Blogging and plagiarism

Arseni Mourzenko
Founder and lead developer
July 20, 2017
Tags: short 50 communication 27

A few days ago, I was con­tact­ed by a CS stu­dent who want­ed my ad­vice on his on­line pres­ence. He had an in­ter­est­ing CV, a de­cent web­site, and a blog which had reg­u­lar ar­ti­cles—much more reg­u­lar than mine.

I en­joy a lot work­ing with stu­dents who did ad­di­tion­al ef­forts for their on­line pres­ence: the ones who have con­tributed to open source pro­jects, the ones who had some in­ter­est­ing ideas for their CV, and the ones who write, in­clud­ing in a form of a blog. So I start­ed read­ing the ar­ti­cles, and was hap­py to note that the sub­jects were very di­verse, and that some of them were well writ­ten. The last point made me cu­ri­ous, since the same per­son did a lot of ty­pos and gram­mat­i­cal mis­takes in his e-mails—some­thing I dis­prove, but learned to ac­cept as a nec­es­sary con­se­quence of the in­creas­ing “Why would I both­er writ­ing e-mails any bet­ter than I write Face­book mes­sages” at­ti­tude—but also his web­site. An­oth­er weird thing was that some of the ar­ti­cles were for­mat­ted re­al­ly weird­ly: some­times, the source code was writ­ten as plain text, mean­ing no in­den­ta­tion or new lines; I could hard­ly imag­ine some­one writ­ing an ar­ti­cle and not both­er­ing about the blobs of code all dis­played as one huge line of text.

So I did a quick search and found that every one of the last eight (I stopped my search at eight) ar­ti­cles is a copy-paste from some­where else. The only thing which was dif­fer­ent was the date and the au­thor's name—yes, every ar­ti­cle was signed as be­ing writ­ten by the blog own­er in per­son.

And that's some­thing which makes me lose any in­ter­est in the per­son.

The un­for­tu­nate part is that there is no use copy­ing the ar­ti­cles of oth­ers. If the per­son's goal is SEO, it's lame. You don't get known by the re­cruiters through SEO: in­stead, you have to be pre­sent on the web­sites such as Stack Over­flow's Ca­reers, or ac­tive­ly go con­tact the com­pa­nies.

Prob­a­bly what the per­son ac­tu­al­ly want­ed is to show through his blog that he's in­ter­est­ed in pro­gram­ming. In this case, the process is flawed as well. Re­cruiters who do their job cor­rect­ly would no­tice the dif­fer­ence in style from one ar­ti­cle to an­oth­er, and they would be sus­pi­cious at the fact that some ar­ti­cles are well writ­ten, while the web­site is full of ty­pos. On the oth­er hand, re­cruiters who are not par­tic­u­lar­ly mo­ti­vat­ed by their job won't care about the blog any­way: they will be more fo­cused on the num­ber of pro­jects a can­di­date worked on, the num­ber of years in col­lege or the num­ber of lan­guages that one pre­tends to know.

It should be men­tioned that once caught pla­gia­riz­ing, it wouldn't be easy to fix the rep­u­ta­tion. More­over, if some­body is ready to lie to get a job by putting his name over oth­ers' work, what else is a lie? How an in­ter­view­er would trust the CV, or what the claims of the can­di­date dur­ing the in­ter­view?

As a friend­ly ad­vice to all IT stu­dents, you do have to en­sure on­line pres­ence be­yond a CV and a ba­sic web­site. How­ev­er, on­line pres­ence is not about num­bers and quan­ti­ties; twen­ty ar­ti­cles are not twice as good as ten ar­ti­cles, and twen­ty con­tri­bu­tions to an open source pro­ject are not twice as good as ten. On­line pres­ence is about you, what you have done, per­son­al­ly. If you en­joy the idea of hav­ing a blog, do it, but put your own ar­ti­cles. Writ­ing is dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cial­ly in the be­gin­ning. Find­ing time to write, es­pe­cial­ly when you're a stu­dent, is dif­fi­cult as well (just wait un­til you get your job, you'll find that it won't be­come any eas­i­er). Nev­er­the­less, there is usu­al­ly a way to write even short and sim­ple ar­ti­cles, from time to time. They don't need to be elab­o­rate, and they don't need deep re­search; well, if you're writ­ing on a high­ly tech­ni­cal sub­ject, they do, but then don't write on high­ly tech­ni­cal sub­jects. Even sim­ple ar­ti­cles show­ing an in­ter­est­ing prob­lem you en­coun­tered and how you solved it could make a dif­fer­ence be­tween you and oth­er can­di­dates, es­pe­cial­ly the ones who do pla­gia­rism.