With the amount of plagiarism that gets created by real estate bloggers…

… I can’t say I’m surprised that Greg opted to forgo an award this week

One of the things that my team at Move did was send out “plagiarism” notices to agents if we noticed they were posting non-original content on the REALTOR.com blogging platform.  We tried to phrase it nicely so as to encourage good content and let agents know that if they started writing good stuff they *could* get featured on the Let’s Talk blog (pretty much the only carrot at my team’s disposal).

Nonetheless, every once in a while we would get a defense of stolen content that was not only adamant, but borderline comical.  For example, we had multiple people tell us they had licensed the use of blog posts from RCG, BHB or the REZ (definitions), while others would claim their content was “unique” because they had flipped the order of paragraphs or merged two articles (often with only slightly comprehensive results).

While there are some services out there that will help you determine if an article is plagiarized, here is an easy way to do it using Google:

  1. Copy-and-paste the first 10 words or so from a random paragraph in an article.  (For no good reason other than she was recently featured, I’ll choose this article by Elizabeth Weintraub).     The words I choose were “But in other parts of the country, especially those where” out of the second paragraph.
  2. Add a quote mark to the front of the string and do a Google search [“But in other parts of the country, especially those where]. The quote mark ensures the only results that get returned will be with words that appear in that particular order.
  3. In this case, the only results returned are from Elizabeth’s AR blog, so it almost definitely her original content.   And while duplicating her stuff on AR and the RDC Featured Blog is probably not helping her SEO out, at least it is not plagiarized.

I think it is also worth noting that all of the search engines have really improved in getting the spam out of their results.   It used to be that if you took a popular article from RCG and did a similar search, the results would be filled with spammy sites… Not so anymore on Google, Yahoo or MSN.

12 responses

  1. Hi Dustin,

    This is every blogger’s nightmare: You’ve found an interesting tidbit of information on some website, and you post it on another blog to share it. Then, someone points out that that information was already on another site so everyone slams you and starts calling you names.

    Yikes! I try to disclose where I find stuff and I still get in trouble. While I understand the ethical issue of pure cut-n-paste plagiarism abuse, I think everyone needs to cut each other some slack and realize that sharing is not a sin, but a blessing.

  2. To be fair, in the instant matter, I don’t think the weblogger was aware that he had failed adequately to disclose that the work was not his own. We like to shout from the rooftops that “there are no rules!,” but the rules of fair use and appropriate attribution are worth upholding.

  3. Whoa! We’re falsely accusing this author of plagiarism. He correctly cited the work as a “pass-through” story from his brother from the get-go. It’s always been at the bottom of the article. That’s why I didn’t vote for it in the Odysseus Medal’s People’s Choice selection.

    The mistake here was not the author’s but the reader’s.

    The Mortgage Cicerone is a compilation of original content, properly cited and attributed stories from other authors (with commentary), and sales tips for originators (both original and properly cited).

    Now, the damaging comments are flying all over the internet, accusing Tony of plagiarism.

    I think this is an example of “skimming” rather than plagiarism

  4. > We’re falsely accusing this author of plagiarism.

    In fact, the weblogger in question made a mistake, so far uncorrected. This is from email I sent yesterday, quoted here for the benefit of inlookers:

    “Quoted matter is enclosed in quotes or preferably blockquotes. There is a clear and unambiguous attribution of the original source. Nothing is ever quoted in its entirety, since this is theft of copyright, not a fair use. Ideally, you should link back to the source.”

    None of these thing were done in the article under discussion, nor have they been done since the error was pointed out.

  5. Ran across another post on another blog – FSBO tips. Looked awfully familiar. Which it was, having come directly from a different blog without attribution.

    Plagiarism runs rampant.

    Jim – there’s a difference between pulling a snippet with attribution and simply dropping the snippet into a post without notice. And it’s not the little things to cause issues but large portions of print – paragraphs, full articles, etc.

  6. Brian:

    Just to be clear… When I wrote this article I didn’t even know who the author was or the problem article. I’m sure I could have figured it out if I had done some research, but I didn’t see the need.

    More than anything else, Greg’s actions (i.e. taking away his award) reminded me of a story I’ve wanted to tell about plagiarism in online real estate for quite a while.

  7. “I think this is an example of “skimming” rather than plagiarism”

    Come on Brian, copying an entire article verbatim is hardly “skimming”. Putting an unlinked “hat tip” at the bottom is hardly proper attribution.

    The original hat tip said simply, “Hat Tip: My brother Lawrence”. There was no mention of it being “passed on”. That part was added after the error was pointed out. I know this, because I linked to Tony’s post as well. (and I thought he wrote it. As did the person that tipped me that it was an urban legend).

    I don’t think Tony intended for one second to pass this off as his own work. But the fact remains it is copied verbatim, in its entirety, and not properly attributed (still).

    People make mistakes. People don’t understand. That’s perfectly acceptable. But I know Greg pointed it out to Tony, and I did too. Tony even thanked me for my thoughts. Yet the post remains improperly attributed.

    Making mistakes is understandable. Not correcting them isn’t.

    Go back to your school days Brian. Imagine turning in a paper that is entirely a copy/paste of someone else’s work. You put “Hat tip: My brother Joe” at the bottom. Are you going to tell me your professor (or 3rd grade teacher for that matter) won’t call it plagiarism?

    I guess it’s OK for me to post entire articles that you write, as long as I put “Hat tip to Brian” (with no link) at the bottom.

  8. To amend, ad tedium: For my own part, I don’t believe the original intent was to deceive or to plagiarize. I do think, now that the error has been pointed out, that the right thing to do is to quote and attribute along the lines I suggested here yesterday. It’s common, in the face of criticism, to circle the wagons, shoot the messenger and mix the metaphors. But: What would David Gibbons do? Everything is public in the Web 2.0 world — including what you do when you are publicly criticized.

  9. I know Greg and I have talked about this a bit in the past, but the scraping of content in the real estate blogosphere is still rampant.

    I have countered this by using this plug in


    What it does is put a direct link back to the post and also the site in the footer. As someone else said, if your stuff is going to be stolen, at least let me get the credit for it.

  10. Random thought:

    I’m reading 98% of my blog posts in my RSS feed reader, which tends to remove a lot of of the formating and produce simple text.

    Dozens of times I’ve read people quoting “correctly” with block quotes, font color changes, colored backgrounds to quotes etc, but in the feed reader some of the formating is stripped and it appears to be not a quote but the direct writing of the blog author.

    Got to make the feed clear too.

    And seriously… it was a chain email letter. You can’t really attribute chain letters as source material.

  11. A good blogger doesn’t need to be a plagiarist, all thst she needs to have is his sense and being factual.Of course he needs to read, read and read and learn so as to share something to his readers.

Leave a Reply