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Friday Philosophy – Picture Theft!!! July 28, 2011

Posted by mwidlake in Blogging, Friday Philosophy, Perceptions.
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Last week’s Friday Philosophy was a bit of a moan about how hard I find it to make nice graphics, how long it takes and no one seems to care that much about the results.

Well, after those two days effort on the pictures and the afore mentioned moan, irony of irony, someone has stolen one of my graphics!. So someone likes my efforts ;-). It is the one that represents how you scan down the levels of an index and then link across to the table via the rowid.

Before I go any further I better make it clear that I am not really upset about it at all :-). In fact, since the scoundrel included a link back to my web page and they are considerably better known than I, my little blog has had a big up-swing in traffic as a result, which is nice. Mind you, as the person who borrowed my diagram is SQL Server expert Steve Jones, of SQLSeverCentral/Redgate fame, most of my new audience are probably pretty focused on the SQL Server RDBMS and not Oracle, so unlikely to make many return visits unless they are work across the RDBMS boundaries.

What also gives me a little smile is that I have stumbled over the fact that I myself, back in November 2009, was looking for such a diagram {of the way Oracle steps down the index to the leaf blocks, gets the rowid and then straight to the table row} to ‘borrow’ for a post of my own on BLevel and heights of indexes. I even confessed at the time to looking for and failing to find one to use…

Humour aside, it set me to thinking though. Borrowing content is a perennial and thorny issue.

Occasionally someone will start putting content out on their blog or web site and it turns out that much of that content is directly obtained from other peoples’ blogs and websites – copy&pasted straight in or with little changes. That is generally seen by the original author as unacceptable and once they find out they object. In such cases it sometimes seems the culprit is unaware of this being a transgression and, once it is explained that they have effectively stolen many hours or days of someone’s efforts, they remove the material. Others seem aware this is theft but do not care until caught. Occasionally the culprit sees no error in their ways at all, even when challenged, as the material had been put “out there” so they now consider it free to all. I certainly do not agree. Perhaps the worst thing you see though is people including parts of published books, or even putting the whole book out there for download. Such people should of course have their hands stapled to their backsides in punishment, that is simple theft. Writing blogs takes a long time and effort, writing technical books takes forever and monumental effort. I know from friends that the financial return for such efforts is pitiful enough as it is.

On the other side of the coin, many of us put our stuff out there on the web to be read and used and are very happy for it to spread, to be borrowed from and disseminated. Like nearly all DBAs and developers, over the years I have written lots of little SQL scripts to pull information out of the data dictionary or do little database management tasks. I happily give away copies of these to anyone who wants them (and you can get them off my web site if you like, but just pretend it is not my website, as it is truly awful). All I ever ask is that whoever takes them leaves my name in them.

I think that is core to the issue. I suspect many of us bloggers are happy for small parts of our output to be borrowed so long as credit is given. I certainly am {but please note, this is my personal opinion – other bloggers may object very strongly and any repercussions on you in respect of taking material from other blogs and web sites is your concern}. However, Volume is also part of it. The larger the chunk you borrow, the more acknowledgement I would need to be happy about it. Borrowing a single diagram or a paragraph out of a page of text is OK, given I am cited for it. Taking most of a post would probably not, unless you asked first, were really nice about it and about me. Nicking a set of course notes I wrote is certainly unacceptable, no matter how much you put “originally written by that wonderful Martin Widlake” on it.

So, I think you need to cite the source as “payment” for using it. Perhaps the best way to do it is by simply linking to the material rather than putting it on your blog/website, but that does not work if you need the content within yours to make sense. In which case, I think Steve Jones’ approach of putting the content in his and including a link is reasonable. It might have been nice if there was a comment saying where the image came from but I can live without it. Despite my joking about it giving me more hits to my blog, it does not matter that his is a popular web site and gives me more hits. Even if a site gets no traffic, if someone has borrowed a small part of my output but cited me as the source, I’m cool with that.

The problem though is judging what is a “small” part to borrow and what is acceptable to the original author. We all perceive such things differently. So the safest thing is to ask the original author. If I want to use an idea that came from someone else in one of my blogs or a solution they came up with, I always ask and I ask if they want to be cited. This includes discussions in email or in the pub. I ask. If when preparing my blogs I learn a lot from someone else’s blog, I stick in a link and a comment, even though I will have written my own text. I hope that so far I have not upset anyone when I borrow a little.

Photos are a different issue though. I am not going to even attempt to cover that one!

Snowdon viewed from Yr Aran

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Comments»

1. Tim Gorman - July 28, 2011

Martin,

I’ve been posting SQL scripts and shell scripts on my website since 1998, with the posted request…

Feel free to download as you wish. No warranty is implied or provided — use at your
own risk! Please provide credit for authorship if you find these materials useful or
if you pass them to others.

All of my posted scripts have my name in them, not for copyright purposes but to denote authorship. In the past 13 years, it has been fun to see my scripts in use almost everywhere I’ve gone and to receive the occasional email expressing thanks, asking a question, or notifying me of a better way to do something. One DBA console product contacted me for permission to include my materials in their product, warning me that (due to copyrights) they could not include my name in the code. Since they didn’t offer to pay, and since they could have kept quiet and just used it without contacting me anyway, I didn’t ask for and didn’t reap any monetary gain. And I never will… at least not directly…

Even so, it can be irksome to find some of my scripts in use somewhere with the only apparent modification that my name is explicitly removed, or even replaced with another’s name (pretty tough to dispute the intention there). I started a new engagement last month, and I’ve found exactly that situation here at this sight, evidently perpetrated by a DBA who left 2 years ago. C’est la vie…

In the end, it’s just sad, and it’s their problem not mine.

Thanks!

-Tim Gorman

mwidlake - July 28, 2011

Hi Tim,

For your edification, here is something straight from my script bin, chk_col_usage.sql…It is based on one of your scripts and of course I keep in the original author. I probably owe you a pint…

--chk_dcu
-- Martin Widlake
-- this is a rip-off of Tim Gormans' script to look at the column usage info that,in
-- 9i at least (and 10,10.2), is not revealed in a DB view
-- Need to use dbms_stats.flush_database_monitoring_info to get latest info
set lines 90
col owner       form a22 wrap
col tab_name    form a30 wrap
col column_name form a30 wrap
col equal_preds form 9999,999
col eqi_joins   form 9999,999
col noneqi_jns  form 9999,999
col range_prds  form 9999,999
col like_prds   form 9999,999
col null_prds   form 9999,999
select  oo.name owner
       ,o.name tab_name
       ,c.name column_name
       ,u.equality_preds      equal_preds
       ,u.equijoin_preds      eqi_joins
       ,u.nonequijoin_preds   nonegi_jns
       ,u.range_preds         range_prds
       ,u.like_preds          like_prds
       ,u.null_preds          null_prds
       ,u.timestamp           ts
from    sys.col_usage$ u
       ,sys.obj$       o
       ,sys.user$      oo
       ,sys.col$       c
where   o.obj# = u.obj#
and     oo.user# = o.owner#
and     c.obj# = u.obj#
and     c.col# = u.intcol#
and  o.name like upper(nvl('&tab_name','%'))||'%'
and  oo.name like upper(nvl('&tab_own','%'))||'%'
order by 1,2,3
/
clear colu
2. Kyle Hailey - July 28, 2011

congrats on the graphic success. A new career opportunities beckon!
Joshing aside, it does show how the time and thought put into the graphic was successful which deserves a congrats.
– Kyle Hailey

mwidlake - July 29, 2011

Thanks Kyle. I’m going to give up on Oracle and become a Picture consultant :-)

3. David Harper - July 29, 2011

I respond positively to polite requests to reproduce material from my web site, especially if the request comes from a teacher or a student. I do make it clear that I expect them to give me proper credit and to provide a link back to my web site so that people know where the material came from.

However, I’ve occasionally had stuff ripped-off from my web site, including a couple of recent incidents when I discovered that two people had posted one of my articles at Scribd.com without asking my permission. I didn’t hesitate to issue a DMCA take-down notice in both cases, and to their credit, Scribd removed the plagiarised material very rapidly.

mwidlake - July 29, 2011

I didn’t mention DMCA did I? Thanks for bringing it up David. Yes, if there is blatant stealing you can issue a DMCA take-down notice to the hosting site, which is usually effective if it is good site. I’ve heard of the occasional mis-use of DMCAs though, one particularly litigious individual I know of started throwing them around and, once received, most professional sites such as WordPress take them very seriously and take down the accused page. In this case the accusations were unfounded. You can appeal against DMCA take-downs and, in this particular case, it was easy to demonstrate that the complainant had themselves “borrowed” the material that they were claiming was theirs. Further, the target had referenced the true original author. Very vexing for the person targeted but in the end it all got sorted.

David Harper - July 29, 2011

The DMCA does have a bad reputation in some circles, for the reason you mentioned, and I used it myself with some reluctance. There was no question that I was the author of the material, as it was a PDF file and it had the URL of my web site at the top of every page :-)


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