Seems like the Pandoras at Dachis are particularly sore these days that entrepreneurs in the social media demimonde they helped unbox are making money and living large without proper pedigree, paying their dues or playing by the rules (as Peter Kim et al define them). Worse, in doing so those pusillanimous parvenus and pretenders — my homage to William Safire — are challenging Dachis’s Ptolemaic model of the social media consulting universe (where an insular club of self-congratulatory, self-referential early adopters occupy the center of the bullseye, natch).
David “Respect My Authoritah” Armano recently issued a cri de coeur against charlatans, opportunists and — gasp — plagiarists posing as social media “experts.” That refrain was echoed by a predictable chorus of acolytes using the comments thread to praise Armano’s wisdom and call for some sort of social media professional certification body — presumablycomprised of themselves — to separate the righteous sheep from the unworthy goats. Just as dutifully, Armano chimed in on the comment thread to praise their wisdom in recognizing his wisdom.
“The problem is this expert was sucking in the feed of my blog without permission, attribution and had more holes in his resume than a slice of Swiss cheese [emphasis added]. So how do you separate the social media snake oil from the vinegar?”
First, WTF is up with that metaphor? Which component represents Armamo’s content in this salad dressing dyad, the snake oil or the vinegar? Sounds unpalatable either way.
Second, his outrage over breaches in garden-variety content streaming etiquette is overreaction enough, but Armano goes on to imply that this “expert” was not worthy to traffic in social media content (which Armano might or might not have himself streamed, adapted or re-tweeted from others) because of an inferior resume. Oh REALLY….Apparently pedigree ought to trump ingenuity, enterprise and drive in the Social Media World According to Armano. I wonder if he would say that Michael Dell was unscrupulous and didn’t deserve his success because he was a college drop-out and disrespectful to IBM.
Brazen unattributed content streaming is definitely uncool, but it is also a foreseeable — arguably inevitable — extension of social media’s fetishization of content sharing. Further, isn’t it one of the central tenets of social media faith that community wisdom will sniff out and snuff out inauthentic poseurs and grifters?
In an April 10, 2008 post, Chris Brogan, commented honestly on his own experiences with the plagiarism, hypothesizing that copying is a constitutive part of the human condition and suggesting that owning up to those conscious and unconscious borrowings makes one’s own truth shine more brightly:
“We are all derivatives of someone else. It can’t be helped. Musicians have roots in other musical traditions, even if it’s not obvious at first. Nirvana is heavily Beatles-influenced, for instance. Authors are unique-twist copies of other authors. It’s just the way of the world, and how humans evolve.”
From there he gave a bravura exhibition of how a genuinely centered, confident, non-self-aggrandizing social media expert respsonds to the scourge of plagiarism:
“I’m inspired by others, and derive some of my skills and abilities from what I’ve learned from others, so instead of bitch about someone copying my stuff, I’m going to praise some people that I have learned from in developing my own presence. (None of this is to blow smoke up these people’s butts. I know most of them. I like most of them. This is about me, and about what goes into the media I make).”
He went on to describe the debts he owes to Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Tom Peters, Annie Proulx, Jeremiah Owyang and Jon Swanson, then concluded simply and elegantly:
“My big point: none of us are originals. It’s okay. And I’ve DEFINITELY done it myself, where I’ve thought something WAS my thought, only to find out that I was synthesizing something I read a few days back, or a conversation I had (Did that famously badly once, to a friend I love, and had to rescind).
“But if you KNOW you’re going to riff off someone, give a little link love and be done with it. Fair?”
HERE COMES THE PAUL HARVEY MOMENT
The irony here is that Peter Kim, in his Sept. 23, 2009 “amen” (my term) to Armano’s rant, appears to be adopting the convention of Brogan’s earlier post — without crediting Brogan.
“We invest time and energy in contributing to a collective understanding. I applaud Todd Defren and ShiftPR for sharing their work on the social media press release. Nielsen Online offers free use of their industrial-strength brand monitoring system through Blogpulse.
“We celebrate the success of others. The community at large helped Chris Brogan and Julien Smith become New York Times best selling authors. We’ve cheered on my friends and former colleagues Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, and Ray Wang (and Deb Schultz) in creating Altimeter Group.
“We give credit where and when credit is due. As Dachis Group builds momentum and understanding around Social Business Design, most people have acknowledged our work in adding their own thoughts to the conversation.
Hmm, makes ya think. Whether the similarities are coincidental or purposeful, maybe Kim should give credit to the New York Times best-selling author who had the wisdom and class to demonstrate how to place social media “plagiarism” in perspective and then process through it with grace and genuine generosity of spirit, not vitriol and proprietary-speak topped off with a self-serving plug for a wannabe new business paradigm.
In a Nov. 16, 2008 post entitled “Social Media is Not Socialism,” Kim puts it even more bluntly:
“When someone plagiarizes content, the social system breaks down. Individuals who plagiarize seek to claim credit for themselves. Social media is already social and a Robin Hood-style redistribution of value isn’t required. But credit and attribution remain key to socializing and increasing the value of content for everyone involved.”
Red alert! System failure!
I guess that would seem to be the case if the ultimate goal of social media is to productize/monetize Social Business Design (which, it coud be argued, is itself derivative of primary social science and marketing research conducted by others).
In closing, my formula for battling social media socialism is this: If you’re that concerned about getting credit for your content, then name it, claim it and smack a big circled “C” on it. Otherwise, trust the wisdom of the community to recognize your work no matter where it appears or who takes credit for it, and the truth will out.
Feel free to use that one.