Poached! October 13, 2012Posted by Karen E. Lund in Humanizing Technology, Learning.
Tags: Copyright, Ethics, Humanizing Technology, Learning, Writing
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My return to blogging experienced a rude shock when I discovered that The Buddy System for Job Seekers had been copied in its entirety on half a dozen other sites.
When I mentioned this to a friend who has sometimes earned her living as a writer, she immediately responded that it would almost be a compliment, if it wasn’t plagiarism.
Indeed, it was a little creepy.
My first clue came when WordPress’s Dashboard informed me of a “pingback.” After seeing two blogs that had lifted my entire post, I did a Google search and turned up more.
They were amazingly efficient, if flagrant in their disregard for the effort I put into writing. They simply copied my entire post to their sites and adding a few tags (of which more later). A quick look at some of the sites made me suspect that all their posts were like that: copied directly from another blog. There was no rhyme nor reason to the topics of these posts, no consistency in writing style. And, yes, there were these weird tags added, which had nothing to do with my post—or, that I could see, with the other posts.
I mean, NASCAR?? Not only did my post have nothing to do with NASCAR, I don’t even know how to drive!
After sputting indignantly to myself for a few minutes, I did a little research. Three of the plagiarized posts were on Blogger (owned by Google) and two on Typepad. I poked around their main websites to find contact information to report the plagiarism. It wasn’t particularly difficult; I merely provided the URLs of the offending posts and the URL to my original post.
To their credit, both Typepad and Google removed the posts and notified me in less than 48 hours. Google removed my posts from the offending blogs. Typepad went further and deleted the entire blog. (That’s no small thing because Typepad blogs—unlike Blogger and WordPress.com—are not free.)
Which leads me to the bigger question: Why steal my post? I happen to think I’m a pretty good writer, but I’m not that good. (Am I?) And I’m not a big name. Circle of Ignorance is my personal blog, not some top-ranked site.
As far as I could tell—although I didn’t linger; it felt like being in a dirty restroom in a dive bar in a bad neighborhood late at night—the plagiarizing sites werern’t selling anything. They weren’t likely to make money by publishing (in this case stealing) my post. And none of them seemed to have big audience: neither my post nor any of the others I looked at had received any comments.
So I am left scratching my head. Steal my post, tag it with completely unrelated tags, don’t try to make money. Violate Terms of Service (not to mention copyright laws) and get taken down. Yeah, that’s a plan.
So for my sins I have a new temp gig… researching copyright permissions for a publisher. I’m up to my ears in copyright notices, requesting permissions where needed, and learning more about the subject than I ever expected. But, darn, I believe in copyright—and also in “fair use.” Writers, musicians and artists are entitled to ownership of their work. People should be able to read, listen to or view it, and to share limited quotes for reasonable purposes, but that doesn’t extend to lifting someone’s whole blog post, article or chapter without even asking. And without even a discernable motive.
PS: If you’d like to quote a couple of sentence, fine. Give me credit and link back to my post. Keep it relevant and polite, and don’t try to make a buck off it because I don’t. I’ll be thinking about this a good deal and you’ll see more thoughts on copyright, fair use, open source, and Creative Commons in future posts.
The Buddy System for Job Seekers August 21, 2012Posted by Karen E. Lund in Career, JobSearch, Knowledge.
Tags: Career, Job Search, Knowledge
When I was in Girl Scouts many years ago, we practiced what we called the “Buddy System.” It was simple: you never went anywhere away from the main group without a buddy. Whether it was a regular meeting, a day trip, or a weekend at camp, you took a buddy along for safety.
Now comes evidence the same thing works for job seekers. If you want to get a job, it helps to have a job—but if you don’t, you definitely need to have friends who are employed.
The first evidence came from Italy, but now American researchers have reached the same conclusion. (There’s a $5 fee for that article, so I haven’t read it.) Naturally, there’s a certain advantage to having employed friends when you’re looking for a new job: they might know of a position with their own employers and recommend you. But I suspect there’s a bit more to it.
If you’ve been out of work any time in the past four years (and many of us have), you’ve probably been to at least one so-called “networking” event for the unemployed. I went to two, then called it quits. I still go to networking events, and to events with networking potential that don’t advertise themselves as such. But networking for the unemployed? I’m done with that.
Both events I attended turned into gripe sessions, with a side order of can-you-top-this. “How badly were you treated by a recruiter? Oh, sure, but let me tell you what happened to me!” If you hadn’t been humiliated or hit on in an interview, you hadn’t had the full experience. It wasn’t networking, it was group therapy. Maybe that worked for some, but I’d already vented my frustrations (to an employed friend) over a few beers and was ready to move on.
The Italian researchers acknowledge this.
Mr Rosalia and Mr Cingano control for this by examining employees with equal qualification levels, made redundant by the same company at the same time. Those with more employed friends still tend to find new employment faster, apparently due to the informational advantages of having friends in jobs who learn about vacancies.
It wasn’t about qualifications, it was about having friends who work. It might be about referrals, but even on that they are fuzzy. What it comes down to is that if your friends work, you have a greater chance of finding work. Maybe it’s connections, but maybe it’s mind-set. Maybe it’s acquaintances who have the right attitude and can give you a shoulder to cry on or a kick in the rump, whichever is appropriate at that moment to make you send out one more resume or go to one more networking event.
In an online article, the Italian researchers offer an interesting possibility:
Contacts’ employment status plays a stronger role if they recently searched for a job, and thus collected useful and up-to-date information, and if their current employer is closer (spatially and technologically) to the unemployed. We rule out that this evidence reflects a referral mechanism… [emphasis mine]
So it’s not just their current job that friends are drawing on; it’s the whole network that working friends built to find their current position that they might share with a friend who’s looking for work, and possibly some up-to-the-minute job search techniques.
Last week I tried an experiment. I’ve been looking for a job for a while, but in the meantime I’ve been doing temporary and contract work. That’s given me connection to quite a few recruiters and staffing agencies—especially as some of those recruiters have change agencies over time. So when a friend who is currently working told me she wants to make a change, I e-mailed contacts at five agencies (seven contacts in total) and mentioned it.
Within ten minutes three of those contacts e-mailed me back and asked for my friend’s resume. Ten minutes! Even though one recruiter admitted he doesn’t have a lot of direct hire openings right now, he wanted to see my friend’s resume in case anything came along. That’s pretty powerful.
Two employed women. Seven recruiters in five agencies. Three requests. Ten minutes.
We’re magnets. Even I was amazed.
It’s early yet. I don’t know if any of these connections will lead to a job for my friend (or, for that matter, if my current temp gig will lead to a permanent position for me). But it’s encouraging. Maybe that’s the real secret: get just enough response to make you send out the next resume, dress up for the next interview… and keep on going until you land that better job. It only takes one “yes” to make the whole process worthwhile.
Bring a Buddy/Be a Buddy
Here are some lessons based on my recent experience:
- If you’re unemployed or underemployed, spend time with friends who are working and go to some events about fields that interest you in your job search (even if they’re not specifically advertised as “networking” events). Don’t spend all your time with other people who are unemployed—and especially be wary of frustrated job seekers who complain a lot. On the other hand, if you can find a job search buddy for mutual support and encouragement during your searches, that might be a good idea.
- If you’re employed, buddy up with an unemployed friend (or two). Be alert for openings that your buddy might be a good fit for—with your employer or another—and introduce them to professional acquaintances who might be helpful. If appropriate, give your buddy a recommendation on LinkedIn or help your buddy improve his/her profile and online presence.
- If you recently got a job, stay in touch with your job search contacts. Update them on how you’re doing. Recommend an unemployed or underemployed buddy. And if anyone directly helped you find your new job, treat your job search buddy to lunch, or at least a cup of coffee, and be sure to connect on LinkedIn so you can stay in touch professionally.
As for my experiment in recommending a buddy, I’ll keep you posted if and when anything happens. And good luck!
My SoMe Anniversary August 10, 2012Posted by Karen E. Lund in Change, Ignorance.
Tags: Change, Health, Ignorance, Learning
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It took me a little while to get the blog going, but once I got started I kept at it, twice a week, until May 2011 when my Dad was hospitalized. He (or perhaps I should say “we”) endured two and a half months of doctors, hospital rooms, two surgeries, and physical therapy. But I’m happy to say he made a full recovery. Indeed, it’s possible he and I were the only people who never seriously doubted he would. Amazing what a couple of stubborn Swedes can do when we are determined.
Tomorrow is my two-year anniversary on Twitter and I have 10,956 tweets. Won’t break 11K unless I get into a very active Twitter chat.
— Karen E. Lund (@Karen5Lund) August 9, 2012
Tweeting took less time to get into. As I’ve blogged about before, two days after joining Twitter I got involved in a five-hour, 1,500-person Twitter chat. It was a little like trying to learn how to ride a bicycle while actually riding one down the side of a mountain, but it was fascinating and I was hooked. I learned about hashtags, alternate Twitter clients, and the zen-like art of not trying to read every single Tweet that flies by on my screen.
The blog may have fallen by the wayside while my Dad was ill, but Twitter certainly didn’t. I got pretty good at Tweeting from my cell phone, even though it’s not a smart phone. (Twitter’s 140-character limit is based on the 160-character limit of SMS text messages.) Occasionally I sent updates about Dad’s surgery and recovery right from the hospital.
When I had a little free time I fired up the laptop and hung out with #UsGuys, a Twitter tribe (and a whole lot more) that found me late in 2010 when they were just getting started. Now I’ve met many of them face-to-face. It was a good way to relax and vent some of my frustrations, in between Google searches for strange medical terms like “orthostatic hypotension.” That was my phrase of the years for 2011, because it was Dad’s last hurdle before he could transfer out of the hospital and into a nursing home for physical therapy and wound care before going home.
Life has gotten back to normal, or a reasonable facsimile of normal, so I’ve been meaning to get into blogging again. But first I had to write the scary post about Dad’s illness. In reality it’s about four posts, and not short ones, but I’m not sure it needs to be published. It just needed to be written, and I’ve mostly done that. Perhaps that’s my own therapy: blogging therapy. Get it out of my system and move on. The middle of 2011 was certainly an exercise in expanding my circle of ignorance, not only about obscure medical terms but about how vulnerable the human body can be—and how strong the human will can be.
For the foreseeable future I hope to publish one post a week. It’s a manageable schedule, especially as I am currently doing some temporary work and looking for a more permanent position. In my work explorations I can certainly find at least one interesting nugget to blog about each week. At least something I think is interesting. If you were with me for any part of the first run, you already know my mind can be somewhat quirky and my tastes eclectic. But that’s how I push the bounds of my ignorance.
I hope you’ll join me for the next leg of the ride.
Did You Tell Them? May 5, 2011Posted by Karen E. Lund in Change, Knowledge, Learning.
Tags: Change, Ethics, Knowledge, Learning
This story goes back to a non-profit job I had several years ago. Early on in my time there I’d been given the responsibility of maintaining a contact list for our department. As we had unusually high staff turnover, including transfers in and out of the department, it took up a fair amount of time. When we relocated to a different building, it made sense to expand the contact list to include all of our organization’s staff in that building, not just our department. Then someone got the idea that the contact list should include all our staff, not just those in the building.
In the meantime I’d formed a virtual friendship via e-mail and phone with the technicians in the IT department, who were mostly at one of the other locations. I’d only met two of them: the technician assigned to our site and the guy who managed all our cell phones. But the IT guys were a great team and very helpful even though we hadn’t yet met. One of the things they helped me with was the contact list, even to the point of creating an automatic notification system that would let me know when a new e-mail address or cell phone number had been assigned to someone on the staff.
The IT Manager was named Levi. He’d had a long career in computers, back to the days of “data processing” and punched cards. After taking early retirement he did some volunteering, but soon found himself back on the job, this time for the non-profit where we worked. As IT Manager he was back and forth to meetings at both the building where the IT office was and the building where I worked.
One day he passed by my desk and asked how things were going. He mentioned how helpful the contact list was, what with our staff being spread across multiple locations.
“Your technicians are my best source of information for that contact list. They always let me know when someone has been assigned a new e-mail account or a cell phone.”
“Did you tell them?”
He asked immediately. It was clearly a question so instinctive that it was almost a reflex. Fortunately I had told them, and recently. I looked up the e-mail I’d sent to the IT guys thanking them for their help with the contact list and forwarded it to Levi. It was in his inbox before he got back to his office.
As things turned out, Levi left us not long after. He wasn’t a New Yorker, but had worked here for almost ten months. Finally he went home. Not long after I had an opportunity to transfer to the IT department as an adminstrative assistant, and I got to work with those technicians I’d come to know mostly through e-mail.
Early on I realized that the technicians respected Levi enormously. One guy told me he took the job because he wanted to work for Levi. Another confessed (much later) that Levi had once chewed him out for an inadvertant mistake. It stung, but he also remembered the many times Levi had told him he’d done a good job and figured the two had to go together. The positives outweighed the negatives.
The brief conversation I’d had with Levi stayed with me. When I said his staff were helpful to me, he immediately asked if I’d told them. It was important to him that they know their work was appreciated.
Gold Stars & Lollipops
Not long ago I was talking with a friend about her job frustrations. When she’d taken the job her new boss told her not to expect “any gold stars and lollipops” from him for doing her job well. She was beginning to understand that he gave very little feedback, and almost none of it was good. He criticized when he wanted his staff to improve their performance, but he never let them know when they were on the right track.
In one sense I agree with her boss. We’re grown up and don’t need gold stars to tell us when we’ve done a good job. Lollipops aren ‘t good for my figure. I have more than enough t-shirts.
But I do want to know when I’ve done a good job. I also want to know when I’ve done a sub-par job. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just a few words or an e-mail.
The truth is, very few of us are superstars. Not many of us are failures, either. The vast majority of people are somewhere in the middle, doing a few things well and a few others not so well. We have good days and bad days. We like a little praise but are embarrassed if we feel we’re getting more than we deserve (or, worse, that it may be insincere). A simple “thank you” can mean a lot.
We are always learning, but rarely in formal settings. Most of what we learn happens informally, without tests or grades. One of the most important ways we know we’re heading in the right direction is how others respond to us.
The best way to learn is in small increments. My high school math teacher gave quizzes every week. At first we hated them, but after a while realized that regular feedback meant we never went too far the wrong way without a warning. Flunk a quiz and you know you need to review the chapter before you can master the next lesson. In the same way I can improve my performance if my boss tells me when my work is a little below expectation—before it becomes a big deal and we’re having a meeting with HR and warnings are issued.
The same goes for doing well. I may never land a million-dollar grant for my employer, but if I’m doing small things well and contributing to the smooth running of the organization, I want to know. I’ll do better work if I get a little pat on the back or a “thank you,” and I’ll accept criticism more readily if I know I can earn a kind word by doing better.
When Levi asked me if I’d told his team they were helping me, he wanted to be sure they knew their work was appreciated and that what they did mattered. He wanted them to know they were doing it right. Perhaps he also was reminding me that people need to be thanked when they do good work—and they will continue to do it if given encouragement.
Did You Tell Them?
This post comes with an assignment: Think of someone you know—whether at work or elsewhere—who is one of those quietly competent people you rely on to get things done. Thank them. Don’t get fussy (if they’re the quietly competent sort they might be embarrassed), just say “Thanks” and tell them why. Let them know they do a good job and that it’s appreciated.
I’ll start. Levi, as they say in Brooklyn, you done good. You built a terrific IT department and I was proud to work there. Amid all the craziness, and all the staff turnover, IT was the one department that didn’t lose a single staff member (among those whom you hired) until their planned sunsetting date, except one who returned to college. You taught us all well. And happy birthday.