Sunday, August 23, 2009

Use Social Media to Fight Plagarism and WIN!

Dark ComputerI wrote about plagiarism and how it is so common in the work place a couple of weeks ago. Sure enough there was another big story on the horizon. There's a very popular food blog in Delhi, Eat Out in Delhi that's run by Hemanshu Kumar. We've heard about it because we've read the reviews in Time Out Delhi. Being big foodies, we love reading, watching, and talking about food. I personally love the fact that the Delhi National Capital Region has more things available (which are even delivered to your doorstep).

The story of plagiarizing EOiD blog started with a classic Indian outsource scheme. SpiceJet outsources its content needs of their in flight magazine, Spice Route to Maxposure, which then outsourced it to Hirak Gautam, who is a freelance writer, who happens to be a 'chef' at a Delhi hotel (I'm assuming it has some stars). The supposed author, instead of doing his own homework searches reviews on Google (or directly went to EOiD site) and manufactured his own version of reviews, et voila, there's an article made! Easy right? After all, what are the chances of people reading 'print' on a flight reading 'online' articles or blog posts?

Last week, a regular reader of EOiD found the article on Spice Route. It was practically copy-pasted from the EOiD blog, without credit to Hemanshu or EOiD. The reader then took a picture and informed Hemanshu. He posted the story on EOiD and there was an immediate out cry in the Indian twitterverse. With comments going up on EOiD post about the case. Hirak Gautam, the so-called "author" was forced to set up his own Twitter account and reply for his mistake. The excuse? He was on a deadline. A representative from Maxposure also commented on the EOiD post saying, "strict action will be taken on this issue". The next day, Mail Today published a story on EOiD about the SpiceJet fiasco. According to the article, Hemanshu is demanding compensation and a published apology. You can read more about the story here.

We were all excited and spoke about the case extensively at the Gurgaon tweet up last night. We were more excited because we watched the story happen and tweet and spoke about it to our online friends, and twitter followings, in a sense we WERE part of the story and community.

The three lessons I take from this sorry mess:
1. Plagiarism gives freelancers a bad name. It gives India a bad name. It gives outsourcing a bad name. There's a lot of talented writers, chefs, and Indians out there and they all write their own original pieces. Not everyone is a horrible lazy writer (aka douchebag). If you are, you should change your profession -- I don't care if you're a kickass chef with connections. You should just remain a chef. (No offense to my kickass friend chefs who write their own pieces, you know who you are.)

2. Editors in India need to be proactive. Spice Route does have editors ya? What were they doing? Don't they check facts or check the copy? Stop being cozy in your 9 to 5 job and start checking the damn copy for real. You're as accountable as the guy who copied it. The article would've never gone to print if the so-called editors were doing their job. There IS a "job" attached to the title you know. (Frankly, I'm surprised that EOiD was as polite and peaceful as they've been in handling this. If it happened in my friend circle, the people/companies involved would've been flamed, torched, and burned left and right.)

3. Things can change, they have. And yes we can! As consumers of social media, it is our job to inform the community when we spot stuff. If the reader who was on the plane didn't inform EOiD, the story would've never gotten out. We can use the power of social media to improve our world.

Jeanne said last night that, "As consumers of social media, we shouldn't be tweeting for tweet sake but help bring about awareness and change." This is what open web should be doing.

We're still waiting on how this story is going to resolve itself. The ball is in Maxposure/SpiceJet's court now. Keep your eye on @eoid for updates.

Photo by: Rebecca Jackson

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