September 13, 2005

Hack Work

One of those things that irritates me, and I'm wondering if I'm in the minority or the majority about it:

Does it bother you when a blogger quotes several--more than 4, let's say--paragraphs from a major media source like the New York Times, and caps it off with only a sentence or two of his own above and below the excerpt?

I understand not having faith that your readers will indeed "read the whole thing" as you've asked them to, and I somewhat understand not wanting them to leave your site to go read that awful awful mainstream media THAT WE DON'T NEED ANYMORE, because BLOGGING IS CITIZEN JOURNALISM. (Obviously I don't agree with that last point; all I'm saying is that I understand some webloggers feel this way.)

Hate the mainstream media all you like; it's still poor form to quote more than 4-5 paragraphs of someone else's material, and even quoting that much is pushing it--though there are exceptions, and we'll get to one in a second here.

What's really objectionable is quoting more than 4-5 paragraphs from a mainstream media outlet and then not even having the wit to add any of your own thinking to it. In a less charitable mood than I'm in today (it is beautiful out today! Just thought I'd mention that), I'd call it thinly-disguised plagiarism--which I rank well below outright, I'm-not-even-trying-to-hide-it plagiarism.

But so no one gets the wrong idea, let me give you an example of what I'm not talking about: Quoting from other sources extensively when those sources are used as support for a point you're trying to make--a point you develop and explore thoroughly, a point which is, uh, the point of the post in the first place. I'm all for that. When the quoted material plays a supporting role in a post that could stand on its own (and would, in the hands of a weblogger less meticulous about providing evidence for his or her assertions), it's appropriate.

It also has the effect of making me more likely to indeed "read the whole thing," because now the weblogger has shown me he's genuinely interested in the material. If it's got him thinking, I reason, it might get me thinking.

So I'm not talking about just extensive quoting; it can have its place. I'm talking about extensive quoting to which you add no thought of your own. No thought besides "that was a good article," I mean.

The most annoying habit is webloggers linking to other webloggers' posts that are literally nothing but half a New York Times article framed by one sentence of introduction and one sentence in conclusion. That's revolting. I get annoyed when I click a link someone's provided, only to see that I must now either (1) click a link to the New York Times and read the whole thing, or (2) content myself with the 1/2 to 2/3 of the article "helpfully" reprinted by the weblogger in his excerpt.

Look: If you know another weblogger has put up one of these half-assed, read-the-whole-thing-(but-here's-2/3-of-it-in-case-you-don't) posts, why on earth would you link that? Why reward poor effort? Do you get a secret thrill out of linking another weblogger (a true independent! A real maverick! Someone not answerable to The Man!) over those nassssty journalists?

Then grow up. Next time, bypass his lazy ass and go right to the source. Give credit where credit is due. Otherwise you're just jerking your readers around, showing them no respect. Isn't that part of what earned professional journalism a poor reputation in the first place?

Posted by Ilyka at September 13, 2005 04:32 PM in hell is other people | TrackBack

I guess it doesn't bug me, because I've done it myself. Did it today even. But I swear I won't ever again!! Honest!

Posted by: Ith at September 13, 2005 05:44 PM

Oh hell Ith, you never blockquote more than 2-3 paragraphs. And you've never done something as egregious as the example linked here.

Posted by: ilyka at September 13, 2005 05:50 PM

I should probably add that I don't mind there being little original thought added as long as the quoting is kept to "teaser" length. Now that I've seen you do, and I almost always do wind up going to read the whole thing--because you haven't provided me with the bulk of it.

I think what I'm saying is, if you quote long, write long. If you want to write short, quote short. I think in general that's a guideline that adheres to Fair Use.

Posted by: ilyka at September 13, 2005 05:53 PM

[peers out from behind the sofa] you sure? Cus I want you to be happy, man! I'm ready to throw myself on my letter opener -- since there's no sword handy -- honest to goodness. I'll eat fruit on your behalf, whatever it takes!

(yes, my blood sugar is crashing. can you tell?) (but after I trudge home, red wine is waiting)

Posted by: Ith at September 13, 2005 05:54 PM

Seriously, I do worry sometimes over just how much to quote. But I angst over everything, so that isn't a surprise. And sometimes, I'm too tired or lazy to be terribly original. It'll be interesting to read other opinions on the matter.

Posted by: Ith at September 13, 2005 05:59 PM

You know what I just thought of as a good example of doing it right? Your Best Friends post. An excerpt from them stressing the dire need, and your recommendation to donate--that's all you need in that instance, right? It's not like you can go on for six paragraphs after something like that--or you could, but it detracts from the point, which is DONATE!

Heck, Instapundit's built a whole career out of [opening line][excerpt][exhortation to read it all], so obviously pure linking has some appeal and benefit.

What happened in the instance I cited above, however, is I went to Asymmetrical Information, read the provocative statement that Enron can be blamed for an overall loss of domestic jobs, went to the link provided to see what that was all about . . . and found out "that" was actually an article in the NYT. Which, I'm glad I was pointed to it, but if that's where the thought is coming from, that's where I want to be referred--not to some guy who just cut and pasted and phoned it in.

Red wine sounds good. (That's really something where I have to stick to 1-2 glasses with dinner, or BANG!--the migraine.) Enjoy it!

Posted by: ilyka at September 13, 2005 06:06 PM

I'm drinking fine Target wine in a box. Really. A Cabernet/Shiraz. It's actually not a bad wine for everyday drinking, and it makes my wine habit affordable.

Posted by: Ith at September 13, 2005 06:41 PM


Posted by: Pixy Misa at September 13, 2005 06:55 PM

Yes what? Yes to box wine? (I agree!) Yes to marriage? (Because I've already called the caterers.) Yes to "that's hacky?" :)

Posted by: ilyka at September 13, 2005 07:07 PM

If I weren't a girl, or you weren't a girl, I'd marry you! (isn't weren't an odd looking word?)

I swear I've only had one glass!

Posted by: Ith at September 13, 2005 07:27 PM

I swear I've only had one glass!

You are KILLING me! Here, to hell with it--we'll ALL get married. To each other. I want to see John Derbyshire's righteous outrage in The Corner afterwards.

"I TOLD YOU polygamy was the next step! I TOLD YOU! Perverts! Heathen! Blasphemers!"

Here, Derb, have some wine.

Posted by: ilyka at September 13, 2005 07:32 PM

Well, I'll have to check and see if April's okay with it first. Must not upset the Ninja!

So is this going to be a long distance marriage or are we all moving in together someplace?

Posted by: Ith at September 13, 2005 07:50 PM

Yeah, I don't think it's hack work per se, but it comes close to what I used to see a lot in high school and college, when kids would quote a lot from their sources in order to fill up pages. I ran a typing service in college (yes, in the deep dark days before PCs) and I remember paper after paper of such stuff. It's like people are afraid that they'll be seen as slacking off, they won't get that blogospheric "A", unless they "turn in their post." I've been through my self-imposed deadline zine, I feel no such compulsion now. I blog daily, but sometimes it's only a line or two, and I rarely quote more than 2-3 sentences if at all.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at September 13, 2005 08:06 PM

Plagiarism. Isn't that Joe Biden's speech writer?

Posted by: Anna at September 13, 2005 08:54 PM

Sure, get married! Leave me behind... [sniff sniff]

No, really. I'm happy for you all!

Where are my goats? Ith has to have a bride price... 4 goats... and a horse!

Posted by: Ninjababe at September 13, 2005 09:21 PM

I can't begin to tell you how tempting it is to quote three quarters of this post in my own blog, and then follow it up with an instruction to "read the rest" because "I completely agree with what Ilyka Damen says here."

Posted by: Moebius Stripper at September 14, 2005 05:43 PM

I can't stand reading stuff like that either, unless there is plenty of pointed commentary. Not -- "Hey, read this!" (several long paragraphs of some news article.) "I agree!" Bleh.

So I visit the post -- "today I felt I learned something"?? Good grief, I can get more cogent commentary watching the Noggin channel.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 14, 2005 05:51 PM

Four goats, a horse, and a cow.

Okay, cow and a half, but that's my final offer.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at September 15, 2005 01:49 AM

Amen, sistah. A-fucking-men.

Posted by: sadie at September 15, 2005 04:55 AM