Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Plagiarism Hurts?

I recently attended a so called "online programming contest" of one of the premier institutions in the state (not mentioning the name to not stir any arguments over it - I tweeted it here and here though). I have been attending this contest since the past 3 years and was highly disappointed about this year's event.

The reason is, as the title suggests, it was nothing but a blatant ramp of plagiarism. There were totally 8 questions to be solved out of which 4 questions were mere "copy-paste" jobs from spoj. Such events need not be perfect, but when you conduct an event of such stature you are atleast expected to make sure that google doesn’t give an exact match for the questions you give. As i mentioned in the tweet, the other 4 questions were very poorly worded and more or less dumb. Anyways, i am not going to ramble about the contest in this post. But it got me thinking, plagiarism can really hurt. It can hurt both the ends of users badly.

First things first, what is plagiarism? Sounding like a fancy GRE word, it has a simple meaning: Copying someone else’s content without their consent. I know spoj doesn’t mind if their questions are being copied, but it should either be altered so that it doesn’t look like the original question or (even and) spoj should have been properly cited.

When someone writes something on the internet these days, it has become like they have lost complete ownership over it. Plagiarism is a very big problem these days. It exists on all levels. Starting from a simple online programming contest to industry definers like Microsoft. Google even launched an algorithm change to their core search engine algorithm this week that ranks plagiarised pages lower than pages with original content.

My point is, when you plagiarise something without consent and citations, its not just a matter of two keystrokes in your computer. You hurt people’s feelings. And you will never understand those feelings unless you start writing something on your own and someone else copies and pastes it without your consent. It takes very little effort to cite the original source of any content you use, but that gesture will make your users respect you more than they did before.

There are even licensing policies that helps you prevent plagiarism and at the same time lets you use others content (one such license is Creative Commons License).Always place appropriate citations. If an author is writing content on the internet, then he’d sure respond to you via email/twitter if you want to use pieces from his article. Be gentle and place the credit to the work where the credit actually belongs to rather than stealing it. You will definitely be insulted when the plagiarism is spotted. So why not place credit and not screw up your reputation? You may have loads of original content. But even a small piece of plagiarised content is capable of bringing you under the spotlight (the recent Ankit Fadia scam for example - Fadia may have saved a war or billions of rupees for the indian government, but now he’s been registered in my mind as the guy who copied a book in the name of authoring it).

To sum up things, The world has evolved, Internet has become commonplace but what will always remain is the human values that we possess. If you copy content without consent, you are violating the human values that morally governs the internet.

Take a stand, Say no to plagiarism, Innovate the planet together!

-Vignesh