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Standing on the Shoulders of Others
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Sun Dec 13, 2015 Link to this message
Standing on the Shoulders of Others
Plagiarism is such an ugly word. Maybe call it "unattributed borrowing."
Paraphrasing Sir Issac Newton (of Apple-and-Gravity fame) "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of others." As with much in the world, our hobby relies on the exchange of ideas. We seldom truly "invent" something so much as adapt or improve what somebody else has already developed.
(And, yes: sometimes, there's a certain amount of like-mindedness, where two folks unwittingly come up with the same idea completely independently. This happens a fair amount. And it's all goodness.)
But sometimes people make claims about (or by omission, don't disclaim) something that they really saw elsewhere. Working with a bunch of academic types as I do, this form of unattributed borrowing rankles me. It's just uncouth—really uncool—to say you came up with something (or lead others to think so) when somebody else actually did... Both in academic circles, and in the tech industry, such intellectual theft is taken quite seriously, and has tremendous consequences for the transgressor. (But that's another subject, off topic.)
Sensitive to this, I've made a point of citing sources as a matter of course. At work, if one of the folks on my team (or anybody, really) has an idea that I need to promote, I label it such: "Bob's idea of doing so-and-so..." That's just professional courtesy. In the long run, I don't look good taking credit for somebody else's idea; I do look good for assembling a team of bright people who get things done.
That carries over to the hobby, too. I've made a point of citing—and linking to—sources, and make no bones about steering readers to them. The hobby truly benefits from the sharing and exchange of ideas, and it's only fair to give credit where credit is due. Most of us are not "in it for the money" so the thank you the courtesy of a citation implies carries a lot of weight.
For the record: no.
I cannot rule out that we both developed similar recipes (we differ only in the ratio of one component of commercially available products, and arriving at such is no major intellectual undertaking.) I was unaware of Eddie Stavleu's post until it was called to my attention just now. From what I could determine, his post was made earlier this year (early February 2015.)
The matter of the photograph is altogether different. The photograph is, without question, mine, as are all the photographs on my page. I have the high resolution original, the containers of ballast (the LHS, Just Trains, is stone's throw away in Concord, California) and I probably still have the MDF board (note the writing and glue in the lower right.) So there can be no dispute of origin here. Determining the relationship of the photograph and the idea I leave to the reader.
Pedigree and attribution aside, though, I'm glad the idea is out there. It makes the hobby better (even if for no other reason than that a bunch of us, from opposite sides of the Pacific, can have consistently-ballasted T-trak modules.)
That said, as we stand on the shoulders of others, let's keep giving credit where credit is due. It's just the cool thing to do.
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