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01 November 2001

Internet Celebrity

Imagine you're a relatively obscure individual with a professional interest in politics and law.

You write a few articles here and there in professional publications as well as opinion publications, but outside of your narrow area of expertise you're relatively unknown.

Then you start a blog. People are interested in what you have to say. Some of your professional contacts begin to talk about your site. Some of those opinion publications begin to publicize it. The blog begins to generate one hell of a buzz. Not to mention fans! You're an internet celebrity! In no time at all.

But suddenly, there's pressure to produce. The fans must be satisfied, after all. Your commentary (bloviating, even!) begins to extend outside your narrow areas of expertise. But it's still not enough. You want more scoops, more original observations. Your FANS want more. A monster has been created. And it must be fed, damnit!

And suddenly you're "borrowing" links from other websites. They won't notice, right? It's just links, after all. Nobody owns mere links, even if they are links to sites you've never THOUGHT of going to on your own. There's no need to credit the people who found those links originally. After all, THEIR sites haven't been mentioned prominently. THEY don't have all of YOUR fans to satisfy. In fact, they should be happy to feed your blog! Anonymously, like good little pissants. Surely nobody will notice if you borrow an idea here and there as well. And if they notice similarities, they can't PROVE anything. How would they?! (Well, there are referrer logs -- but you haven't bothered actually to LEARN html or how the web works, preferring to use templates and content management tools for your site. Oops. That could be a mistake at some point). Who would believe it anyway?! Surely not your fans. And surely not the people who have publicized you. You can borrow at will. You've invincible. You've EARNED your celebrity, damnit! And the hit counter's your proof.

What in the hell am I rambling about?

Maybe nothing. Maybe something. You see, I suspect a relative newcomer to the blogging world is engaged in just the enterprise I've described above. But I have absolutely no proof -- just observations that could be entirely circumstantial. Sometimes people DO have similar ideas, after all. And sometimes, people do stumble to the same obscure websites. And it's certainly not plagiarism to pilfer obscure links from other person's sites, even if the sense of fairness is a bit iffy. Surely there is nothing that says one must give credit (though that has been the longtime practice here), although association with certain professions would seem to hold proper attribution in high regard.

I don't want to believe the quest for internet celebrity can drive a person to the behavior described above, because it's sick. And pathetic. I hope I'm wrong in my suspicions. But I really don't think I am.

[Posted @ 10:33 PM CST]

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