TED Conversations

Andrea Morisette Grazzini

CEO, WetheP, Inc.


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How should plagiarism be handled at online communities like TED Conversations?

An interesting exercise in socially catalyzed ethics is burbling on a TEDConversation that debates Darwinism and Creationism.


What makes the question unusually compelling isn't the question.

Rather it is the fact that the question, according to several commenters, is plagiarized. Several paragraphs, it seems, have been cut and pasted from the internet, with no source citation.

The questioner and some who have defended his arguments have made no visible effort to correct or explain the ethical, if not legal faux pas.

Though they have interacted with commenters who have noted the apparent plagiarism. And some uncivil comments have been removed, though it is unclear by whom.

TED policy http://www.ted.com/pages/conversations_terms suggests it is intolerant of plagiarism.

Questions specific to this situation are:

1. How does and/or should TED Conversations handle this?
2. How and/or should TED commenters respond?



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    Jun 30 2011: This topic caught my eye because I had recently had a conversation like this with a professor. I had written a paper for him and in the references I listed works that were not cited in the body of the paper. He found it unusually because most people cite their references. My argument was that these texts had a direct effect on the direct and ideas formulated in the paper even if I did use the word for word text from the papers. The reason for this story is that we crossed over from papers to on-line discussion boards and we both agreed that you should write the reference in some way if you are quoting it. I understand especially if you read constantly that ideas get muddled together but you should make an attempt to reference the matter. For example, I believe Newton came up with the law of gravity. (Please don’t make fun of my pedestrian idea; it’s just to show a point). If you flat out cut and paste, it is stealing intellectual property. Like Andrea said, people put blood, sweat, and tears into creating such ideas. I think the least you can do is apologize if you do it on accident but don’t try to deny it. I think it is harder here on discussion board to enforce it because how do you copyright a discussion. I think on discussion boards it just comes down to decency and an individual’s morals. If they can’t be decent and admit the used someone else’s work, they should be suspended. For myself, I come to this board to discuss topics of interest with peers of a like mind. If they want to peddle others work as their own then they can go to a board that it is the norm. It does not need to happen on TED.
    • Jun 30 2011: Bravo Edward....would be an A+ for me....that is citation at it's best. Thanks for being another voice for civility and common sense here.
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      Jun 30 2011: Edward..excellent practice I do it as well..usually as bibliography on published work sometimes with back notes. Nice to meet you by the way and hope to see you in other conversations.
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      Jun 30 2011: Here-here, Edward.

      I echo Michael's "A+" and would also give one, if I were a professor. Though I'm not.

      I, too, have run into academics who wondered why I cite inspiration-providers. However, I know others who use Lindsey's style, which I think is exceedingly robust. .

      In fairness, APA-style required by some if not many academic journals, seek only direct (though quite strict) text citations. But journalistic ethics calls for citing all sources that meaningfully influence content, wherever possible. So I tried to develop this habit, which I still feel is the most authentic reflection of respect and professionalism.

      I also think your style provides richer voice to any text. By over, rather than under-voicing others words.

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