Monday, April 23, 2012

Who are we and what do we do?

Bloggers have tons of tools at their disposal for promoting content, for engaging in conversation, for working through some of the tricky issues that emerge. There is a great community for seeking feedback from, for getting knowledge from, and for connecting, period. The collective knowledge and experience and the willingness for people to share and talk with one another is precisely what makes this a community.

But repeatedly -- repeatedly -- people talk about how the YA blogging community has a not-so-good reputation. That because of the drama surrounding any number of different things, this community is somehow poorly seen, poorly valued. That because issues come up and rather than talk about them, the community reacts, rather than reflects.

I don't necessarily think that there's a poor reputation about bloggers, specifically YA bloggers, but I do think some who do blog in this corner of the internet like to think there is. They enjoy being part of the drama and they enjoy driving it forward, rather than talking about it. There are certainly people in the blogging world who love talking about issues, who love pulling them apart and thinking about them critically before reacting. But for some, the thrill is in acting, rather than in digesting. That, in my mind, is where the problem lies.

There's a lengthy and thoughtful post over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about a recent discovery of potential plagiarism in the YA blogging world, along with relevant links. But this isn't really about that. This is much more about the reaction following that blog post. I've been watching both the comments and my Twitter stream with fascination this morning, as people have begun sharing their personal feelings about the blogger very openly. They've accused this person of everything under the sun, whether fairly or not, and the person has yet had a chance to defend herself. In psychology and communication, this behavior of bringing everything up at once is called kitchen sinking -- rather than stick to discussing the issue at hand in a problematic situation, every other concern is pulled out and thrown down. It's a pretty destructive communication method because it breaks away from the original problem at hand. The issue here is plagiarism.

The other problem -- the one I think is worth talking about once the person in question gets a chance to respond as she needs to -- is that some have taken this as an opportunity to be happy. To celebrate someone's potential fault, their potential crash. Not everyone has. But what could and should be a legitimate discussion of plagiarism has turned into a way for some other people to share their feelings about a person and their work in a way that is unconstructive. That's just straight mean and childish, even. Rather than discussing the real consequences and problems of plagiarism and using this as a jumping off point, some have instead turned to celebration.

If you've wondered why YA blogging can sometimes get the reputation it does, why people believe there is even a reputation, this may be all you need to know. When a valid and important topic worth having a dialog about emerges, so often it devolves, turning into mud-slinging, rather than discussion. Drama, rather than discourse. Having all of these tools at our disposal to have these conversations turn into means for guessing, assuming, devaluing.

I hate watching it so, so much.

Twitter and blog commenting may seem like they're private forums, wherein we can have these conversations because we're communicating among friends, but remember: they're public. They're not a private discussion with a person. These things are open and accessible. Remember what happened earlier this year when discussion about a book review on Goodreads was believed to be a private conversation between an agent and an author? What was intended to be private and an opportunity to vent turned into a public reviewer discussion which hurt everyone involved -- author, agent, reviewer, friends of all parties -- either directly or indirectly.  The same thing happens when it's a member of our own community. Your messages are still public. These comments reflect not only on you, but on the community as a whole.

I do not for any reason believe we should hide things when they're found to be true. If the plagiarism accusation is accurate, I absolutely believe it needs to be addressed, and I believe the blogger in question needs to address it publicly on her blog. I believe bloggers have a responsibility to own their actions and their words. I believe being honest about this situation is necessary and proves point and for all that plagiarism is a big thing. But what I don't believe is that this is an opportunity -- that any big issue like this is an opportunity -- to trash talk someone so openly. To celebrate their making a mistake.

When we do that, all we do is continue perpetuating a reputation, whether we want to or not. And for a community that wants to be taken as legitimate, as professional, as a real tool in the book world, we have a responsibility to speak only when we have something thoughtful to add to conversation.

40 comments:

  1. Yeah, I've definitely noticed the Kitchen-Sinking going on. It's odd for sure. There seems to be a lot of the same mentality that happens when someone gets charged with any crime; a bunch of people who previously avowed their love of the person now feel the need to state publicly that they ALWAYS KNEW!

    I'm not taking a stance on this one way or the other, because I don't see that it's my place. I am, however, watching everything going on, much like you are, with a morbid fascination.

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  2. I love this post.

    I will fully disclose that Kristi is a friend. And while I feel that was she was alleged to do is wrong, it is not okay to sling the mud.

    It's not okay to me to see people almost gleefully clapping their hands over this, going beyond the initial issue to air all of their grievances against her. I don't know, it just hurts to see a friend get raked over the coals for more than just the issue at hand.

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    1. I don't like watching anyone being raked over the coals so publicly, period, whether or not I have a relationship with them. But more frustrating to me is she hasn't even had the chance to respond and it's happening.

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    2. I could not agree more. I think these issues are best dealt with quietly and privately. Just have he offenders add links/sources and/or remove the content. No need to harass, kick, etc...

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  3. I was very disturbed when I heard who had allegedly plagiarized, but now how everybody is Kitchen-Sinking and going way too far about this makes me sick and want to live in the real world for once.

    When the bullying started, and #StopTheStorySiren, I just shook my head. while I didn't think much about those bloggers before, they are now associated with this and how low and far they are taking the entire thing. I won't be reading their blogs any time soon. it's so freaking ridiculous and sad.

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    1. It makes everyone look bad when a few -- and it is only a few -- choose to make this their platform for attention, rather than for pushing forward a meaningful and important discussion.

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  4. This is such a great post. You managed to write all of my angry thoughts in a much more mature manner than they are in my head. I will definitely be spreading the link!

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  5. I really appreciate what you said here. The biggest thing I don't like is how quickly everyone is choosing sides. I mean we don't even know the other side of it yet. Sure everyone is entitled to there own opinion but it seems like so many YA bloggers just want to draw EVEN more attention to it. All the drama lovin queens need to give it arrest.

    Also I really hate all the passive aggressive BS that's going on. My feeling is, if you have something to say then say it but don't try to cover it up and act all innocent after. Specifically I wish the bloggers who had posted about the plagiarism posts had just called that blogger out by name because it was so obvious they weren't really trying to hide it. I find that tactless. I mean they have every right to be upset, I know I would be, but why not just lay it all out there instead of trying to act like you're being the bigger person. Gag me!

    Sorry for all the rambling, this stuff kind of makes me irate, LOL. Thanks for your post. I am now one of your new twitter followers :)

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    1. I just wanted to add that if all this plagiarism stuff is true, which it looks like it is, I'm NOT defending it or anyone who takes part in doing that. I would just like everyone to calm down a bit and stop being so hateful.

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    2. I just think she deserves the right to have her say before people choose to be mean. The case SBTB offers is great. Their post is very fair. But the comments? The Twitter discussion? So much of it is out of line.

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  6. I don't consider myself a YA book blogger and am not a follower of The Story Siren's blog, but the rancor does seem unfair, especially if it still could be possible that the copying was accidental, maybe based on jacket copy or publicity materials which everyone might have read.
    I try not to read too many reviews before writing my own, so I don't get influenced, but it's certainly possible that I come up with similar opinions as someone else. I haven't seen the comparison of passages/posts, so I don't really know what to think, but your post says it all very well!

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    1. I'm the same way! I don't read reviews before I write mine, just in the off chance it could influence mine/I could accidentally lift stuff.

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    2. The plagiarism issue was not actually about book reviews; it was how-to's for being a blogger. If you read the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books post, you will see screen shots of the posts that were very similar and also IP address proof that Kristi had been on their site, even though she denied ever having visited it.

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  7. I love the reverent tone you have taken with your post. It is really sad to hear how much everyone keeps going on and on. How they keep saying hurtful things, just because everyone else is. Regardless of what happened, I don't feel that anyone should be attacked.

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    1. I agree with you 100 percent. When I first found out about this, I was shocked. She is so big in YA community it's hard to believe it, but the proof is there.

      I am upset by it because it reflects badly on us bloggers, and would like her to defend herself, but attacking her isn't right. The hashtag, to me, is a form of bullying. Harassment. It turned from us trying to find the truth and wanting to hear her side of things, to people bashing her, harassing her, and saying really nasty things. Honestly, soon people will feel sorry for her like it was said on SmartBitches site, and all this will be forgotten because she is being attacked.

      We are forgetting the real issue here. Who gives a shit if she gets ARCs. Why is that so important?

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    2. I agree. It is certainly verging on straight up harassment and it's unfair. Gets away from the point at hand, which is plagiarism.

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  8. This post is fantastic. When drama surfaces in the blogosphere I always try to stay out of it and not publicly take a side. That being said, I think whether she's done what she's been accused of or not, the bullying is absolutely terrible. These types of things shouldn't happen. We're all supposedly mature adults (some are still teens, yes, but I think most are mature in the blogging world) and shouldn't be stopping to such low levels.
    It's not high school anymore. Imagine you were on the other end and all these people -- people you don't even know -- are saying terrible things to and about you.

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    1. Well, and when your reputation's being trashed, you don't get a chance to address the issue at hand fairly. Whether or not she did it is the issue, not any of the peripheral stuff people are tossing about.

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  9. I think that part of the problem is that some of the smaller bloggers are feeling like they put a lot of work into their blogs, without plagiarizing, and they are getting little in return. When they see someone as big as The Story Siren is being caught (possibly) plagiarizing, it makes them angry because so many people are sticking up for her.

    I can't say anything about her character. I don't know her personally. I also can't see why the bloggers that she supposedly stole from would say that she did when she didn't. This whole issue isn't new. There have been other "bloggers" popping up and stealing from established blogs for quite a while. Whenever something like that happens, book bloggers rally together to put an end to it. But now that it is an established blog on the other end of the firing line, it seems like people are more willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I would love to hear Kristi herself comment on the issue before everyone completely ostracizes her, and I think creating a hashtag is going a bit too far.

    We are book blogging police, but this kind of incident makes everyone look bad. But at the same time, she is only human. Humans make mistakes. Hopefully she will man up and confront this issue.

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    1. That should have said we are NOT book blogging police. Stupid, stupid phone.

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    2. Everyone is innocent until they're proven guilty, and I think it's pretty disappointing -- and telling about the community -- someone is being dragged through the coals before they get a chance to respond. If the person doesn't respond, that's one thing. But chances are that person isn't able to just yet for any number of reasons. At this time tomorrow or Wednesday if there's no response? I think frustration is justified.

      That said, whether you're a big blogger or small blogger doesn't give you any more right or permission to be mean. There's one thing to discuss the issue of plagiarism. There's another thing to turn this into an opportunity to denigrate a person. It's not an opportunity to be petty so openly. That's the kind of stuff you keep quiet.

      I hope the issue is addressed, absolutely. But the fuse-blowing is unjustified right now. I think Smart Bitches post is fantastic -- they lay out the issue fairly. Without giving her a chance to respond, others have bashed her before she's been able to defend (or own up to) what has been presented.

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    3. Oh I completely agree with you. I'm just going by what I have seen on Twitter, the reasons why people are getting their panties in a bunch. People are going to talk crap about her no matter what you or I or anyone else has to say. I hope for her sake that she makes some kind of announcement sooner rather then later, because I think the longer it goes one, the worse it will be for her. I think when all of this blew up over Twitter, she was probably at work and will be greeted with all of this when she comes home.

      I can't say that I feel too bad for her though. I feel bad that she is being bullied and shot down, but if the allegations are true, well... I just hope that she has a good support system to lean on.

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  10. And this is where I realize I totally don't know what's going on in the book blogging world :) I hadn't heard about this, and honestly I'm kinda glad I was oblivious for so long. I hate to see someone get raked over the coals for everything and anything. Yes, it's an important issue, but it sounds like it was made into something else.

    This reminds me of some of my more immature fights with siblings where, in place of a good comeback, I would say "But you smell funny!" or something ridiculous. It was funny then, not so much now.

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    1. I agree. I don't get why we can't discuss the issue at hand without it becoming personal. It doesn't HAVE to.

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  11. The bullying has gotten out of control! I just looked and Twitter and can't belive how childish people are acting. I love your post, as always!

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  12. I was a little hesitant to post because I don't want to look like I am on the attack (I actually agree with everything you have said here!) but I do feel that I have something pertinent to add. I started blogging this January. Before I started, I did TONS of research -- so I had almost every post from The Story Siren's Building a Better Blog Page bookmarked in my "blog info" folder on my bookmark bar. I spent HOURS looking at those pages. My blog went live on January 20 with a typepad design because I wanted to get the mechanics of blogging down before I really focused on design. When Bloggiesta rolled around, I finally felt confident enough to try to do something on my own. So, when I went to open up those bookmarks...they were gone.

    The ladies at Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour have extensive screen shots, and their original posts (to which they link) are not only still up (unlike Kristi's), but very familiar to me. It goes way beyond similar ideas to nearly identical formatting and word choice. And their posts outlining their accusations have been up since January. That means Kristi has had three months to defend herself with them and hasn't. We just didn't know about it because they are fashion bloggers, not book bloggers.

    HOWEVER, I still think Kristi seems like a really sweet person; her videos are often quirky and fun. I also think she has done great things to help build and foster community among YA bloggers. I can even see how she might have seen a list of tips as somehow less "intellectual property" than opinion or critique might be. That doesn't mean that I don't feel a bit disappointed in how all this has happened, a bit betrayed because I trusted her.

    It is tough enough having the occasional book store employee or librarian scoff at me when they find out I am a YA book blogger, asking if I am "one of those reviewers always fighting with authors on goodreads" or wondering why I read kids books. This just makes it a little harder for us little guys to be treated with respect OUTSIDE the YA community, because, unlike blogs like this one, I don't have enough history to stand on my own integrity -- I am judged by the company I keep.

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    1. There's a difference between feeling betrayed and feeling you have to say something inflammatory about a person. What you've just said is nothing wrong and how you feel is not wrong at all. I don't think you're starting an attack.

      What I have witnessed and others have commented on has been the blatant negative and personal attacks on someone who has yet to make a comment. She deserves at least a little time to do that and never under any circumstances do I believe people have the right to be straight up nasty to someone else. Even if it turns out she did what has been suggested, it should be a call to discussing the grander issue of plagiarism, rather than a host of other issues pertaining to one particular blogger.

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    2. I completely agree! In fact, I was actually just talking to my husband about blogging and plagiarism yesterday -- or more that I would love someone like you guys or Leila at bookshelves of doom to do a post on citing sources. When I see something via you or her or Readventurer or where ever, and it is from somewhere like the Guardian or Flavorwire (which I read) but I read it from you first, I usually say something like "found via." Sure, I would have found it on Flavorwire later, but I still feel like I should cite, you know? Other people though, I know, just go right to the article. But what it Guardian was citing someone else? The chain can get endless really quickly. It is so much more murky when blogging than say, when using MLA. I would love to know what is considered "proper" citing procedure when using information that we all share.

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    3. There may be something in the works! Hearing that it's a topic people would be interested in reading means a lot.

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    4. Yes! I think we all could benefit from lessons on how to cite on blogs. Many of us spent years in college and grad school learning how to cite! We should know how to do this! Common courtesy should prevail: linking or providing a source is a start. Copy and paste is just too easy here on the web, I hope all of the focus on this incident reminds everyone to be original and fairly share content.

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  13. Wow. I really missed some drama today (can't say I'm sad to see that I missed it). Whether there was actually plagiarism or not, it's terrible that people are taking this to a public forum and attacking the person without giving her a chance to defend or explain herself. There's even a hash tag? No wonder the blogging community has a bad reputation and can't gain traction as professional reviewers. People can't keep their mouths shut and behave like professionals.

    I hate to think that someone as well-known and respected as Kristi may have plagiarized but, whether she did or didn't, it shouldn't be hashed out in Twitter. Wow.

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  14. plagiarism is a big issue: what is it? why does it happen? how to find it, fix it? what to do, after? I'm wish that we weren't being sidetracked from that conversation

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  15. Thanks for the awesome perspective. I'm sad that we can't band together more on topics like this - when banding together is needed most. I hope we can grow as a community to stop mud slinging and to lock onto real issues and how to solve them.

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  16. Very well said, Kelly. Keepin' it honest and classy.

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  17. Great post! I commented On Trashy Books saying that I didn't agree with the plagiarism and she's lost credibility with me but why all the drama. It's frustrating when one from our community does something like this but why be nasty about it? I in turn was attacked, very meanly, by two commentators who couldn't wait to sink their catty claws into Kristi and then me. I agreed with them about being upset and that plagiarism is bad...but I don't I understand why so many people are THAT angry! How does this affect them? This is between her and the other bloggers. People looooooove slinging others through the mud. I'm not surprised one bit. They are very unhappy and angry. It's sad. What happened was tong, but we need to get over it and move on.

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  18. I meant what happened was wrong...

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  19. I'll freely admit that I'm one who loves to talk about issues like this. I like thinking over things, really understanding what's happened, and then having a discussion about it. However, I have noticed (as you said) many almost taking a sort of joy in what's happened -- almost like they were waiting for her to fall because she's so popular and has so much power in the YA community. I'm not sure if it's jealousy or just dislike of her, but either way it gets away from the issue at hand and makes all those involved look bad. (However, just as bothersome to me are the ones who find it very easy to defend her actions and continue to support the blog with no repercussions.)

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