You can’t claim an idea once it’s out there, just set it free

This weekend TechMeme shows that bloggers are pretty anxious about the new service called Shyftr. Shyftr is a new RSS service that allows people to comment on blog posts. The discussion is not taking place at the original blog, instead it is taking place on Shyftr. While some seem to like the service, others talk about theft. Tony Hung feels Shyftr has crossed a line :

However, in my mind, when a service cannot exist *without* republishing others content in its entirety, and directly profits from that republishing without the original consent of the author, there’s something that isn’t right.

Frederic at the Last Podcast takes a different view:

The way I see this is that by publishing my feed, I give you consent to use it in services like RSS readers, aggregators, memetrackers etc. Using the same reasoning we can accuse Gabe Rivera for building a business on top of our writing with Techmeme – it’s profitable and it couldn’t exist without using our feeds. Neither could Google Reader, RSSMeme, FriendFeed, LinkRiver or any other service based on feeds.

These services are explicitly not just simple content scrapers because they a) give me credit for my work (even if that doesn’t need to translate into ‘traffic’ coming to my site) and b) create value around the feeds through allowing commenting, aggregation with other feeds etc.

And Robert Scoble goes one step further and declares that the era of blogger’s control has ended:

Anyway, I am seeing this trend big time. Over on FriendFeed I’m seeing better comments than I see on most blogs (and more quantity too).

The era when bloggers could control where the discussion of their stuff took place is totally over.

This is a trend that the best bloggers should embrace. Me? I follow wherever the conversation takes me.

I believe that he web, the flow of ideas, thoughts, conversations, business, they all exist due to it’s open character. But I would take this one step further.

The web cannot exist if idea’s, content, conversations aren’t set free. It is a false illusion that you can claim a thought, an idea, a piece of content if you publish it on the web. How would you know it is yours? Where did you get the inspiration, the idea, the content? Can you be sure it is truly original. That is, you, and only you have ever thought about it and published it first?

I doubt Robert ever had any control over the conversations he might have started. I sure hope not. Conversation takes place everywhere. On the web, at home, in a restaurant, with family, friends, work, you name it. There is no controlling that, but we shouldn’t want to either.

I see people opposing this idea because it might cost them traffic, and therefore income. If that’s the case you better deal with it. There isn’t a single blog in the world that creates traffic on it’s own. We all create traffic to our blog by writing sensible stuff about things other people have been writing about too. By linking to these people we create our own set of followers. Is that bad? Of course not. People will have to find you in order to decide if you are worth reading. Blogging shouldn’t be about traffic of pageviews, it should be about inspiring other people.

Some say it is ok as long as the credits go to the original poster. I guess that is fine, although it is sometimes impossible to see who is the “original” blogger. Just to be clear on this, copying someone else’s blog post and writing your own name above it isn’t right. That is just lame. But when a lot of bloggers are circling around a specific topic it is sometimes impossible to reconstruct where the circle started. Trying to be as thorough as possible when linking is the best we can do.

To be honest. If a blog post of mine leads to discussion anywhere on the web I would be very satisfied with it. I’m not in it for the traffic, the amount of readers, the number of pageviews. I blog because I believe that I might be able to give something to the people that want to take the time to read my stuff. I get inspired every day by reading amazing blog posts of some really smart and creative people. It enriches my life, my experiences. The least I can do is to return that favor. It that inspires people to talk about it, copy it, rip it, do anything with it, then it makes my day. It tells me that the things I have written could perhaps inspire others to do something with it, completing and starting new circles.

Breaking the chain

(image taken from a post on the IT Security blog:

You can’t claim a thought, an idea, a conversation , even a blog post once it is out there. Better deal with it now and set it free. Who knows what it will lead to 😉


About vanelsas

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This entry was posted in blogging, conversation set free, inspiration, Shyftr and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to You can’t claim an idea once it’s out there, just set it free

  1. Tony Hung says:

    Usually I would agree with you on most things, however, this topic isn’t one of them.

    There’s a lot to reply to, but this is one I’m mulling over: you’re saying that blogging should be about inspiring people? I agree.

    Now how about if you never found out about that it was inspiring *anyone* because all conversations were off-blog, and there was no mechanism to trackback *to* your blog.

    Are we to believe that all bloggers should be happy with this ethereal notion that it is “ok” to spend hours of their time creating interesting and informative stuff (because — and I will call you out on this one — not everything is that derivative), and then never see any return on it?

    And by “return” I mean that in the broadest sense (not in the monetary sense), because its “ok” for people to take that content in its entirety and move it elsewhere — and more importantly, are building a company around it, for example.

    No trackbacks. No conversation. No traffic.

    If the answer is “yes”, then you’re a much, much stronger person than I, or I suspect, many people will be. Among the many reasons people blog, most people need some kind of external validation that what they’re doing is worthy , right, or worth talking about.

    Not many people will be happy to put in the time if the most humblest of things — the conversation — is happening away from their blog, without them even *knowing* where it might be happening.

    If I’m a vain person for wanting even that, then call me vain. But I suspect most other bloggers, then, are a little vain as well, and when they’re starting out probably need as much encouragement as they can get.

    t @ dji

  2. @Tony. I would never want to claim to be stronger or better than you or anyone else for that matter.

    About the derivative call you made. I am fully aware that people write stuff they have worked out themselves, I know you do, and I certainly think I do. But at the same time, we are all influenced by so many factors that it is pretty hard to be consistently original. That is no problem whatsoever. You don’t have to be original to write excellent posts.

    I agree with you that it would be great to somehow know that a conversation that I might have started is taking place somewhere. Not because of ego or anything, but to be able to become part of that conversation. But it is by any means impossible to be able to do that every time. Human nature sits in the way. Allow me to provide a small example. If I am having a conversation with friends I might say “Hey I have a great idea…”. We discuss it for a while and everyone goes away. One of my friends that enjoyed the conversation might tell another friend about it. Sometimes with a referral “Alexander said”, but more often “I have a great idea…”. And that is fine. It’s the way we often have conversations. The same thing happens on the web.
    You are definitely not vain in my opinion. I would, just like you said it, like to know about the conversation taking place. And I am truly glad I do get to see a few of them (for example your reaction to my post 😉 But I also know it’s nearly impossible to find them all. And that is fine for me. I set it free and it might or might not come back at one point.

  3. Pingback: MINE! MINE! MINE! (And other wrong answers to wrong questions about Shyftr and the way things work) « chartreuse

  4. Pingback: Why do people blog?, a crawler’s finds out « amitGupta

  5. vinylart says:

    It’s a cool idea, but I’d agree with both you and Tony that it’d be nice to build in an automatic notification to the original poster that the discussion has begun anew elsewhere.

    I’m an exposure whore too, but I like knowing where I’m exposed.


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