John Harrington sources

Started by Stephanie Jeanne Olmstead-Dean on Sunday, May 29, 2011


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5/29/2011 at 3:20 AM

Hey gang, I don't know if all the managers of this profile received a nastygram, or if it was only me. Sir John Harington

I thought I'd let folks know that one sources cited is written by a Dr. John Stephan Edwards, who claims that 'someone "lifted" an entire section of a published article' on his site: I looked at the site to which he refers, and honestly it appears that someone paraphrased it, and cited him as a source. To my knowledge that is not a violation of any copyright laws.

I added a note to the profile mentioning Dr. Edwards' complaint. To be fair, I think it's without merit. There are 43 managers of Harrington's profile. Did anyone else receive this complaint or did he only decide to pick on this amateur genealogist?

Private User
5/29/2011 at 6:01 AM

Only you got it, but it wasn't because he specifically targeted you. You're currently ther primary contacr manager there, most likely bcause you were the last manager added to it, so anything sent via the "Contact Profile Manager" link will go to you until someone new is added as manager and they wind up as the contact.

My connection is being finicky and I can't get the profile to load for me right now, but I'll take a look later to determine if it's really plagiarism. Either way, I'll see what I can rewrite in order to avoid future nasty messages. ;)

Private User
5/29/2011 at 7:34 AM

I've added the profile to the "About" Cleanup project with a note explaining the issue. One of us should get to it soon.

What I'm perplexed by is why he's posting articles on-line before their scheduled publication in academic journals, which is strictly against academic conventions. If anything, he himself could be in hot water for posting his own work on-line when it's been optioned by a journal. But hey, that's his deal...

I believe I've posted this in discussions before, but Cornell has a great breakdown of copyright and public domain usage in the U.S. here: Since Geni is California-based, it falls under those conventions.

5/29/2011 at 9:00 AM

Ashley, thanks for the response. I agree that posting articles online before their scheduled publication in academic journals is odd. Maybe that's why he didn't want to be quoted, lest it draw attention to the website. Regardless, I do appreciate your looking into this!

5/29/2011 at 11:18 AM

When you use the Write the Manager of a profile function, it automatically sends the email to the primary manager, as Ashley said. I usually write the curator instead in a case where I wonder about the data or sources of a profile, if it's curated like this one.

Ashley did the best thing, putting the profile in the Clean Up project so it will get quick attention.

Is someone going to respond to him?

5/30/2011 at 5:44 AM

Hatte, I already told him I'd look into it. He said he was going to file a complaint with Geni. I kind of hope he does, because I'd like him to be proven wrong.

5/30/2011 at 8:15 AM

Stephanie Jeanne Olmstead-Dean - I agree. He put it out on the Internet. If someone copied it, abridged it, and marked it as coming from his website, he has no grounds. I have been thinking as I did the About Me for some Argentinian project profiles, that the Internet may be changing Intellectual Property laws. I was thinking specifically about Wikipedia. How is quoting Wikipedia or copying a free photo from there any different than doing a book report using the Encyclopedia Britannica used to be. As long as you mark the source, you should be able to use it. I usually abridge but the ironic thing is that Wikipedia is drawn from scholarly works (when it's at its best), the same works I would have and still do go to. It's like AP. Everyone has the same article.

Private User
5/30/2011 at 3:18 PM

I agree and disagree, Hatte. Copying and abridging can still be plagiarism, even if it's cited. I don't think we can automatically absolve ourselves of plagiarism -- it actually looks like the profile does indeed have some plagiarism issues. I just ran Sir John Harington's "About Me" through my plagiarism-checking software and it red-flagged all over. So the author's complaint about being plagiarized shouldn't be discounted at all. My only point was that he probably violated academic conventions himself, so it's something of an amusing (at least to me) situation.

Quoting from Wikipedia is acceptable (if cited) because Wikipedia is designed with the explicit intent of being available for non-profit use. (And actually, since Geni is a for-profit site, maybe we need to be more careful about directly copying from there. Guilty as charged here, so I better change that.) Encyclopedia Britannica is a for-profit company, so copying directly from there is never acceptable. Same with AP -- yes, the articles get reprinted all over, but the stringer is compensated for them. It is, as you point out, fine to quote or paraphrase from them if properly cited, but the thing is...we don't use formal citation practices on Geni. We usually just toss up a link and leave it at that.

It's all a big can of worms. Like you said, the Internet is making the definition of "plagiarism" evolve, and not necessarily in good ways. There's a decent exploration of plagiarism in the Internet age at

This is an interesting topic for us all to engage. I'm hoping to see others weigh in. How can we try to enforce better documentation and original writing on Geni? What are some common Geni practices that we might need to reconsider?

In the meantime, I'm going to pull that section out of Sir John Harington's profile. It'll still be in the revision history, so it won't be completely lost, but based on the evidence, it probably shouldn't be there.

5/30/2011 at 3:27 PM

I use Google eBooks (copyright expired) and Wikipedia, thinking that they are citeable. And link to and cite source. And indent or put quotes usually although not always.

The problem is, as I said, that you cannot make this stuff up from thin air, and Wikipedia very often is pulling stuff out of other sources, e.g., Medlands. There are only so many ways to say "He was born. He died. He was governor of ..."

Private User
5/30/2011 at 3:44 PM

I agree with you on that. It's the narrative portions that are the tricky part. There's also the question of taking information/research vs. taking wording. I think that's where the real issue comes in.

5/30/2011 at 4:24 PM

If I had only a couple hundred profiles to work on, I would be creative with my About Mes. But I'm trying to get useful information there to help disambiguate and to use as gist for a later creative About Me. I hate the empty About Mes. I try to put in sources and some narrative.

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