Thought for Tuesday – On Bandits, Blog-Scrapers and Proportional Responses

Dallas Brass1

Thanks for all of the great comments from my Friday post – I am still finishing up my post but will have it up soon enough.

One of my pet peeves in the blog world is using someone else’s content without credit or permission. And that translates into the real world in a few ways that bug me – people who cut in line, managers who take credit for the work of their employees (but always quickly dish the blame), music/video/software pirates, and people who bandit races.

All of these things seemed to be happening this week:
– As we waited for the doors to open at a concert my boys were in that featured the Dallas Brass, things were taking longer setting up … so while the kids were supposed to be there before 6PM, the doors didn’t open until 6:45 (I was there at about 5:40). As I stood by the door I could just watch people honestly waiting in line and others weaseling their way to get in front.
– I came across a post that was so obviously lifted from another post I had read just over a week ago that I was shocked. It was not directly plagiarized, but instead all of the points were used in the same order, just redone in the new author’s own words (for the most part).
– There was a couple of ‘Boston Bib Bandit’ stories, despite tighter security. The wife of Foursquare’s CEO ran with a duplicated bib, and there was a ‘manhunt’ for other duplicate bib-wearers.

In all of these cases, there are three main decisions to be made – this is something I discuss with my kids all the time:
– Did something happen that should bother you?
– Is your basic reaction aligned with the offense (i.e. annoyance, sadness, anger, etc)?
– Is your response proportional to the offense?

Yesterday Amanda at Miss Zippy had a great post about ‘The Boston Marathon Bandits (and glass houses)’, where she talks about the incredible outpouring of hate and ‘witch hunts’ over these bandits, and also how many of us are really in no great place to have such righteous indignation. I replied to her post with the list above, and the following assessment:

And with these internet things, while (1) is generally satisfied, (2) seems to always jump to outrage and (3) is largely out of control.

For those who are totally outraged and wish death upon the ‘bandits’, here is a ‘Pro Tip’: if a casual listener cannot distinguish if you are talking about someone who bandit-ed a race or the marathon bombers … you might just be reacting out of proportion … 🙂

And that sums up my thoughts on all of these things. Here are my follow-up thoughts on the earlier events:
– As I stood waiting and then entered the theater, I could see that one couple who had only recently arrived had managed to push themselves up to just a couple of people behind me. I heard a couple to the side talking, one getting upset at people pushing in who didn’t wait in line, the other saying it really didn’t matter. It is a small theater and even being as near the front as I was, the picture I got was about as good as it gets – the bands sit fairly flat, and so unless you have a flute or clarinet player, you can’t really see your child. I had a tuba (right side, bet you can’t find him) and mallet player (back row just left of center). The sound was great everywhere … and it really didn’t matter.

– As for the ‘borrowed article’ … I contacted the original author, and left it largely to them. They found it bothersome, but decided to leave it alone. And I thought about it – there is only one of a few possible outcomes: the person ignores direct contact, deletes comments and ignores attempts to point out what happened … which leaves the original author even more frustrated and does nothing to resolve the situation. Or, the ‘scraper’ has to basically pull the article and/or write a separate apology post … or at least amend the article to say that it was inspired by the original post. That doesn’t help anyone much either. The only reason I had considered contacting the other author was as a ‘learning lesson’, like I did about attributing info graphics in the past.

– As for the ‘bandits’, there was an article at Tripping the Kenyans I enjoyed that looked at all of this. Specific to the Boston Marathon, I think what they did is clearly wrong – and ‘bib bandits’ are definitely worse than the traditional ‘run at end of race’ bandits … because by wearing a bib, you are consuming resources that were purchased for those who paid an entry fee: photographers, food and water, medals, post-race supplies, and so on. But again, aside from being annoyed that people would do this – the reality is I am pretty much just as upset at those who feel it is justified and it is those who find it wrong are the ones with the problem. But again, it is not something I work myself into a frenzy about.

And ultimately that is my message: before you you hop into comments or Facebook or wherever and suggest that someone should be beaten, raped, arrested or killed because they wore an insensitive Halloween costume … think about my 3-step rules a little, ask yourself:
– Did something happen that should bother you?
– Is your basic reaction aligned with the offense (i.e. annoyance, sadness, anger, etc)?
– Is your response proportional to the offense?

It is too easy on the internet to raise to the level of righteous indignation over the smallest offenses … but generally not worth it. When you get to that level, no one is really listening to you anymore – you are better off saying “I don’t like this, and will do what I can to affect positive change in my own sphere of influence” (except that no one actually talks like that). But you get what I mean – be the change you want to see.

Be the change you want to see; say the things you want to hear; do the things you want to see done.

24 thoughts on “Thought for Tuesday – On Bandits, Blog-Scrapers and Proportional Responses

  1. Thank you for the shout out as well. And you know I love your opinion on this. Spot on as far as I’m concerned!

    • With all the outrage I really appreciated your perspective – simple but very clear and true. When we all think about the moments we would rather not be judged – as people, spouses, friends and parents … sometimes hearing our kids repeat things we’ve said!

  2. On number two, there’s another possible outcome. What about damages for copyright infringement??!! (Sorry, can’t help thinking like a lawyer…) It’s nice that you let the original author know — s/he should have the choice to consider how to handle.

    • Thanks Carina! My thought is that it is similar to a song where enough has changed where you can see the inspiration but know you could never prove it was a copy … but again, not really my fish to fry. I felt better letting them know.

  3. This is a very interesting post and I really enjoyed reading it. I like your step back and consider approach. This is something I find a lot living between NYC and Chicago. People in NYC are so quick to assume that someone is purposely wronging them. I see so many people quick to anger over simple mistakes…or even lazy things done on purpose. The bandit situation was a bit crazy and as someone who qualified but then missed the mark due to the qualification changes I was bummed to see that happen. But such is life, all you can do is try to follow the rules yourself I suppose. By the way, that slithering in and trying to push to the front is aggravating to watch 🙂

    • It really is annoying to watch people do that … and I might have been annoyed had I not been to about 200 performances by our kids there and sat in nearly every area at some point. All I wanted was two seats together.

      As for the ‘bib-gate’ … I really think it is different from just back-of-pack banditing. But again, only so much we can do about it.

  4. The escalating severity of punishment that people call for is ridiculous. I used to read a bunch of video game (specifically MMO) blogs, and I used to write off the excessive attitudes to immature kids who just want their own character to get the spell of I WIN to defeat everybody else.

    Now I’m reading running and healthy lifestyle blogs, you see similar reactions. Internet people just don’t understand the three step algorithm you describe, which is spot on btw.

    For people who commit inconsiderate acts or cause inconveniences for other people, I like to think karma will solve things, so I imaging line-cutters slipping on a banana peel and falling into some dog poo. It won’t change the course of history, but it’ll cause just the right amount of embarrassment and inconvenience that they deserve.

    • I agree – I have been involved on the internet since before there was an internet, so I have seen pretty much all of the possible responses … and the way the slightest offense can lead to people being hunted down, personal information revealed, jobs lost and so on for something minor … well it troubles me. I also used to attribute it to immature 12-year olds just venting out … but it is much worse and more pervasive than that, sadly.

  5. Oh Lord yes…people get so upset over things that aren’t even their business or in their control. I love the three questions to ask yourself before you react. The stolen content one is really annoying, I’ve gotten inspiration from other’s posts before but I always give them credit for the idea.

    • Thanks so much, and I very much agree Kels – I think that within our running / healthy living community things are small enough that many of us read each other and discover new sites based on comments from common sites.As such there is bound to be inspiration … but when it goes beyond that it is not OK.

  6. I loved this, especially since I read so many hateful comments about the Boston Marathon bandits over the past week. I think your logic is spot on about taking a step back and evaluating a situation before commenting on it. I think the internet allows people to be much more brazen when sitting behind a computer screen, safe from the backlash of others. While I think people have a right to be angry, many took it to a whole other level that was not warranted for the “crimes” committed.

    • I definitely agree that anonymity creates a situation where people can feel more able to behave in a way they wouldn’t in person.

      For me, I want to focus on all of the amazing things that happened, the great day, the great people such as yourself who ran, and so on. I mean, there is an article I saw yesterday about a woman who was struggling and a couple of guys who walked her through the finish and got her to the medical tent. Certainly stuff should be done about bib-bandits … but THIS is the story we should be talking about!

  7. I think Amanda said it really well when she described reactions. I tend to be a pretty even person and don’t get horribly worked up about much because unless I can change it or it’s causing me harm, well it’s just not that important 🙂

    • That is really the most healthy way to do things – getting stressed and upset about things way outside of our sphere of control is very counter-productive. Better focus on things we can influence!

  8. Biting my tongue a bit here, but thank you for the great post. In situations like this, I tend to go through a range of emotions … shock, outrage, etc., but luckily those all happen within a period of a few seconds. In many cases, unless we can prevent more harm from occurring, I think the best case is to move on. People know they are doing something wrong when they commit one of these acts, and we can just hope it was a one-time occurrence and they’ve learned their lesson. But if it happens repeatedly, I think there can be a need to intervene!

    • My concern with these things is it is hard to tell if someone feels bad when they do this, or are they like a preschooler testing to learn their limits. That is always my concern – if they don’t get ‘caught’ … will they begin to think it is OK? Rhetorical question, but I hope that their conscience keeps them in check.

  9. So excellent and I just saved the quote from the end of this post.
    I 100% agree with you on this. Do I think what those people did was wrong? Absolutely. Does it make me mad? Yes and I hope they get caught. That said, some of the comments I’ve seen about them have made me a little uncomfortable and it’s hard to make me uncomfortable. Sure I hope they get caught but do I think they should be publicly beaten for what they did? Not so much.

    I’m still learning a lot about the running world since I’ve only been doing this for a year. I never realized how much of a problem that banditing really is until recently (starting with that moron who ran the Georgia half and took all those selfies). I think a lot of my initial shock stemmed from the fact that I had no idea things like this even happened at all. Now that I’m realizing that it happens a lot, I still really don’t like it, but it puts a bit of a new perspective on it.

    • So true Lauren! I can’t remember when I even heard the word ‘banditing’, but it was after I started blogging last fall! I have seen people ‘run in’ their friends for part of the end of the course and never had an issue with that sort if thing. For me it crosses a line when people interfere with paid runners or consume resources of any type. But again – not thinking they should be drawn & quartered or anything! 🙂

  10. Oh, that is terrible about the Boston Marathon race. I don’t understand why they didn’t just “steal” the number from their injured friend, even if it wasn’t official. I don’t think that is right either ,but then at least they didn’t take someone’s number who was actually running. Most people are so self-absorbed, people should just think for a minute about how they would feel if someone did it to them. The same goes for the comments too, how would you feel if someone said that to you or someone close to you. I think it is acceptable to call people on their BS or bad behavior but you need to try to do it in a civilized manner.

    • Totally agree Mariah – it is all so self-absorbed and over the top … and like you say, calling people on things is often a good thing – but lodging death threats is not. 🙂

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