As a published technical writer, I’ve had my share of experiences working with a publisher and its editors for a period of seven months. For my own sanity, I’ll post some of my experiences in this series of blogposts on Experiences with Being Published. I feel these stories can be quite entertaining, and I might even get a smile on my face when I look back at these stores in a couple of years’ time…
Today, let’s talk about plagiarism, because throughout the process of creating content for my book I was heavily accused of this…
Let me first point out, why my publisher decided to contact me to write the Active Directory Administration Cookbook. This blog, and my thirteen-year tenure, provided the publishing board with sufficient confidence that I could write a book on Active Directory and Azure AD.
Indeed, this blog contains a lot of information and HowTo’s on how to perform certain tasks in the worlds of Active Directory and Azure Active Directory…
The definition of plagiarism
Here’s the definition of plagiarism from dictionary.com:
- an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author: It is said that he plagiarized Thoreau's plagiarism of a line written by Montaigne.
- a piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation: “These two manuscripts are clearly plagiarisms,” the editor said, tossing them angrily on the floor.
Imagine my surprise
I was happily writing chapters for my book and meeting my deadlines. In the meantime, my content editor would go through the content I produced and provide feedback.
One of the pieces of feedback I received for Chapter 1, literally, was:
I just ran the plagiarism tool to check the originality of the chapter. Around 20% content of the chapter has been found to be taken from your blog: https://dirteam.com/sander/
Please note that we cannot include any content in the book that's freely available online even when it's from the author's own blog or website. There’s a number of problems here, the main issues being:
- Original content: If our content appears elsewhere for free, many customers would be disinclined to spend money on our products.
- Value: For those who do buy the book, they could feel that they’re not getting adequate value for money once they discover they could have already found this content elsewhere. This might drive them to leave poor reviews, and they might even interpret the unoriginal content as malicious plagiarism.
There are two solutions to this:
- take down the blog post
- Rewrite the content from scratch
The easiest solution would be the former, though either is acceptable. Please refer the attached plagiarism report for your reference.
This person actually wanted me to choose between two evils; take down the blogposts that are available for free here, while not even remotely resembling the type of content in the book, or adopt a different writing style and keep that up throughout the book so to distinguish my previous writing from the writing in the book…
In the end…
Of course, I didn't delete blog posts.
Editors will use ‘plagiarism’ tools to check content. According to the definition, what I did wasn’t plagiarism. I adopted an improved writing style that is more clear and concise than the one I used here. You may have noticed elements of the new style in recent blogposts, already. With a growth mindset, I embraced the feedback and tried to apply it in a constructive manner.
In the end, the entire Chapter 1 is available for you to read on the website of the publisher, if you use the Preview Online button on their website.
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