In a series of links that dropped my jaw, made me shake my head, and feel a boatload of “Oh, No,” here's an eyeopening series on how to catch someone stealing your content online, which was posted today by CuddleBuggery after Katiebabs saw an anonymous link on this older post on plagarism.
The follow posts are from January 2012, and I'm not sure why the book blogging community wasn't aware of it until now.
Kristi Diehm, better known as The Story Siren, was allegedly caught lifting articles about blogging and making minimal changes to them for her site. Bloggers B from Beautifully Invisible and Vahni from Grit and Glamour found the evidence and confronted her about it. Their entire story is like a master tutorial on how to use analytics to identify who is reading a website, and when – and in this case, possibly why.
Part the first: Beautifully Invisible is plagiarized, and figures out who it is, where they came from, and what they looked at.
Part the second: Grit & Glamour explains options for dealing with similar circumstances, and explains the steps they took to address the theft of their content in this instance.
According to the write up of the process at Grit and Glamour, Kristi responded by saying:
“In all honestly, I have never been to your blog or any of the blogs mentioned in this email until tonight when I cross referenced the posts that you had listed. I rarely if ever read blogs beyond the book blog community. But I could not agree more with your assessments of the posts. And I am sorry to say that I have no viable explanation. I even searched my web history to see if perhaps I had read the posts and had recalled them as I was writing my own.”
The statement that she'd never visited their sites despite the ample IP evidence to the contrary led to a request that she delete the content, which she did.
Then she responded in part by saying, “I've tried to be as obliging as possible and in turn I'm hoping that you will allow this to stay private.”
Folks on Twitter who weren't part of this request for anonymity about the accused plagiarist, looked the images online, both of photos and geographic location, and helped identify Kristi Diehm from The Story Siren.
Photo from the writeup:
Photo from LinkedIn:
When stuff like that happens, it damages more than just the accused and the accuser. It undermines the efforts of all of us who review books online. Still no word from Diehm about this matter, but as Jane pointed out via Twitter, I look at her site and wonder if any of it is hers, or if the other content was lifted from elsewhere. And since we who discuss books online work so hard on our content, it's galling to see someone who has been outspoken about plagiarism and who has worked to build a community online despite being plagiarised revealed as an accused plagiarist.
In the book blogging community, we may not always get along, but I absolutely do believe that most of us respect one another's content, and we don't steal words from one another. For one thing, it's wrong, and for another, good golly, have we not figured out that there's very few ways to hide it?
What I don't understand is how this is coming to light now – these posts were written in January 2012. Did you know about this? Has there been any additional signs of plagiarism?
Updated 7:53pm ET: Kristi Diehm has posted what she calls an explanation and apology at her site, where comments are closed:
I owe you an explanation and an apology.
Please don’t take my silence on this issue until now as an admission to anything.
I made a mistake. I freely admit that. I am disappointed in myself and I’m embarrassed. I’m deeply saddened and distraught that I have broken your trust. I don’t want to give you any excuses. In a way I feel as though it won’t matter what I say at this point. It seems that the verdict has been decided. I was accused of doing something that I am vehemently against, and intentionally or not, I know that there will be consequences.
You may be wondering why I didn’t address this issue earlier. The fact is, I thought it was taken care of privately. After the issue was brought to my attention I was appalled. I would never do something like that. That is NOT me. I thought that I did everything that I could do, to make the situation right.
I’ve struggled immensely internally with this, because this is not the type of person that I am. I felt like the fraud I was accused of being.
I didn’t want to keep it private for the reasons that you are thinking. I’m not worried about what people will think of me. I’m not saying that it doesn’t hurt, it does. I’m not immune, but that wasn’t my biggest concern. My biggest worry was the authors and publishers that I host.
I offer them something. A viewership. I offer them the chance to have their book seen. I didn’t want to deny them something that I had promised. I now fear that is the case.
I don’t expect your forgiveness. I don’t even expect you to understand. I can’t ask that you continue reading The Story Siren as a result, and I respect your decision to not do so. The only thing I ask of you is that you take this apology as a sincere one.
Four months of silence is not an admission of anything, and nowhere in this “apology” does she actually acknowledge her actions. “Intentionally or not?” How do you unintentionally lift four articles from another site? Where is the apology, exactly?
And her explanation: she only did it for authors and publishers that she hosts. She did it for you! *headdesk*
To quote Moira Rogers Bree, “Dear plagiarists: please retire, “I didn't realize I'd done it” as an excuse ASAP. It is A RIDICULOUS excuse & now you're ridiculous too.”
That was one of the most flaccid apologies I've seen, filled with double-speak and not much meaning or significance, or even addressing the situation. What a disappointment. And of course I have that Rhianna song stuck in my head again, because this “apology” and “explanation” indicates to me that she's only sorry she got caught.
Updated 10:00 pm ET: I received a more sincere apology via email from Kristi, as did Jane at DearAuthor:
I am very sorry for the trouble that all of this has caused the book blogging community. I also apologize for my actions and will work harder to be a better and stronger blogger. I have answered on my on blog as well and am sorry that I was unavailable due to work during the day and seemed unresponsive.
I wish that had been what was on her site.
Updated 24 April 11:00 am ET: Another explanation and more robust apology has been posted on the Story Siren's site, though comments remain closed, which means other threads on Kristi's site have hosted comments for this topic, which have been deleted, it seems. The apology reads:
Let’s try this again. I owe all of you, the blogging community and my readers a much better explanation and apology. My first apology was written out of emotion. I should have given myself the time to reflect before responding. I didn’t do that and I tend to let my emotions rule.
I am truly sorry for all the trouble that this has caused the book blogging community. That’s my biggest regret. You gave me your respect and I let you down. I took a role as a leader and I didn’t take my actions into account as it would reflect on the community as a whole. For that I am truly sorry.
When I first received the allegations of plagiarism, I was presented with the information and could not deny the facts. While the content was not identical the subject matter was. It was a confusion of inspiration and plagiarism on my part. I am not denying my actions. I was in the wrong.
While I did not recognize the blogs in question initially after continued correspondence I discovered I was incorrect in that. I worked with the bloggers first linking to their initial posts and then in the complete deletion of the posts in question.
Was I feeling pressure to do something new and engaging? Something helpful and interesting? I was. Had I only paid more attention to where my inspiration was coming at the time, I should have handled the situation much differently. A simple email asking for permission or a link back should have happened. And I didn’t do it. I’ve preached that thousands of times. I lacked in taking my own advice.
I know that I have disappointed many of you. That is heartbreaking to me. I am still the same person that you have come to know through the years. I just really screwed up.
I am sorry for the strain that I have put on the blogger/author/publisher relationship. I for one have worked hard to lessen that strain, and it seems that all of that work may have been lost in this mistake.
I can assure you that my remaining content is my own. Although I know there is no reason for you to believe me. And I don’t blame you for being skeptical.
To Grit and Glamour and Beautifully Invisible, I extend my deepest apologies. Please do not judge the book blogging community by my mistakes.
In the end, I hope that something positive comes away from this. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Learn from them. I know that I have. I apologize for my actions and will work harder to be a better blogger. I only hope that you will give me a chance to do so.