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What The Story Siren Can Teach Us About Blogging

Note: This post was published before The Story Siren’s “Clarification” post.

ETA: As many of the facts were unclear when all of this first came to light, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions or assume the worst. Please read Beautifully Invisible’s post for more insight and information.

As many of you may know, today was an intense day in the blogosphere. Four fashion bloggers posted a few months ago, claiming The Story Siren plagiarized their content. With the distance between these two very different blogging communities, the posts only came to light this morning on Twitter.

Kristi, the blogger behind The Story Siren issued an apology earlier today. I would like to note that Kristi did not actually confirm that she plagiarized the content and omits any details about what allegedly happened.

With only the fashion bloggers’ posts to go by, I think this story is very one-sided. I wish we could hear Kristi’s side of what went down. I feel terrible for Kristi not only because she’s worked so hard to make a name for herself in the book blogging world.

Regardless of what happened with Kristi, I think plagiarism can be a sly thing that a blogger could fall into unknowingly.

Looking at this situation, you may think, “I would never do something like that!” But, the fact is, stuff like this happens all the time. I’m not saying it’s right – it’s awful. However, I don’t think Kristi intentionally lifted those bloggers content…I think she got lazy or uninspired and did something she should have thought more about.

Think about it – when you’re having a slow week on your blog or can’t think of anything original to post about, what do you do? Personally, I look for inspiration. I do a Google news search for “books” or “young adult books.” I try to figure out new angles for my features. And, I open up my Google Reader to see what’s up in the book blogging world.

Here’s where the danger comes in. It’s ok to find out what’s fresh and new in your community, but you have to make it your own. Even if you’re posting something months after you’ve read an article about it, you have to be careful: The Story Siren stated that she plagiarized unintentionally, not realizing how similar her post was to the other bloggers’.

Three Simple Ways to Avoid The Story Siren’s Mistakes:

1. After you’re finished writing your post, google your exact blog title or your key points from your post. If there is something out there VERBATIM or REALLY SIMILAR to your post, consider revising it. How much value are you providing your readers if you have nothing new to say about a topic?

Make a topic your own by talking about your own experience with it or make it specific to your audience. Do some research – find out something new and incorporate into your idea.

2. If you find a post you really like and don’t think you could say it better or differently, link to other content in your post. Don’t simply copy and paste the entire post and include the link – that’s still stealing. But, mentioning the gist of the article and adding a link back is a great way to avoid taking others’ ideas.

3. When reviewing books (and this is a tough one), do your best to write your OWN review first before reading any one else’s. This isn’t always possible because oftentimes we want to read a book because of another bloggers’ review. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back, write your review and ask yourself, “did I make points about this book that no one’s made yet?” If the answer is no, consider revising it.

All of these suggestions are work. They require research and dedication. But consider this, The Story Siren is a huge name in this community and has been blogging since December 2007. Her four and a half years of hard work just got tainted for the foreseeable future by easily-preventable mistakes.

Taking the time to ensure that what you’re saying is original and quality is time well-spent.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • http://ems-reviews-books.blogspot.com/ Ems

    I have to agree, 100%. I think it’s super unfortunate and so sad that the blogging community as a whole was so ready to jump in with their torches & pitchforks for a public lynching. That’s basically what it amounts to.

    While I absolutely don’t condone what happened on Twitter today, I do think it’s super important to be vigilant in our blogs/content. It would be so unfortunate to have this happen to someone else because of carelessness.

    • http://ems-reviews-books.blogspot.com/ Ems

      After seeing more of the evidence (I hadn’t seen much of that yesterday, only what people were saying on Twitter), I have to think that it was deliberate, and that breaks my heart.

      It certainly puts what I saw into context…calling someone a plagiarist isn’t bullying. It’s being honest and not letting someone get away with theft. Yeesh. What a crap situation.

      • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

        Agreed. I had only read a few posts – and with The Story Siren not saying anything, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions without hearing all sides.

  • Lea

    Hey there! Oh boy, yes I so agree with some of your points here– I try to never read any reviews for a book I JUST finished until AFTER I’ve written my own review, just to make sure that all the ideas and opinions there are my own.

    It’s tough because Kristi is such a high-profile book blogger– pretty much everyone knows her, so those kinds of mistakes (whether they were intentional or not, we don’t really know right now) are going to blow up if they get out.

    I don’t really understand her apology statement though. She says she’s disappointed in herself for making a mistake, but then she also says in the same post she’s not admitting to anything. I don’t know, the whole thing just really stinks :(

    ~Lea @ LC’s Adventures in Libraryland

  • SAYOMAY

    Its all one sided. I bet u the fashion blogs are getting a LOT more news feed right now. Its dangerous and wrong to just take one side! Yes Kristi isnt talking, but hell would u? She hasnt even started to explain her side and her roast is already being thrown! As book bloggers I wouldve expected yall to b more calm and try to understand the situation more, but yall r just like everyone else in the unforgiving world.

    • http://twitter.com/gritandglamour Grit and Glamour

      If we wanted “news feed,” we never would have agreed to protect her identity months ago when this happened.

      • Taschima

        True that!

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree! This is a great post…and a side most book bloggers are ignoring. I’m sure other book bloggers search the internet for ideas when they don’t have something to talk about…or when they’re looking for new ideas. She may have taken it too far, but I’m prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt. She may have googled a lot of sites, and not remembered exactly where she got all her information from.

    I think she is getting so much negative feedback because she is so important in the book blogging community, but most of it is unwarranted. Be disappointed, but don’t be cruel to her. It’s not helping anyone.

  • Jane

    Let me quote from Kristi Diehm’s now deleted post on plagiarism. A post she apparently deleted some time in January when she was confronted with her own acts of plagiarism. Let’s not forget that she lifted 6 posts and that she lied about her behavior when initially confronted and only agreed to remove the posts after she was shown evidence of spending hours on the original content creator sites the day she posted the plagiarized content.

    In Diehm’s own words:

    Plagiarism isn’t just copying and pasting word for word and passing it off as your own. It can be taking someones work and changing around the sentence structure, getting out your thesaurus and changing a few words here and there… basically taking the central idea tweaking it and passing it off as your own work.

    Which brings me to the topic of this post.

    Plagiarism.

    Plagiarism is wrong. No matter how you look at it.

    There is no excuse… “I didn’t know…. I didn’t mean to… I did it subconsciously.” No, you didn’t. You did know and you did mean to.

    ….

    It’s especially frustrating for this to happen in the blogging community. Why would you plagiarize a review? What is the point? Isn’t the whole idea of a blog to shareYOUR views on a book. How could you take someone else’s review and pass it off as your own? Where is your integrity? You don’t have any. You’ve cheated yourself, your fellow bloggers, your readers, the author who wrote the book, and the publicist that sent it to you.

    I have no respect for someone that does this.

    ….

    Here is the link to her post. I encourage you all to read it. Read the comments that were left on Diehm’s blog about the plagiarists.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20110103164916/http://www.thestorysiren.com/2010/04/my-one-piece-of-advice.html

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa

      I absolutely agree that plagiarism is wrong and should not be tolerated in our community. Although plagiarism is often deliberate and purposeful, the point I tried to make in my post was that it can be slier than that – more complicated.

      I’m not saying this is what happened in Kristi’s case – although I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt – but I do think you can read other’s posts, like the idea, write a post and not realize that you haven’t added anything new to the topic and have essentially copied someone else’s idea. Especially when you read posts weeks or months prior.

      It’s just unfortunate that once a mistake like this is made, you can never go back.

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

      I absolutely agree that plagiarism is wrong and should not be tolerated in our community. Although plagiarism is often deliberate and purposeful, the point I tried to make in my post was that it can be slier than that – more complicated.

      I’m not saying this is what happened in Kristi’s case – although I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt – but I do think you can read other’s posts, like the idea, write a post and not realize that you haven’t added anything new to the topic and have essentially copied someone else’s idea. Especially when you read posts weeks or months prior.

      It’s just unfortunate that once a mistake like this is made, you can never go back.

      • http://thelibrarianreads.wordpress.com/ SaraO @ TheLibrarianReads

        How can you give the “benefit of the doubt” to someone when there is literally time-stamped proof that she read an article then within a day or two passed the same idea off as her own…And to do it multiple times? I’m sorry. The girl doesn’t deserve to be publicly stoned, but I think that excusing this as anything but plagiarism (using Kristi’s own definition no less) is unfair to the blogging community. And it’s unfair to the bloggers who were plagiarized and kept Kristi’s name a secret since January…something a lot of us wouldn’t have had the decency to do.

  • http://specficromantic.com/ Janicu

    I feel for The Story Siren because her reputation is probably never going to recover from this, and that is a terrible thing with all the work she put into her blog. I feel sad about that.

    That said, I don’t think I agree with you that the copying was unintentional when the fashion bloggers have evidence of her IP address visiting their posts the day of and day before her posts, including how much time she spent looking at them. That’s pretty incriminating. I also spent some time comparing the fashion bloggers links to their posts with their screencaps from The Story Siren, and while she doesn’t copy word for word, she does use their posts as a outline to base her posts from and rewords what they said and moves around the titles. In some cases phrases are VERY similar, and so are the titles of her posts (there were a few I thought weren’t THAT similar until I looked closer and realized she moved the order of her points). I didn’t want it to be true, but I think she did plagiarize because 6 examples are too many for it to be mere coincidence and unintentional retaining of someone else’s work.

    I do agree with you that we have to be careful that when we get ideas to attribute that to the people we got it from. It’s very easy to forget sometimes. I do not think The Story Siren forgot here with all the evidence against her though. There’s too much for me personally, to give her a pass.

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

      Janicu – Thanks for your insight.

      When I wrote this post, I had only seen a few of the fashion bloggers’ examples. It really did seem that The Story Siren had taken their ideas but didn’t copy word for word – still plagiarism – but it just seemed unintentional vs. deliberate.

      Now, I agree – the evidence is piled against her and without her side of the story, she’s essentially accepting the accusations with silence.

  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com

    Good advice. While I don’t do #1, I do make sure not to read other reviews until I’ve written my own. This ensures my thoughts are coming across uniquely. And I alllways link back. It’s just the right thing to do.

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