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Blogging and plagiarism

Arseni Mourzenko
Founder and lead developer, specializing in developer productivity and code quality
July 20, 2017

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.