Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Ever since I published my article: 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy”, I’ve had occasional encounters with unauthorized republications of the article content.

That is, my original article has been copied and pasted into other forums and blogs without proper credit to me as the author (plagiarized).

At first, I was outraged. The idea that people were blatantly discrediting my article in an attempt to pass it off as their own writing was infuriating. I would try to contact the offending party, asking them to provide a link to the source or remove the article. Their response was surprising.

Finding sites quoting my original article isn’t hard. A Google Search of 10 reasons it doesn’t pay to be the computer guy displays my original article followed by similarly titled blog posts or forum threads in a list that spans several pages. The hard part is sifting through these results and determining which republications aren’t giving credit to the article source.

Whenever I located a site that was plagiarizing my content, I would contact the blog author or forum administrator indicating that my article has been republished on their site without permission.

Surprisingly, the typical response I received was an apology. Furthermore, all apologies were coupled with a promise to correctly link back to my article as the original source.

Most people reacted this way because they didn’t read the article here on — they read a plagiarized republication on another site. Therefore, when they republished the article on their own site, they were unaware they were doing anything wrong.

In other words, most of them were simply uninformed about the true source of the original article.

Considering the vastness of the World Wide Web, it’s an easily forgivable mistake. Once these site owners were made aware of what needed to be done to reverse it, they did it without argument.

To everyone who has acknowledged that they made an honest mistake and worked to correct it: Thank you.

Of course, there were also some individuals that preferred to play hardball. They ignored — and possibly deleted — my email messages, blog comments, or forum replies requesting proper acknowledgment of the article source. To everyone that falls into this category: Whatever.

I’ve been trying to stay on top of the unauthorized republications for over a month now, and I’ve decided it’s not worth it. My reasoning is that if I can’t convince someone to give me proper credit to my original work after the first attempt, then that someone doesn’t deserve any more of my time.

Some of you are probably thinking “What!? Shaun is giving up!?

In this single pursuit, yes — though I prefer saying I’m choosing to let go.

What’s the difference? Well, you give up things that are yours to give up. You can give up piano lessons, or ballet, or a childhood dream of growing up to be a fighter pilot.

You let go of the things that were never yours to begin with. In this instance, I was trying to control how other people use the Internet.

This objective view of my actions seems quite silly, doesn’t it? It’s impossible. Why have I even wasted my time trying to control things I simply can’t?

For the same reason it’s hard to let go. I wrote the article. It’s something of mine, and I don’t like other people stealing it. I felt like I could still protect it somehow. All of these feelings made it difficult to accept the fact that it is beyond my control now.

It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but it’s factual: There are some things you can control, and some things you can’t.

When you learn to let go of the things you can’t control, you can focus your efforts on improving the things you can.

Invest time into things that are worthwhile. Don’t let people rent space in your head. In other words: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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6 Responses to “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”

#1 Damian on 12, Jun, 2007 at 8:51 am

Now the realy question is, how many people are going to plaguarise this blog entry, which is ironically, about them plaguarising

#2 Leslie Erentreich on 23, Jun, 2007 at 8:59 am

My bestfriend I went to different highschools and I would occasionally write some papers for her…they were essays to earn extra credit for her careers class…I loved to write so I didn’t mind it all…apparently one of the papers got rave reviews and she started to pass it off as her own to friends of hers that I didn’t have much contact with…it peeved me to no end…this kind of thing always happened…I’d get ridiculed for something then a year down the line…there’s all these sub-par clones of myself. It drove me mad…but my mum helped me to see imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

#3 Shaun Boyd on 26, Jun, 2007 at 3:22 pm

@Leslie Erentreich
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” That’s an awesome perspective — I’ve never thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks so much for commenting.

#4 Tweetie on 16, Aug, 2007 at 12:11 am

Hi Shaun,
I’m a new reader — just started reading your blog today. And I just want to thank you for this article, especial the final 2 paragraphs. There was some office disputes that went on for 2 days and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself for being unable to “win” or push back. I could not “let go” of the fact that the bad guys got their ways again – hence was demoralised and discouraged. … Reading some of the articles here really did lift my day. I am gonna embrace this “LET GO – Don’t sweat the small stuff” principle and move on. Its so true… so thank you!

#5 David A. Pickett on 06, Oct, 2007 at 3:51 am

This happened to me once (that I know of, anyway…). I found a copy of my popular article Stupid Interview Questions posted on a forum, complete with graphics ripped from my site and everything. I e-mailed the forum admin about it, and he apologized and took the post down.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the result I was hoping for (although I *had* offered it to him as an alternative) — what I really wanted was just to make sure the forum provided a link to the original article, with some amount of article text less than 100%. Now, instead of my article content, with sufficient clues that someone sufficiently motivated could find my site, I had no promotion at all in that partciular forum.
I’m not sure what my point is here. Maybe “decide whether the thing you ask for is really what you want *before* you ask for it”?

#6 Jay on 28, Jul, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Heya Shaun,

I just stumbled across your “Ten Reasons…” post, and this one about it. I suppose you may already be turned in this direction, but you are a gifted writer; there, certainly, is an opportunity for self-expression without possibly as much discomfort.

It was highly enlightening to read your Ten Reasons post and some it’s replies. I sense a very nice opportunity there for you, with proper direction and risk management. If you haven’t already looked into it, I certainly would, if I were you.

Some of this plageurism you speak of is a legal matter and with the popularity of your posts, you could suffer some loss from unauthorized republication of your work. Why should anyone else benefit from your labor without some cost? It’s only fair.

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