Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism blog-storm over "Free"


22 Responses to “Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism blog-storm over "Free"”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Plagiarism seems to be governed by a sliding scale, with consequences lessening as the wrongdoer’s status rises.

  2. DSMVWL THS says:

    One more comment, then I’ll leave this alone:

    Anderson’s specific rep is built on the idea that he’s a “wired” guy, who has a special understanding of how the new media world works, and a talent for being forward-looking.

    The fact that he didn’t anticipate that this lifting of material would be quickly and easily uncovered by the many-eyed web is, IMO, a double blow to his rep.

  3. jccalhoun says:

    He fully admits it and seems to have a decent explanation for it so it isn’t that big of a deal.

    …except in one area…

    Anderson wrote
    In my drafts, I had intended to blockquote Wikipedia passages, footnoting their URL. But my publisher, like many others, was uncomfortable with the changing nature of Wikipedia, and wanted me to timestamp each URL (something like this: page viewed on July 8th, 2008), which struck me as clumsy and archaic. So at the 11th hour we decided to kill the notes and footnotes entirely and I integrated the attributions into the copy.

    Clumsy or not, that’s basically how it is done. Wikipedia has on every entry a link in the left hand column that will tell you how to “cite this page.” It is even called “cite this page.” Clicking that link will take you to a page that will tell you exactly how for cite a particular version of a wikipedia entry in numerous citation styles. See the entry for Anderson himself for example Looking at the citations you will note that every single style includes the date the entry was accessed and some even include the time. Even if he didn’t want to include the date the “cite this page” link gives you a url for the entry with a specific id number so even if the entry is changed the link will still go to the version of it that is cited.

    Of course it is possible that mediawiki, the software that wikipedia runs on, didn’t have this feature when he was writing the book a few years ago but it looks like they had that feature at least as far back as December 27, 2005.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So is anyone working on some of Anderson’s old “articles” to find all the direct copying in there, too?

    From the title of his ‘book’, the man is obviously a hypocrit…

  5. crashgrab says:

    How does a magazine editor not know better?

  6. OldScot says:

    Commenting from left field it occurred to me that any Wikipedia citation should cite the version of a page. You want to cite the version you used and at the same time credit the authors of that version. The citation should include a page reference that recreates the page version and makes it clear if there is a newer version. Something along the lines of
    which can alert the user and offer the current page if the version isn’t found.

    Half off sale today, my 1 cent.

  7. dculberson says:

    Oldscot, good idea, but crediting the “authors of that version” is impractical. There’s no practical way to know who contributed substantively to a particular Wikipedia article.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m a university writing teacher. What Anderson did would absolutely (and rightly) be considered plagiarism at our institution. In fact, big chunks of uncited Wikipedia is the most common form of plagiarism I see.

    As for his ridiculous excuses about not knowing how to cite them, or, when being told how to do it, objecting because it looked bad? Unbelievably arrogant. It’s like refusing to put the license plate on your car because it’s ugly. It doesn’t matter; you’re still going to get busted, and rightly so.

    Not that I ever had that much respect for Anderson–his ideas are goofy at best–but this just proves how unprofessional he is.

    “Writethrough.” Unbelievable.

    Grade: F-

  9. Anonymous says:


    The guy is Editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine and can NOT figure out a way to properly credit Wikipedia??????

    Thats WAY LAME…..

  10. Takuan says:

    never mind all that! what’s this Anderson johnny’s net worth?

  11. hokano says:

    And as you’ll see, in most cases I did do a writethrough of the non-quoted Wikipedia text, although clearly I didn’t go nearly far enough and too much of the original Wikipedia authors’ language remained (in a few cases I missed it entirely, such as that short Catholic church usury example, which was a total oversight).

    Tell me more about these things you call ‘writethroughs’. Sounds like a million dollar idea.

    Now, where did I put that latest issue of WIRED?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Why the Future is Selling More of Less of Your Own Writing….

  13. sky says:

    I’m writing my PhD thesis, and I’ve decided to cite Wikipedia. I explained why in my introduction, and subsequently cite entries as written by ‘Wikipedians’.

  14. Anonymous says:

    It was plagiarism, no need to whitewash or try to spin the story.

  15. DSMVWL THS says:

    The second edition should be subtitled “Steal This Book (I Already Did!)”.

  16. Elvis Pelt says:

    @4 I salute your guts. Good luck.

  17. Daemon says:

    “writethrough”, at a guess, would be to take parts of wikipedia articles, and rewrite them in your own words.

    Which, in many cases, would still qualify as plagerism, if unattributed.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Even weirder than the plagiarism, apparently Anderson’s hard drive was online and unprotected. Everyone leaves a security hole from time to time, but this seems bizarre for the editor in chief of Wired

  19. J France says:

    Writethrough sounds like what I did to get through my SACE (bascially my regions SATs) studies.

    Thankfully the internet was young enough then for me to be one of the few people ganking from it.

    I’ve never admitted that before, so lets just hope my Modern European History lecturer is not reading right now….

  20. Anonymous says:

    Wikipedia is the communal instant-access information store, and the articles are written to a general uninformed audience. It’s really perfect for when an author just doesn’t have anything original to say on a topic but still has to include the information. In most cases (including NYT), you’d probably prefer the Wikipedia entry anyway.

    Makes perfect sense for a thesis; we use Wikipedia in my lab all the time.

    Anderson is obviously a smart guy who sees the market for solidifying a small drop of that info-goo into paper and explaining to readers how it’s all going to change the world a heck of a lot. From the descriptions on Amazon, it sounds like he admits as much somewhere in the text. I did notice that the price on Amazon is not $0.00, so perhaps we should assume readers will already be on the alert.

    Finally, I don’t see how there is any difficulty in citing Wikipedia. Their Terms of Use make attribution requirements pretty clear. He doesn’t even need to link to Wikipedia; the book could have it’s own citation website with reproductions of the Wikipedia pages.

  21. Anonymous says:

    thank you very nice posts

  22. DSMVWL THS says:

    #5 is correct. Using extensive material verbatim, or nearly so, without attributing sources is the definition of plagiarism. Doesn’t matter if the copying is claimed to be accidental or not.

    Here is what Anderson’s favorite source says about it.

    A person like Anderson is paid big bucks to have presumably sound, interesting, and at least somewhat original ideas. Fail.

    But if he can’t manage good ideas, then at minimum, as the editor of a major periodical, he should conduct himself as a scrupulously professional journalist. Epic fail.

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