Everything Editor Logs
March 7, 2001
left full rudder! | right full rudder!

Lesbians! Plagiarism! Google!

Ok, no lesbians. But I'm glad I got your attention, because here's the thing: please don't cut-and-paste stuff and pass it off as your own work. Please. I'll give you a cookie. If that's not enough, howsabout if I come to your house, rip down the door and smear the walls with the steaming blood of your dead nodes? The cookie is better, really.

I'm going to single out our dear active user Malcolm Frink here, because I just killed all of his writeups. All of them.

Of course there were only nine of them, and I am using "his nodes" quite loosely, because they were blatant, textbook cut-and-pastes. I was about to vote up his entry in graph theory1, when I noticed the following near the end: "in another Python Patterns column, I will try to analyze their running speed and improve their performance, at the cost of more code." Sure enough, this was lifted straight from www.python.org. I /msg-ed the user in an attempt to gently explain that we don't look kindly on including stuff without the proper attribution. I got back the following:

Malcolm Frink says Fixed, I know you don't believe me judging from what kind of person you are, so here's a hard link graph theory

When I returned to the node, I found that all he had done was to include a pointer to his own web site, where he had also pasted the text. And now instead of no attribution, he is claiming it's his. Worse, most of the rest of his nodes have specific text at the top that actively proclaim that Mr. Frink wrote the text, eg: "A poem I wrote" or "My thoughts on Columbine". This is about the point that we editors consider taking off and nuking the site from orbit.

Perhaps, you might say, I should give Mr. Frink the benefit of the doubt, since maybe Guido van Rossum, the inventor of Python, could be noding here on E2 under an assumed name. But Mr Frink would then also have to be the Rev. Fr. Charles E. Irvin, M.B.A., M.Div., J.D. of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Manchester, Michigan2, who has an electronic column in which he wrote essays entitled Columbine and Morality and Truth?, both of which were also C&P-ed verbatim. I also killed a couple of other python.org lifts, a rather odd poem in the insomnia node written by a woman named Jenny Bitner, and an essay on Samuel Gompers by Emma Goldman that was published in The Road to Freedom (New York), Vol. 1, March 1925.

Here is the punchline: All of the original sources here were astoundingly easy to verify, thanks to my dear friend Google. It is really, truly amazing: I just copy a passage with some interesting keywords into the search engine text box, hit the button, and up comes the evidence. Google located Mr. Frink's pastework in the top 5 hits 100% of the time, and I wasn't trying especially hard.

So please kids, don't fucking do this. The truth about your nodes is out there.

And sorry about the lesbians decoy thing – next ed log I'll try to throw some live ones in here somewhere.

1It is in fact a nice essay, about using Python to do simple graph-traversing things like shortest-path algorithms. The *original* is at http://www.python.org/doc/essays/graphs.html in case you're interested, along with lots of other nice Python essays.

2I am not making this up: http://www.rc.net/lansing/st_mary/essays/columbine.html. I'm dying to meet Rev. Irvin if he in fact has all of those degrees.