RE: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skeptical curmudgeonlyness, part II]

Subject: RE: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skeptical curmudgeonlyness, part II]
From: "Janoff, Steve" <sjanoff -at- illumina -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, 'Peter Neilson' <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2011 18:37:13 +0000

What I'd think she could do in that case is use the original report she wrote as a sample in her portfolio, but also keep a copy of the VP's report to show that it was used later.

What the VP did was a form of internal plagiarism, but then again not because as the attorney points out, the original report was a work made for hire. I can't tell you how many times I've seen this happen over the years in my career, where someone would take the work of others and claim it as their own. I'm sure pretty much everyone on this list has experienced that, either with their own work or others'. That's a rampant thing in corporations. But, that's the way it is. I will say that I've seen it have a major effect on how people work. I don't know what the answer is on this one. It has to do with attribution of work product. In the free market, there are laws. In the internal world of the corporation, the corporation *is* law. (At various companies I've seen people hide work until release time so that it wouldn't get ripped off and show up in someone else's earlier release before the writer was acknowledged as the "author.") The open source world might have a solution but I don't know enough about that. It's my belief, though, based on what I've seen, that in the corporate world a lot of creativity and innovation has been stifled due to these concerns.

And in fact, how can you even prove that *anything* is your own work, even when it is?


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+sjanoff=illumina -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+sjanoff=illumina -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Peter Neilson
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 9:40 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Original work [was RE: STC certification program: skeptical curmudgeonlyness, part II]

On Thu, 20 Oct 2011 11:37:15 -0400, Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com> wrote:

> of the writers could have pointed to a finished document a month after
> it was done and they had gone on to the next and said "I did this part.".

More skepticaler curmudgeonlyerness ...

There is the issue of ghost writing. My wife (the quality engineer) wrote a report for one company where she worked. The report went into the corporate hopper, and she didn't see it again until ...

... she was at a conference months later and someone said to her, "You might be interested in this report that your company's VP of research wrote. Take a look."

"But I wrote that!" she said. "He put his name on it and didn't change a thing."

There's no way she can ever claim that report as hers.

Eventually she mentioned the situation to a lawyer. "If you wrote it for that company, it's theirs, not yours. They can do whatever they want with it. It's not yours."

- - -

With few exceptions, all tech writing that I have produced that actually has my name attached is from longer than 20 years ago. I really do not know how I would establish that I wrote the useless but proprietary material that I might still have, lurking on old 1.44 floppies in the back of a closet. That was part of a failed project several years ago. The failure itself was spectacular, and I may have triggered it...

... "I'm told you can tell me about the XX that I need for the B project,"
I said. "Huh? What's that?" So I explained. "Oh," said my high-level SME.
"The B project. I didn't know about that. That'll never happen." About a month later they pulled the plug, after having spent millions. And I have the floppies with the incomplete tables and charts, some of which I helped adjust.

Is that crap my portfolio? I worked really hard on the B project for months.


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