held liable for maintaing the site.

  6. Teresa Boardman

    December 12, 2007 at 9:19 am

    I am getting pretty good at handling it. I have also gotten web sites shut down by contacting the hosting company. I had one web site thrown out of the technorati directory and another is no longer able to use a google ad sense account becasue of me. I am just so tired of this all and concerned that there are many in the real estate community that don’t understand how plagiarism hurts them or even what it is.

    It is hard for the little guy to fight becasue she is trying to run a business and does not have time to chase cyber thieves all day. 🙂 heck I’m only five feet tall and I just can’t do it all. 🙂

  7. John Harper

    December 12, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Love the way you fought back with the pictures. Google is the one that should have a streamlined program in place to weed out the bad guys.

    The could have a flagging system like Craiglist that triggers human review once a site is flagged so many times. If many of the violating sites are coming from the same ISP, Google could bas all content from those servers. Things would change in a hurry.

  8. Teresa Boardman

    December 12, 2007 at 9:43 am

    John – one this that would be very useful is an enhancement to feedburner. I can see who is taking my content by looking at “uncommon uses” if they made it so I could disconnect people it would be harder for them to grab my content via RSS as they so often do.

    As for how I handled it, I blew off a lot of anger on one person because he was so easy to find.

  9. Ryan Hukill

    December 12, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Teresa, as much as I HATE plagiarism, I LOVE what you did with the photos. That has to be the funniest thing I’ve read this week! Great job girl!

  10. Teresa Boardman

    December 12, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    thanks Ryan, I live to amuse. 🙂

  11. fak3r

    January 2, 2009 at 9:56 am

    This is fun stuff, I too have found this numerous times, more often than not my images are hot linked to MySpace pages. What I’ve done is played with some mod_rewrite rules so that the images display properly on my site, but if the requesting server isn’t my server it serves up a different image (still the same name though), so it’s the best of both worlds.

    Ideally I’d have this set site wide so *any* hot linkers would get some graphic with a link to my site, a tasteless picture, or some political commentary. A simple WordPress plugin that would do the rewriting on the fly according to the referrer would be great. I do like your example above though, help to educate others while promoting your original content. Well done!

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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