Plagiarism stigma …

‘Uni needs to address plagiarism’ |

University dean of arts, Associate Professor Jan Crosthwaite, said while concerning, Ihimaera’s actions were not deliberate.

Ihimaera said the offending passages amounted to less than half a per cent of the novel, but respected author CK Stead said that was beside the point.

‘It’s really like saying `well yes I did steal from 16 people but I only took a dollar from each’,’ he told Radio New Zealand.

‘You haven’t harmed them much, but you’ve harmed yourself enormously.’

Stead, who is a professor emeritus of the same university, said he was disappointed at comments from Associate Prof Crosthwaite minimising the seriousness of the fault.

He said students had it hammered into them that they must acknowledge borrowed work and not pass work off as their own. Continue reading →

Plagiarism looks like…

What plagiarism looks like?
(click for link to larger image)

Link provided by Jolisa Gracewood in her blog post discussing her uncovering of Witi Ihimaera’s plagiarism.

Our lawyers prepared a similarly convincing graphic display for our High Court copyright infringement action, which may have helped the plagiarists in our case decide to settle the case last year. Continue reading →

Building trust — through deceit?

Peter Steiner, New York 1993

"On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog" Peter Steiner, The New Yorker July 1993

There’s a ‘phoniness’ that plagues the internet. (Peter Steiner’s famous 1993 cartoon “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog” has become axiomatic).

Wikipedia suffers a scandal when it’s exposed that some phoney posing as a ‘learned academic’ has been pasting content into the wiki — which, I guess, compared to the fake surgeons that pop up now and then in our health system, ain’t no big deal.

This inauthenticity applies in spades to social media (ghost-written celebrity tweets etc) in particular.

Plagiarism or unattributed use of others’ written or other material has always been rife. As university professor/novelist Witi Ihimaera has recently found, the age of Google book-scan has made it child’s play to find phraseology and passages that have been consciously or unconsciously lifted from another person’s writing.

While I’m no saint, I do try to/aim to acknowledge the source of material I use from others. ‘Always acknowledge the source of power’ was a thought drummed into me at some business/personal development courses I attended years ago. It was a lesson in ethics and integrity. If someone else has expressed ‘it’ so well that I want to pass that ‘map’ on to my readers, my view is that it does me no harm whatsoever to cite the source. It is lazy not to.

Part of this might be my journalism training, which leans so heavily on attributed sources. (I’ve actually come to see that’s one of the downsides of the profession — it encourages a sense of being a ‘neutral’ observer and uninvolved note-taker and not a committed change-agent or actor … a sense which can need shaking off. But that’s a topic for another time.)

But there’s another angle to this idea of the unattributed use of others’ words which intrigues me because I haven’t thought about it this way before — and that’s the use of ghostwriters to build ‘credibility’ or, in the age of twitter and blogs, to build up a ‘personal’ following. Continue reading →

Taylor Swift — self-aware, not self-absorbed megastar

I love the self-awareness this very talented singer/songwriter/megastar Taylor Swift displays with such apparent ease. (Of course she’s wildly talented and works hard.)
She makes me smile.

UPDATE: Watch the video at YouTube here.

(Thanks to AK for the tip.)

And an entertaining behind-the-scenes/making-of clip: Continue reading →

The place of questions



I’ve been up to my ears in the physical universe (in a good way, mostly) and just spent the last few days pulling together the course notes for an annual Market Update event. Really good notes.

What stands out for me is the wisdom that experience teaches. I don’t mean to say that in a self-serving way, not in the slightest. Really. For instance, some of the comments and advice from Olly Newland have really put the whole global financial meltdown thing — and what we should do/how we could react in response — into practical perspective.

I’ve talked earlier about Steven Covey’s injunction to “work within your circle of influence” (i.e. what you can control) — and it’s so true. One of my big lessons.

Really, the shenanigans that go on in the world financial scene or in politics bring effects which can seem to bear on us … but, actually, not all that much. What we have to watch are our own reactions and how those reactions affect the decisions we make. (As well as keeping an eye out for the blood-suckers in the market and other natural hazards.)

It’s apparent that for most of us exposed to the market (whatever market) we are bobbing around like corks on the tide. Fleas on the dog. Decisions we made years ago are still controlling our outcomes, in some cases our destiny. Continue reading →

Out-of-date records, poor systems… are a CLUE!

There’s a very interesting article on Securities Industry News regarding the out-of-date computer systems used to fleece ‘investment strategist’ Bernard Madoff‘s victims.

A highly secret, largely undocumented computer trading system was maintained and “used solely to create and maintain an alternate reality of trades never made.”

Short-lived Madoff IT project manager Bob McMahon said “I asked myself how Bernie could have hidden and maintained this [his swindling] for so long. A lot of it was done because he had proprietary and legacy systems. And he relied on IT people he hired and paid,” to not upset the status quo.

In what the writer, John Dodge, calls “a cautionary tale to information technology managers and executives up and down Wall Street” he admonishes:

If you think something is amiss, don’t let it rest. Do your own investigation. Before the company you work for turns out to be missing as well.

Sometimes that takes guts, and earns you no credit. Even if you’re a geek.

Full story here. Worth reading.

Mobile phone bad, GPS good

Gratuitous pic? Well, yes. (image:

Gratuitous pic? Well, yes.

NZ lawmakers, after much delay and prevarication, and following leads from Australia, the US and others, have instituted a law banning the use of a hand-held cellphone (by the driver) while driving. From 1 November, it’s illegal to use a mobile phone for calls, text or email/web … even while stopped at traffic lights.* See story in comments about LA traffic jams — a new wrinkle on dead time in gridlock.

[*Which reminds me of the days when traffic officers administered an “oral” test as part of driver licensing. When asked, “What do you do at a red light?” the hopeful applicant said, “Not much, you know, look around, check what’s on the radio, have a scratch.” … When the required answer was: “Stop until the light turns green.”]

Anyway, one oddball part of the new law is, according to Chris Keall writing in a recent National Business Review ( ‘Printout’ column, this: Continue reading →

Whew, touchy little twittersphere, huh?


Stephen Fry (image NZ Herald)

Tweetness and light as Fry ends Twitter spat

Monday Nov 02, 2009 by Tom Peck The Independent

Stephen Fry has apologised over a Twitter tiff that saw him threaten to quit the microblogging service.

Even by the speedy pace of life in the twittersphere, it was one of the shortest break-ups in history.

After being called ‘boring’ by a fellow twitterer, Stephen Fry shocked his near-million followers by announcing: ‘I retire from Twitter henceforward. Bye everyone.’ Twelve hours later, however, he was back, apologetic, and feeling ‘more sheepish than a sheep and more twattish than a twat’. (Via NZ Herald.)

I find this episode instructive at all sorts of levels. Leave Stephen Fry’s mental state out of it. That’s a given, and (perhaps) the price he pays for his incredible, wonderful, stupendous, marvellous talent — and his creative drive. I think he’s brilliant, as I have said before.

One aspect that catches my eye is the ‘defence’ of Mr Fry by his ‘faithful’ very quickly amounted to/descended into abuse and ad hominem attacks on his ‘umble critic.

This was the shot heard around the world: Continue reading →

Confucius shares advice for Facebook ‘friends’ …

Every word of this is true.

My sister-in-law came to stay at the weekend. On Saturday night over a very pleasant dinner we had a lively discussion about social media. She’s just joined Facebook and has, after some consideration, been accepted as a ‘friend’ by one of her three adult children … so far — the other two, 18 & 20, are still thinking about it! (As they are, ahem, entitled to do, of course.)

This led to a discussion about some of the issues around Facebook ‘privacy’; WHO you could/should count as your ‘friends’ on Facebook (i.e. what your criteria should be); and why some people seem to want to be everyone’s friend — thus ‘cheapening’ (in my view) the whole ‘friend’ thing.

Some people even seek Facebook ‘friend’ status with their business competitors or critics for reasons that make me feel bemused but queasy. (In my view the stigma isn’t worth it.)

Then, at dessert our guest presented fortune cookies. This was mine (I’m not kidding):

Confucius on Facebook? (image: my fortune cookie)

Confucius on Facebook? (image: my fortune cookie)

Continue reading →

The irresistible urge to “right wrongs”…

Apropos of my recent post “It must be true. I saw it on the internet.” This classic commentary on what drives much discussion on forums and blogs from Randall Munroe:

Duty Calls (Image:

Duty Calls by Randall Munroe


(You know who you are.)

Bob Dylan Chronicles vol 1


Just read it. Wow, what a beautiful book. Some of the writing is exquisite, and the insights into his journey, his influences and his drive to be the musician he wanted to be are extraordinary.

His homage to Woody Guthrie and later Robert Johnson are brilliantly convincing, and it’s worth reading the book just for them. An episode he related where a folk music expert/historian tried to tear down Dylan’s confidence and his ‘mission’ to bring Guthrie songs to the new generation (my interpretation) is a powerful lesson — not least because of how Dylan tells the account, and his despair. This guy’s proffering of un-asked-for advice — even down to playing Dylan records by musicians who were further along the Woody Guthrie path than even Guthrie — has parallels. We all run into ‘dream stealers’. How we deal with them is what counts.
Continue reading →

It must be true. I saw it on the internet.

My friend Marc posted a video on his website yesterday.
It’s interestng — a sort of “Oh. My. God. Social Media is not a fad. It is taking over the world!” manifesto … with waves of what Marc called “facts and figures that are hard to ignore”.

Having watched it, a few things struck me:
The increasing volume & frenzy of the soundtrack communicates a subliminal message of UNEASE — something “spooky” or out of control is happening, it seems to shriek, and its “facts” slides portray a world caught in the grip of something unsettling, even alarming — “Look out, it’s getting away on you!

(I personally find “Hurry, hurry or you’ll MISS OUT!!” sales pitches anathema … as well as unconvincing.)

But one of the “facts” presented in the video…

A bold claim from Erik Qualman

… a statement that “Studies show it’s [Wikipedia] more accurate than Encyclopaedia Britannica” seemed, well, implausible to me. And so it proved.

I met an Encylopaedia Britannica professional at a Digital Publishing E-book conference earlier this year and let me tell you, they are acutely aware Continue reading →


How to show off about your car, but soften the blowhard-ish bit:

Hi! My name is B**** Mc***, you may or may not have heard of me before, either way, that’s OK with me.

I’ve never been featured in the BRW Rich 200 (nor do I want to), hardly ever wear a suit and tie (shorts, thongs and t-shirt is my dress-code). I don’t drive a Ferrari (although my Mercedes CLK is pretty nice). I don’t have commercial premises with staff running around all over the place (home is where my heart is).

— quoted verbatim from fax spam spruiking this guy running free seminars showing how to get ‘seriously’ rich from the internet.

Which reminds me of Merlin Mann’s excellent comment:

“The internet is becoming this thing where it’s just people trying to become successful on the internet by showing other people how to become successful on the internet.”

“it’s no surprise that no one wants to be known as a cult”

The Destiny Church's covenant demands total support for their 'spiritual father' Brian Tamaki - even when he makes a mistake. (image: Hawkes Bay Today)

The Destiny Church's covenant demands total support for their 'spiritual father' Brian Tamaki - even when he makes a mistake. (image: Hawkes Bay Today)

A bit of local content… Destiny Church ‘sons’ swear oath of loyaltyNZ Herald

Meanwhile in the US:

Follow up article on Paul Haggis’ defection from Scientology (

When the Haggis letter emerged, Davis responded quickly and strenuously, telling the Associated Press that the church does not mandate “disconnection” for anyone and that such a break is a completely “self-determined decision.” (Regarding the Prop. 8 question, Davis’ comment was more vague: he didn’t say whether or not the church supported or opposed the measure: “We’re all for civil rights and the rights of minorities,” Davis told the AP. “We know what it is to be a minority and have your rights curtailed. We’re very vocal and consistent in our stance on discrimination against anybody. We take it very seriously.”)

Is this revelation, then, conclusive proof that Scientology is the cult that many claim? It all depends on what is meant by “cult.” Continue reading →

Well, who is?

(image: Huffington Post/AP)

(image: Huffington Post/AP)

Frankly, I’d worry if he said he was 100% certain. (Good on him for admitting it.)

There are two aspects of this job that I think are relevant to this discussion. One is that if the problem has a clear solution, then it doesn’t land on my desk. Somebody else has solved it.
So the only things I’m deciding on are things that are tough.

And the second and related point is that because these are tough questions, you are always dealing to some degree with probabilities. You’re never 100 percent certain that the course of action you’re choosing is going to work. What you can have confidence in is Continue reading →