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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

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / 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, and 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 down time, me-time, 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 body untenses, 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.

  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 keeps 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. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

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

Why robots freak us out, and what it means for the future of AI

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Robots and humans have a long way to go before the social divide disappears, but research is giving us insight on how to cross the uncanny valley.

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Close of R2D2 toy, an example of robots that we root for, but why?

We hate robots. Ok, wait, back up. We at least think they are more evil than good. Try it yourself – “are robots” in Google nets you evil before good. Megatron has higher SEO than Optimus Prime, and it’s not just because he’s so much cooler. It cuz he evil, cuz. It do be like that.

It’s not even a compliment to call someone robotic; society connotes this to emotionless preprogrammed shells of hideous nothing, empty clankbags that walk and talk and not much else. So, me at a party. Or if you’re a nerd, you’re a robot. (Me at a party once again.)

Let’s start by assuming robots as human-like bipedal machines that are designed with some amount of artificial intelligence, generally designed to fulfill a job to free up humanity from drudgery. All sounds good so far. So why do they creep us out?

There’s a litany of reasons why, best summed up with the concept of the uncanny valley, first coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori (Wow he’s still alive! The robots have not yet won) in 1970. Essentially, we know what a human is and how it looks and behaves against the greater backdrop of life and physics. When this is translated to a synthetic being, we are ok with making a robot look and act like us to a point, where we then notice all the irregularities and differences.

Most of these are minor – unnaturally smooth or rigid movements, light not scattering properly on a surface, eyes that don’t sync up quite right when they blink, and several other tiny details. Lots of theories take over at this point about why this creeps us out. But a blanket way to think about it is that our expectation doesn’t match what we are seeing; the reality we’re presented with is off just enough and this makes us uncomfortable .

Ever stream a show and the audio is a half second off? Makes you really annoyed. Magnify that feeling by a thousand and you’re smack in the middle of the uncanny valley. It’s that unnerving. One possible term for this is abjection, which is what happens the moment before we begin to fear something. Our minds – sensing incompatibility with robots – know this is something else, something other , and faced with no way to categorize this, we crash.

This is why they make good villains in movies – something we don’t understand and given free will and autonomy, potentially imbued with the bias of a creator or capable of forming terrifying conclusions all on its own (humans are a virus). But they also make good heroes, especially if they are cute or funny. Who doesn’t love C3PO? That surprise that they are good delights us. Build in enough appeal to a robot, and we root for them and feel empathy when they are faced with hardships. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Do robots have binary souls? Bits and zeros and ones?

Professor Jaime Banks (Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication) spends a lot of time thinking about how we perceive robots. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic that covers anthropomorphism, artificial intelligence, robot roles within society, trust, inherently measuring virtue versus evil, preconceived notions from entertainment, and numerous topics that cover human-robot interactions.

The world is approaching a future where robots may become commonplace; there are already robot bears in Japan working in the healthcare field. Dressing them up with cute faces and smiles may help, but one jerky movement later and we’ve dropped all suspension.

At some point, we have to make peace with the idea that they will be all over the place. Skynet, GLaDOS in Portal, the trope of your evil twin being a robot that your significant will have to shoot in the middle of your fight, that episode of Futurama where everything was a robot and they rose up against their human masters with wargod washing machines and killer greeting cards, the other Futurama episode where they go to a planet full of human hating murderous robots… We’ve all got some good reasons to fear robots and their coded minds.

But as technology advances, it makes sense to have robots take over menial tasks, perform duties for the needy and sick, and otherwise benefit humanity at large. And so the question we face is how to build that relationship now to help us in the future.

There’s a fine line between making them too humanlike versus too mechanical. Pixar solved the issue of unnerving humanoids in their movies by designing them stylistically – we know they are human and accept that the figure would look odd in real life. We can do the same with robots – enough familiarity to develop an appeal, but not enough to erase the divide between humanity and robot. It may just be a question of time and new generations growing up with robots becoming fixtures of everyday life. I’m down for cyborgs too.

Fearing them might not even be bad, as Banks points out: “…a certain amount of fear can be a useful thing. Fear can make us think critically and carefully and be thoughtful about our interactions, and that would likely help us productively engage a world where robots are key players.”

Also, check out Robot Carnival if you get the chance – specifically the Presence episode of the anthology.

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Opinion Editorials

4 simple tips to ease friction with your boss while working remotely

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Find it challenging to get along with your boss while working from home? Here are a few things you can try to ease the tension.

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Woman stressed over laptop in remote work.

Most people probably feel like their relationship with their boss is fine. If you’re encountering friction with your boss for any reason, though, remote work will often exacerbate it—this is one instance where distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Here are a few ways to remove some of that friction without adding to your boss’ overflowing plate.

According to CNN, determining the problem that exists between you and your boss should be your first step. There’s one caveat to consider, however: Your boss’ boundaries. Problem-solving on your own time is fine, but demanding more of your boss’ time—especially when you’re supposed to be working—may compound the issue.

An easy way around this is a low-impact communique—e.g., an email—sent at the beginning or end of the workday. Since that’s a more passive communication style that takes only a minute or two out of your day, it’s less likely to frustrate your boss further.

If ironing out the issue isn’t your prerogative for now, examining your boss’ parameters for success is another place to start. Does your boss prefer to receive multiple updates throughout the day, or do they want one summative report each morning? Do you respect your boss’ preferred communication styles? These are important questions to ask during remote work. If you find yourself reaching out more than necessary, for example, it may be time to cut back.

It can also be difficult to satiate your boss if you don’t know their expectations. If you’re able to speak to them about the expectations regarding a project or task, do it; clarifying the parameters around your work will always help both of you. It is worth noting that some supervisors may expect that you know your way around some types of responsibilities, though, so err on the side of complementing that knowledge rather than asking for comprehensive instructions.

Finally, keep in mind that some bosses simply don’t communicate the same way you do. I’ve personally been blessed with a bevy of nurturing, enthusiastic supervisors, but we’ve all had superiors who refuse to acknowledge our successes and instead focus on our failures. That can be a really tough mentality to work with during remote periods, but knowing that they have a specific communication style that hampers their sociability can help dampen the effects.

As always, communication is key—even if that means doing it a little bit less than you’d like.

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