When Is A ‘Hat Tip’ Appropriate (Even When It’s Not)?

You are not original - your thoughts aren't, at least (mostly). And that's okay! Embrace it.

You are not original – your thoughts aren’t, at least (mostly). And that’s okay! Embrace it.

There are lots of folks sharing their thoughts on a range of topics online. Odds are, some will mirror yours. And although it can be disconcerting when this happens, this does NOT mean they’ve plagiarized you. It COULD mean they did, of course, but odds are they did not.

So before you reach out with accusations, consider the possibility of coincidence. And if you’re the one approached with accusations, consider how thrown off the person coming at you must feel.

Unfortunately, neither side of this ‘Twitter Gone Wild’ plagiarism dust up considered where the other side was coming from.

There are lots of folks online who are fond of accusing others of copying their tweets. That’s ridiculous. Limited to 140 characters and commenting on the same events will inevitably lead to duplication – even exact duplication. It happens.

But what about story angles? Can those be duplicated too? Yup. Unless you’re POSITIVE that you’re the only person to ever think that particular thought (which is pretty narcissistic of you), then yes – two people can (and do) independently come up with the same story angle.

Enter @thewayofhteid. The Root reports @thewayoftheid tweeted a pretty brilliant take on “White Riots” – read it here.

And then Gawker shared a pretty brilliant take on rioting white surfers – read it here.

Notice the similarities? Can you see why @thewayoftheid might have felt her thought process was hijacked? Disconcerting, right?

So she reached out to Gawker with this:

And they replied with their own plagiarism accusation and a Gawker writer telling her off to boot:

And all hell broke loose with people shouting back and forth (you can read more of the replies on this strand here – you know you want to):

Bad form all around, really.

Was she plagiarized? Clearly not. Would it have killed Gawker to be professionals (who likely encounter stuff like this a lot) and say “Sorry, two individuals CAN arrive at the same story angle independently. Great mind think alike!” or whatever? Okay, that’s possibly kind of jerky too and once people are pissed online, it takes on a life of its own – so maybe there was no good response to quell the inevitable anger.

Gawker did TRY to respond professionally (after a while) with this:

Most thinking seems to land here:

And honestly, what can one expect when calling out Gawker in any fashion, regardless? They’re not exactly known for tip toeing delicately among the Internets.

Probably the worst part about this whole thing (for both sides) is admitting there’s a similarity in their thinking at all.

How do you think Gawker could have/should have handled this? And what about @thewayoftheid – any lessons to learn there?

(Image from Shutterstock)