At the risk of upsetting a number of good Catholic bloggers (including some friends), I want to talk for a minute about the practice of adding “emphases and comments” to someone else’s work and uploading it as a blog post.
[2010-12-10 Author’s note – I realize I was unclear here. I’m talking about copying most or all of another person’s article or blog post and adding “emphases and comments” — not just quoting a paragraph or two and linking back to the original, which has long been accepted practice.]
In short: I am not a fan of this practice. I think it is boring, lazy, borderline unethical, and cowardly. Maybe it’s just the grumpy old man in me, but I can’t understand why this is such a popular way to blog.
It’s boring because I follow enough blogs that I’ve probably already seen the original article and formed my own opinion. I don’t need five other bloggers’ identical commentaries on it. It’s lazy because it doesn’t call for any great effort or creativity. I find bloggers that publish infrequent but original content much more interesting and useful than those that produce a large quantity of “emphases and comment” material.
It’s only borderline unethical because, while skirting the line of content theft, I suppose an argument can be made that the comments and emphases add enough of an editorial layer to qualify for fair use. But even that can be abused; I’ve seen some cases where the commenting blogger offered no original material and little in the way of “emphasis.”
But the theft involved is more than just content. In same cases it may well be depriving the original author of advertising revenue by stripping away ad content that is part of the original author’s site. This is especially devastating to traditional media organizations that are already reeling from a loss of ad revenue in their print editions. It is also depriving the original author of an audience and comments on the original post. If I write a blog post, I want people to comment on my site so that I can respond and engage in the conversation.
And that’s what really bugs me. These types of posts are just extended comments that avoid any direct confrontation with the original author. It’s a passive-aggressive way to react to another person’s work in a place they are unlikely to find it. It’s circumvents one of the web’s greatest assets: the free exchange of ideas and open communication.
If bloggers were really interested in engaging original authors — and not just scoring easy points with their readers — they would man up and post a comment instead of running back to their own blogs.
Am I being a fuddy-duddy? Is this an ethical issue that Catholic bloggers should be aware of? Or am I stuck in the 20th century?