Plagiarism Today Turns Two

It was two years ago today, on August 2nd, 2005 that the first “live” post on Plagiarism Today was posted. Though I had been writing for almost two months prior to that, largely as an experiment to see if there was enough to warrant a blog on this topic, August 2nd was the day in which this site first, officially, opened its doors.

A lot has changed since then, both on this site and on the Web around it. Plagiarism Today is not the project it started out as, but instead, has grown into something much larger and, in my opinion, much more important.

But before I look ahead to what might lie next for PT, I want to first look back at how it started, how it evolved and how it got to be where it is today.

Frustrating Months

Plagiarism Today came out of my own personal battles with plagiarists. By the time I set up the first draft of PT, I had been running sites for eight years, battling plagiarists for three and shut down several hundred rippers.

After searching for several days to find a news site or blog on this topic, and failing miserably, I decided to create one. The niche seemed natural enough and I felt that I had as much expertise “in the trenches” as anyone.

However, the first few months of running Plagiarism Today were very difficult. Though I had expected low readership in the beginning, I didn’t expect people to be openly hostile to the idea.

It seemed that all of the feedback I got were from people who didn’t “get” the idea. “This site is stupid, you’re wasting your time,” one emailer said. “It’s pointless,” said another.

This attitude was echoed in Plagiarism Today’s first major media mention, which was on the TWiT podcast. Several of the hosts wondered aloud “Where all of the plagiarism was at” and were concerned that my site was just an exercise in futility.

Worse still was that, when the site wasn’t being blasted as pointless, it was being dragged into petty flame wars as with the Wicked Wanda plagiarism case.

Combined with the effects of Hurricane Katrina, I considered shutting the site down to focus on other ventures.

Still, somehow, I kept going. Even as day jobs had me traveling around the country working 84 hour weeks, I did my best to keep up, posting articles, answering emails and doing the best that I could, hoping that the site would gain significant traction soon.

Fortunately, the answer to my prayers were closer at hand than I realized.

In The Spotlight

Ever since I had started PT, I had made it a habit to patrol the Web, especially blogs, looking for posts about content theft or plagiarism and offering help. By May in 2006, this labor had already produced some fruits.

I had already found allies in the craft blogging community as well as among sex bloggers. However, it would be another group, sports bloggers that would provide the biggest boost to the site.

Previously I had posted a comment on a Red Sox blog, Cursed to First, that was discussing theft of their content. Though I was too late to provide any help with stopping the plagiarism, I did provide some post-mortem analysis in an attempt to help.

The owner of the blog, Beth, never forgot about what I did. When Maura Welch of the Boston Globe interviewed her about the theft, Beth mentioned my name. A short time later Maura called me and on the eighth of May she published an article featuring Plagiarism Today both prominently and positively.

Though it turned out to be only the first of many mentions of Plagiarism Today in the mainstream media, it was a huge tipping point. Subscriptions, which had been very stagnant, shot up three fold overnight and Plagiarism Today was shining bright in the public eyes. Best of all, almost all of the attention was favorable.

Since then, PT has been featured in the Christian Science Monitor, Dose Magazine (Canada), The Guardian (UK) and dozens of smaller publications, including several trade ones.

Of course, not all of the publicity has been positive. The appearance by PT on Slashdot was extremely unfavorable, not to mention fatal to the site. However, I decided not to dwell on the negative attention my worst-written article received. By that point, the forward momentum was too strong and I had other things to do.

A Shift in Focus

A lot of this success can be attributed to a shift in focus of the site. Early on, it was supposed to be a site about plagiarism and plagiarism-related news on the Web. For example, Kaavya Viswanathan and her scandal was an early staple of the site.

However, even by that time, the focus had begun to shift. Plagiarism news was only covered weekly and in a “Wrap Up” format while other stories began to take center stage.

What was once a blog about all plagiarism issues was now focusing almost solely on issues affecting Webmasters and bloggers. Those issues were expanded to cover all forms of content theft, not just plagiarism, including scraping, spam blogging and image hotlinking.

That, in turn, where Plagiarism Today has been for the past year or so, working with Webmasters, companies and organizations to raise awareness and create solutions to help artists, writers and musicians who post their work on the Web get the credit they deserve.

That part is ongoing and will continue to be for some time.

Reflections

Plagiarism Today is not an A-list blog by any stretch of the imagination. It has never seen the success, traffic-wise or financially of a TechCrunch or GigaOm. The niche, it appears, is just too small.

After two years on this site, I jokingly say all I have to show for it is an overdrawn bank account, frayed nerves and a lot of friends. But it is the latter in that group that has kept me going. In short, the people I’ve met and worked with are, almost certainly, the sole reason I keep working as hard as I do.

Yes, I have managed to eek out a modest secondary income between donations, consulting work and paid blogging, but it has left me far short of wealthy or even well-off.

If I were in this for the money, I would have been gone over a year ago.

In the end, the reason I stick around is you, the reader. So I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for all of your support of myself and this site. Your emails, comments and donations have meant more to me than you probably realize.

Without you, there would be no Plagiarism Today. It is that simple.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all that you have done. I greatly look forward to sharing the next two years with you as well and I can not wait to see where this site takes us next.

If nothing else, this should be very exciting.

Update: In addition to the aforementioned appearances in the media, Plagiarism Today just made an apperance today on Cnet.

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