the ethics of blogging

copyright (c) 2007 by David J. Ourisman. All rights reserved. This article is published at http://TravelHorizons.blogspot.com. I am a Virtuoso travel consultant, specializing in luxury travel. Please visit my travel website at http://MetaphorTravel.com.

I have been writing Travel Horizons since October 4, 2006. At some point after I started periodically posting articles, I took the good advice of my friend and fellow travel writer Joe Brancatelli and figured out how to do the RSS feed thing.

I have just made some changes in the way that Travel Horizons is syndicated.

Why? I made a very frustrating discovery this past weekend. It seems that another blog (whose URL I will not reproduce here to avoid rewarding "Gary" with a link) has plagiarized virtually everything that I have written since I began this blog. I have documented 39 articles that were reprinted -- pictures, text, and all -- at this other site.

In one sense, it's flattering that someone would think highly enough of my writing to single out my blog for instant republishing.

But on the other other hand, it feels terrible to be disrespected as an individual, to have my intellectual property stolen, and -- incidentally -- to have my hits shrink to a fraction of what they had been.

In addition to being a travel consultant, I am an academic. I teach as an adjunct professor in Berkeley, CA. Plagiarism is the primary sin in the world of academia. Properly footnoted, you can legitimately quote virtually anything in a publication. John Donahue, one of my favorite professors as a doctoral student, once described scholarship as "piracy with footnotes." But to take someone else's ideas and words and to present them as your own is a significant ethical violation.

It is worthwhile for all of us who publish in the blogosphere to be reminded of this. Perhaps each of us, at one time or another, has written about an intriguing idea that we have read in someone else's blog ... and neglected to link back to the source of our inspiration. It's all about giving credit -- intellectual credit and credit in terms of google's rankings. It's the right thing to do, and having been the victim of plagiarism, I pledge to be scrupulous about giving attribution in the future.

So, for those of you who subscribe to my RSS feed, I've made some pragmatic changes that you need to know about:

(1) I'll only be publishing a "short feed." The first 255 characters of every blog will consist of a copyright notice, links back to my own blog and website, and a word about my work as a travel consultant. If "Gary" continues to republish what I've written, he'll just be publishing links back here. (Once I see what actually gets republished on "Gary," I might be able to take away some of the self-serving promotion. I hope so!)

(2) If you subscribe to my RSS feed, just double-click on the title of the article, and you'll get the full text.

Otherwise, nothing will change. I will continue to write about travel because I love travel. I love travel because it opens our minds to new ways of thinking. I love travel because it enriches our day-to-day experience of life by exposing us to new ways of being in the world. I love travel because it expands the horizons of our imaginations. Travel Horizons -- that's what my blog is about. And, as Stephen Colbert likes to say, "That's the word for today."

If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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