document ownership/plagiarism

Subject: document ownership/plagiarism
From: Alex Soast <Alexander -dot- N -dot- Soast -at- DREXEL -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 13:29:28 -0500

Give yourself a pat on the back for producing such a useful document and
move on to another problem.

This kind of flattery is the price that must be paid when writing in a
corporate environment. In such a profit-oriented, get-it-done-now
atmosphere, it makes a lot of sense to pull good internal information and
keep re-using it. When I worked for an environmental consulting firm, we
used the same boilerplate material in proposals and reports over and over
again. We were glad somebody had written it and we could take it. The
on-line instructions are the company's property, for use by all employees.

Yes, it is a bit ego-bruising to have your name removed, but the important
thing is that the company's work gets done. What you might want to do is
put a special request at the top of the document that any copies leave the
authors' names in place and request feedback to improve future revisions.

Count your blessings that your phone number has been removed. Cynical as
this sounds, it means less people will call you for help.

> ----------
> From: Stephanie Holland[SMTP:SLHOLLAND -at- MICRONPC -dot- COM]
> Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 1997 5:18 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: document ownership/plagiarism (kind of long)
> Hi --
> I manage a technical communication group in an Information Systems
> Department. Nearly all the work we do is used inside our company. For
> example, the computer programmers in our department write applications
> that help our company operate. We writers document these applications
> in
> the form of online help and user guides to help our co-workers use
> these
> applications to do their jobs.
> People who aren't writers from other departments in our company are
> occasionally copying large sections of our documents and creating
> other
> documents with them. For example, we wrote a quick reference guide to
> help people switch from NT 3.51 to NT 4. We published the guide in
> on our intranet.
> We recently discovered that another department printed this document
> out
> but first deleted a few parts -- one of those parts is the sentence
> that
> lists our group's name and phone number and our request for people to
> call us if they have questions or suggestions about the document.
> Another department did something similar because it wanted to reformat
> the document and store it in a special location specific to that
> department.
> This bugs me for various reasons:
> * We can't determine usability or find out about errors if our name
> and
> phone number are removed from a document because readers won't know
> who
> wrote it.
> * I feel this is a form of plagiarism, even though the company owns
> these documents and we all work for the same company.
> * There is a chance for document quality to be reduced if people start
> altering our work.
> My co-worker disagrees with me. He believes that as long as people are
> using the information, what does it matter if a few things are
> changed?
> Has anyone else run into this situation? Anyone have any opinions?
> Thanks in advance,
> Stephanie Holland
> Micron Electronics
> slholland -at- micronpc -dot- com

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