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One Less Blog Post In The World
A Low-Stakes Controversy

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2021-01-14
We had a disappointing experience here on the blog a few weeks ago. After reading a particularly good article from a journalist with excellent cybersecurity tips based on her years in investigatory journalist, I wrote a complimentary (and complementary) blog post about it.

The cited article had 13 specific pieces of online advice for journalists. I listed each of those tips and then wrote my own original paragraph of more generic advice for the general public that correlated a bit to each one, and extended them for business and consumer use.

I posted it as a 2-parter. The original piece was cited and praised throughout my article and also via our social media. It all seemed innocuous enough.

The Reaction

Imagine my surprise a few days later to see Twitter notifications of the source article's author coming hard at me for supposedly passing her work of as my own, trying to get away with something, threatening legal action on behalf of her publisher.

What the H?!

I know journalism is an increasingly tough racket. And way too many people in social media try to make content out of simply reposting others' work - to which I agree that it's an awful practice. Retweeting with no new observations is a useless, and unfortunately commonplace, practice. But an even cursory read of my actual article showed that this was clearly not the case on our blog.

The only reproduced content were the 13 pithy tips in bold (again, clearly cited) and then the bulk of the article was all my own new observations.

My Re-Reaction

I replied on Twitter that I sympathize with her profession, that no content lifting was happening, nor that I had any intent to make it seem as if her tips were mine. Crickets.

So, what did we do? I took down the two-part post and it disappeared. No biggie.

Seriously, we don't have a huge readership on this blog. If a particular post gets 250 reads in its first week online, that's a big success for our posts. We run this blog to share helpful information to whoever sees it, hopefully establishing our software bona fides along the way, and also because I really do enjoy writing and like to keep those muscles alive.

Thus, in the scheme of things, taking the article down was hardly a tragedy or a tough decision.

The Effect

But what sticks in my craw right now and is my inspiration for writing THIS blog that you're currently reading, is that I was accused of something we clearly didn't do here. It was easier for the original author to make some quick Twitter allegation than to take 3 minutes to read the actual article.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so sensitive about it. After all, social media is not the place to expect everybody to be their best selves. And ironically, the source article was giving cybersecurity tips because of first-hand experience she'd had receiving lots of hate and threats online.

That said, it was just a little personally hurtful to me to have my intentions so misconstrued with what I thought was a fairly thoughtful article. Boo hoo for me, I literally didn't lose sleep over the issue. I just did want it understood that I really do appreciate what it takes to write well, and more specifically how much I salute the author's efforts in exposing lots of ugliness on the internet and in real life.

Anyway, the article is pulled, and everybody is fine. I just found it a little unsettling to be misconstrued or have things taken wildly out of context. What we've learned is probably that I don't have the stomach for a wider audience. And shouldn't look at Twitter replies in general.