HOME    BOOKS   ONE-DAY COURSE   ET NOTEBOOKS   SCULPTURE   PRINTS   POSTERS, GRAPH PAPER   ABOUT ET 
  CART

 

All 4 books by Edward Tufte now in
paperback editions, $100 for all 4
Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanations
Beautiful Evidence
Paper/printing = original clothbound books.
Only available through ET's Graphics Press:
catalog + shopping cart
Edward Tufte e-books
Immediate download to any computer
connected to the internet:
La représentation de l'information
quantitative 200 pages $12
La Representación Visual de Información
Cuantitativa 200 páginas $12
Visual and Statistical Thinking $2
The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint $2
Seeing Around + Feynman Diagrams $2
Data Analysis for Politics and Policy $2
catalog + shopping cart
Edward Tufte one-day course,
Presenting Data and Information
San Francisco, February 9, 10, 11
San Jose, February 13
Arlington, March 31
Washington, April 1, 2
Plagiarism detection in PowerPoint presentations

The unattributed and substantial use of the words of others is plagiarism.
Colleges, newspapers, and some businesses have codes of behavior for defining and punishing plagiarism.
Presumably these standards apply to PowerPoint presentations.

Shown below are two sets of selected slides from PowerPoint stylesheets from the Harvard School of Public Health and from the Health Science Center at the University of Florida.

Perhaps the two sets have a common source, or one borrowed from the other.















The more general issues for this thread are:
How can PowerPoint plagiarism be detected?
What is the extent of PowerPoint plagiarism?
What should be done?
How are acknowledgements to the work of others to be made in PowerPoint?
Should the presenter say at the beginning of the presentation, "Today in slides 3-10 and 22-34, I'm reading aloud from bullet grunts prepared by so-and-so"?
What about a teacher who closely follows or reads aloud slides provided by educational bureaucracies or by publishers whose textbook the teacher has adopted?

The general idea is that, if PP is a serious presentation method, then the usual methods of validation and source credibility should be applied to PP presentations.
Maybe a built-in PP plagiarism checker could be a feature in MS Office 2009.

-- Edward Tufte


One test of copying is the duplication of idiosyncratic elements, such as typography or mistakes.
Above, the common use of capital X for "by," the mash-up and grotesque mistakes concerning "sans" and "san" serif type,
and capital S in "Sans" and "San" are all giveaways.

Recall that "sans" means "without;" thus sans serif typefaces are without serifs.

And San Serif is a fast-growing suburb near San Jose.

-- Edward Tufte


Can the plagiarism detection machines that are used by colleges to check student papers also process PP decks?
For example, could the Harvard deck and the Florida deck be run through separately to detect overlaps with one another and with others?
We lack the leverage present in the case of student papers, which were turned in after everything else was already up on the internet.
Which came first, the Harvard or the Florida deck? Or was there a third, even earlier deck?
The full decks can be found at

Harvard School of Public Health:
Google on the following and go to the first link shown by Google:
www.unibz.it/web4archiv/ objects/inf_downloads/guidelines.ppt

University of Florida Health Science Center:
Google on the following phrase, including the quote marks shown: Florida HSC "use san"
and go to the first link shown by Google.
Can a Kindly Contributor please simplify these links?

-- Edward Tufte


Plagiarism detection software

There has been a lot of discussion among teachers of writing regarding plagiarism detection services like Turnitin.com. Sites like this one keep students' papers in a database, and, when new papers are submitted to the service, they are checked against this record for fraud--which is reported as the percentage of the paper that has been plagiarized-- and then added to the database themselves. Some critics feel that this practice violates the students' copyright of their work and encourages bad practices--like foregrounding the effort to "catch" students doing wrong--on the part of teachers. Grand Valley State University has a page listing some of critiques of plagiarism detection software.

The main question, I think, is do we want our main focus when consuming presentations (or any text) to be plagiarism? Certainly it is important, but in most situations I would think that it would be less important than accuracy of data. As Cameroon points out, even in cases where there is overt "plagiarism," the work of the presenter can end up overshadowing the primary material. Perhaps the major plagiarism concern for information consumers is that it is indicative of a tendency to be opaque with sources, when, ideally, sources of information should be open so that their merits can be debated.

-- John Jones (email)


Does Turnitin.com do PP presentations? The bibliographies contains many intriguing items. And the problem of false positives must be handled with great care, even at the substantial cost of increasing false negatives. In any detection system, the false-positive/false-negative tradeoff is troublesome and inevitable. Most of the cases of plagiarism that I've seen don't revolve around the direct evidence of the texts but rather the intention of author who produced the unfortunately overlapping text. Intention is assessed is a college judicial proceeding or by course instructor.

Googling the words PowerPoint and plagiarism turns up many PP presentations by college administrators explaining what plagiarism is to students. In the usual irony about plagiarism, it might possibly be the case that a few of these presentations are not entirely original--or it is at least worth a check up. Several of the most notorious college plagiarism incidents have involved college bureaucrats.

So here's the assignment, especially for college newspapers: run the many PP pitches on college plagiarism through the plagiarism checking machine.

-- Edward Tufte


Perhaps the greatest irony is that ET used this as an especially poor example of PP presentations in "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint". It is sad to see presenters continue to make such choices.

-- Claiborne Booker (email)


Using WCopyFind to Detect Plagiarism

If you run the two PowerPoint presentations through Louis Bloomfield's WCopyFind software (http://plagiarism.phys.virginia.edu/Wsoftware.html) you'll get very interesting results. </tec>

-- Thomas E Cason (email)


Using ImageMagick to detect Plagiarism

You can also use ImageMagick (http://www.imagemagick.org) to visually compare the two slide decks.

Export all the slides to jpg (or png) and call on the command line:
Note: The slide dimensions differ, you may need to adjust one deck or the other!
composite -blend 50 harvard1.jpg florida1.jpg composite1.jpg

Then view composite.jpg (or png) and see the overlay. </tec>

-- Thomas E Cason (email)


Evidence and intentions

The evidence v. intentions issue is a thorny one. One of the complaints about Turnitin.com is that it encourages writing teachers to look solely at "evidence" as if that evidence speaks for itself--as if it has only one interpretation and is not open to being challenged.

As the slides that ET includes at top of this thread illustrate, in some cases it is difficult to determine who is the plagiarizer and who is the plagiarizee. (Sometimes this is less difficult to determine; I have had students in my freshman writing class accuse websites of plagiarizing their papers.)

I wonder if part of the problem here is the bureaucratic namelessness of these slides. That is, since they themselves are not attributable to an author or "source" beyond the organizations that have their names on the slides, those slides might appear more like "common knowledge" (though they are not) than the work of an individual that needs to be acknowledged. When there is no author, who will cry foul when a text is appropriated in this manner?

-- John Jones (email)


Professor Tufte, funny that you should mention MS Office 2009 as a solution to PPoint plagiarism, when Microsoft has just introduced the Slide Library as part of its Sharepoint Server 2007 product. The Slide Library is a way of storing PPT decks on a corporate intranet so that individual slides or the entire deck can easily be shared and re-used. This is great for a Marketing or Sales department that wants to send its folks into the field with a single version of the (company's) truth, but you can see how plagiarism could be enabled.

Here's a link to some more detail & screen shots of the Slide Library feature: http://www.wssdemo.com/Pages/ppt.aspx - scroll down a little to see the "copy slide to presentation" function.

-- Sadalit P. Van Buren (email)


ET wrote: "Googling the words PowerPoint and plagiarism turns up many PP presentations by college administrators explaining what plagiarism is to students. In the usual irony about plagiarism, it might possibly be the case that a few of these presentations are not entirely original-- or it is at least worth a check up."

This is a challenge I found irresistible! Googling for the string "The word plagiarism comes from the Latin plagiarius" produced several pages, of which some appear to be independent, but one that was cached by Google on 21st August and has now gone seems very suspicious. It is very similar in text to one from the University of Memphis, and contains the very surprising sentence "San José State University regards plagiarism as academic dishonesty" -- surprising because I'm pretty sure that San Jose State University is spelled with an e, not an accented é, and, much more important, because the school whose site it is is located in Wisconsin.

Probably some more intensive googling can produce a more clear-cut example than this.

-- Athel Cornish-Bowden (email)


I found the original page. It is at

http://tutorials.sjlibrary.org/tutorial/plagiarism/tutorial/3plagiarism.htm

Incidentally, I was wrong about the spelling of San José: at least on that page it is indeed spelled with an é. Mind you, there are still some oddities of spelling. The alt text for the right-hand image reads "plagariser gets kicked out" (spelled exactly the same way on the page I mentioned in the first message): the missing i is presumably a typo, but the ending -iser looks British, as does the spelling "Kidnapper" that appears on the same page. Maybe I need to search more deeply for the source.

-- Athel Cornish-Bowden (email)


First, a thanks to ET and all the forum praticipants for a truly sublime site: at once diverse, practical and opinionated.

I think there is a deeper issue with the PP Dilemma, and it is this: PP is less "real", "official" or "true" than a word document or peer-reviewed paper. Somehow, the rules for PP give people license to lie!

In my world of consulting, the very use of PP is meant to produce data , text and illustrations that argue for either a sale or a decision. By omitting things we know from the reader, we are trying to buffalo them with our presentation, selecting data, choosing the right "tag line" to sell our ideas.

I think there needs to be a backlash against the kind of sloppy copy and pasting, and cheap salemanship that occurs in PP. Write what you mean . . . clearly. Be factually acurrate. Attribute use of other materials.

It's funny that computers have made the attribution process trivial, but we still perceive the effort as somehow holding to an Ivory Tower standard, not required for mere PP. I have not hired people with shoddy PP presentations, and I will try to stand in the way of my company producing any.

I am not high and mighty, but rather, practical. I understand these things aren't always meant to be the last word on a subject, but someone takes the time to make them, and the rest of us have to take the time to read them (or worse, sit through meetings where they are presented at us). Anyone who receives the dozens of PP jobbies a month that I do, realizes that they are meant to be ephemeral. Try this. The next time you go to a project or client update meeting bring the LAST presentation as the starting point. Better, have them all in a notebook, from the original project charter or proposal. Make them realize that there is a consequence to what we choose to write and present.

In the last minute before a deadline, you have to cut and publish. Until that time, if you hold the same ethics and standards to your written words, there won't be time to slip in plagaraised or shoddily written work.

I liked the metaphor in the postings of never seeing a car late to start a race.

-- T.D. Blackthorn (email)


Googling the phrase "bullets imply no significant order" yields many jackpot matches with the Harvard-Florida work. These slides listed below may have, however, made an appropriate attribution of the original source, something that can be verified by examining the relevant slides.

[PDF] Guidelines for Effective Visuals File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. *. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. ?? 2002 Institute for Healthcare Improvement. HIV/AIDS Bureau, HRSA ... www.ucsf.edu/sfaetc/resources/Effective_Visuals.pdf - Similar pages

[PDF] Dear , File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. *. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. ?? 2002 Institute for Healthcare Improvement. HIV/AIDS Bureau, HRSA ... www.ucsf.edu/sfaetc/resources/Spkr_Pkt_Master06.pdf - Similar pages

UT System Office of Public Affairs Bullets imply no significant order and are preferred to numbers. Use numbered items only to show rank or sequence. Use simple phrases - avoid using complete ... www.utsystem.edu/News/PPTGuidelines.html - 18k - Cached - Similar pages

[PDF] PowerPoint Presentation and Style Guidelines for Presentations to ... File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order and are preferred to numbers. Use numbered items only to show rank or sequence. Use simple phrases - avoid using complete ... www.utsystem.edu/News/PPTGuidlines-BOR.pdf - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order; Use numbers to show rank or sequence. Format Text for Emphasis. Emphasize with size; Then try font or style changes ... www.enr.state.nc.us/DSWC/pages/GuidePowerPoint.ppt - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order; Use numbers to show rank or sequence. Format Text for Emphasis. Emphasize with size; Then try font or style changes ... enr.state.nc.us/DSWC/pages/GuidePowerPoint.ppt - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint 97 - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order; Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. Harvard School of Public Health. Instructional Computing Facility ... www.unibz.it/web4archiv/ objects/inf_downloads/guidelines.ppt - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order; Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. Harvard School of Public Health. Instructional Computing Facility ... www.cs.tau.ac.il/~nachumd/ Writing/Speaking/guidelines.ppt - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint 97 - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order; Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. No More than One Topic per Slide. What about them Sox hey? ... www2.hu-berlin.de/fs_anglam/ DowloadMaterial/guidelines.ppt - Similar pages

[DOC] THE GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL File Format: Microsoft Word - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... www.globalhealth.org/docs/ conf_2006/audiovisual_tips.doc - Similar pages

[PDF] Audiovisual Tips File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. *. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... www.globalhealth.org/images/ pdf/conf_2006/audiovisual_tips.pdf - Similar pages

[DOC] THE GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL File Format: Microsoft Word - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... www.globalhealth.org/docs/ conf_2006/roundtable_presenter.doc - Similar pages

[DOC] THE GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL File Format: Microsoft Word - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... www.globalhealth.org/docs/conf_2006/workshop_leader.doc - Similar pages

[DOC] THE GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL File Format: Microsoft Word - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... globalhealth.org/docs/conf_2006/panel_presenter.doc - Similar pages

[PDF] Roundtable Presenter Handbook File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. *. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... www.globalhealth.org/images/ pdf/conf_2006/roundtable_presenter.pdf - Similar pages

[PDF] Workshop Leader Handbook File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. *. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... www.globalhealth.org/images/ pdf/conf_2006/workshop_leader.pdf - Similar pages

[PDF] Panel Presenter Handbook File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. *. Show only relevant photographs, and only one photograph per slide. ... www.globalhealth.org/images/ pdf/conf_2006/panel_presenter.pdf - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order; Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. No More than One Topic per Slide. What about them Sox hey? ... www.terry.uga.edu/oit/instructional/ documents/guidelines.ppt - Similar pages

PowerPoint Presentation and Style Guidelines Bullets imply no significant order and are generally preferred to numbers. Use numbered items only to show rank or sequence. ... www3.hcs.k12.sc.us/Departments/MediaServices/PPT.html - 18k - Cached - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank of sequence. Use The 7 x 7 Rule 7 lines of text 7 words per line ... www.davis.k12.ut.us/staff/siosefa/ files/B3F2B8171BA34C62A3BA38450323E4D0.ppt - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. HSC IT Center Training. University of Florida ... www.health.ufl.edu/itcenter/ training/PowerPoint/PowerPoint%20Basics.ppt - Supplemental Result - Similar pages

[PPT] Guidelines for Preparing Slides File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint - View as HTML Bullets imply no significant order. Use numbers only to show rank or sequence. HSC IT Center Training. University of Florida ... www.health.ufl.edu/itcenter/training/ PowerPoint/PowerPoint%20Basics%201124.ppt - Supplemental Result - Similar pages

-- Edward Tufte


In your initial example, UFL clearly cribbed from Harvard, since the example graphic on slide 4 is the shield of the Harvard School of Public Health! So a rather ancient form of identity has shown up. Maybe a strategy then is to embed decoration that's actually unique symbolism (a bit like a watermark or the decorations on money).

[Note added by ET: It's the shield of Harvard University as a whole, not of a particular school at Harvard. The cause of the overlap has not been demonstrated, and thus "clearly cribbed" may not be correct. There remain several possible alternative and even benign explanations: a common third source, an author who worked both at Harvard and Florida, a source credit provided somewhere other than on these particular Harvard or Florida slides, a hacking of the PP deck, and so on. Perhaps someone is already trying to come up with an innocent explanation of the overlap. We have yet to hear from the defense.]

[Note added by ET a week later: A Kindly Contributor pointed out recently that my remark about the Harvard logo is incorrect; it turns out both slides contain a wrongly colored shield of the Harvard School of Public Health.]

-- Reed (email)


By citing credible sources, presenters may themselves gain credibility: first, by demonstrating to their audience some care and craft with regard to sources; second, by relying on sources with a known credibility.

At least on the average. A possible counter-example to this point is the Harvard School of Public Health PP stylesheet: a credible source in the general scheme of things but the material itself is an intellectual disaster. So giving HSPH credit in for help in constructing another PP stylesheet would misleadingly trade on HSPH's usual credibility. But their credibility is in the field of public health, certainly not in the field of presentation guidelines. Source credibility needs to be assessed with some subtlety. The alert consumer of a PP stylesheet sourced to HSPH should rightly ask "Why should they have any special knowledge about PP presentations?" Thus, in this roundabout way, sourcing would in fact assist the consumer in evaluating the credibility of the borrowed (but sourced) material.

-- Edward Tufte


T. D. Blackthorn makes helpful distinctions about the uses of PP presentations. Perhaps oral presentations may have different standards for sourcing, up to a point, than reports unaccompanied by a talk. Of course sourcing can be done easily by cutting and pasting the sources onto the slides (this is what 6-point type is for).

But many many viewings of PP slides are in fact unaccompanied by a talk--as the original slides serve as a the sole but intellectually sloppy written account of the material once- presented orally. One of the great big costs of PP is that it has become the format for written and printed material (as shown in great detail in the Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Does Pitching Out Corrupt Within?)

But if PP slides serve as the permanent written account of the work, then the standards, including fair attribution of the work of others, of permanant written accounts apply. Thus, if it is possible to see the slides outside of the original talk, then those slides must meet the usual tests for plagiarism. This applies then to all slides that are circulated as email attachments or are posted on the internet.

Here are a few possible exceptions to this principle: (1) Boiler- plate CYA statements on slides (as on the 1986 Challenger accident slides "Information on this page was prepared to support an oral presentation and cannot be considered complete without the oral discussion," a disclaimer that got demolished in congressional testimony on the Challenger accident), (2) When presenters are not speaking for themselves but rather speaking collectively and representing the entire sponsoring body, as for a sales representative describing products (in such cases, it would be helpful for the speaker to indicate such, as by saying "I represent the So-And-So Inc, which stands with my words."). Of course those words should come from So-And-So Inc not from somewhere else. If they're from somewhere else and uncredited to somewhere else, then that's plagiarism.

-- Edward Tufte


For an excellent and thorough account of the issues and methods in attribution of sources, see Harvard's "Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students" by Gordon Harvey. Click on "Writing with Sources" to download.

It is worth going through this rich set of materials, at least to the end of the third section. The essay begins with a one-page summary "Common Questions about Sources." Chapter 3 is very good on how to manage deadline panic by methods other than plagiarism.

-- Edward Tufte


Just a correction to the note about the shield. It is indeed the shield of the School of Public Health and not of the university (see the shields of Harvard's schools). But, the colors are wrong: the field should be white and the cross black with white fleurs-de-lis.

-- Penny (email)


I should have never ventured an opinion about miscolored Harvard logos. I have added a note about my mistake in the original message above.

Our Kindly Contributor's correction does, however, imply that the original Harvard School of Public Health manual about PP presentations used a miscolored logo! This seems somewhat odd; why would what is presumably clip art at HSPH have the wrong logo colors?

-- Edward Tufte


I just wanted to point out that PowerPoint documents come with meta data (File > Property) where sometimes interesting information is stored (e.g. creation date, sometimes original author, revision number, etc.). It might help with determining the original.

-- Yuna Quart


Very very helpful, at least for those that have MS Office installed on their computers. Can someone do the homework for our opening examples at the top of the thread?

And here's an interesting thought on plagiarism detection: "Dead Plagiarists Society: Will Google Book Search uncover long-buried literary crimes?" by Paul Collins:

http://www.slate.com/id/2153313/

-- Edward Tufte


An interesting and extraordinary set of side-by-side comparisons of the original comic book sources of Roy Licthtenstein's paintings here

See also my discussion in Beautiful Evidence, p. 25, of Lichtenstein's copying of Earle Loran's diagram of Cezanne's Portrait of Madame Cezanne.

-- Edward Tufte


From the HSPH version:

Created Friday October 6 1995

Last saved by: gvitti

Author: Instructional Computing Facility

"Custom" lists Sean Sardam, ssardam at hs ... (the real author?)

The FL version:

same creation date

last saved by: Diane Millican

same author

nothing in "custom"

Presumably means that HSPH version is the original (as I would have guessed from the Harvard shield ...)

-- Ben Bolker (email)


Given all this interest in plagarism, am I the only one who has noted the tendency (sometimes the policy) of US government agencies to require that powerpoint presentations and some technical reports be unattributed. By this, I mean that you are expressly forbidden (or at least discouraged) from listing yourself, by name, as the author. At best, these documents are attributed to ABC Company or agency. As near as I can determine, the logic behind this is that the product (report or presentation) is "purchased" and the author has no further rights. This both encourages plagarism (the govt doesn't care) and it lowers or eliminates the visibility of the individual or team that produced the document.

-- Michael Beanland (email)


See Slideshare.

-- Edward Tufte


Michael said:

Am I the only one who has noted the tendency (sometimes the policy) of US government agencies to require that powerpoint presentations and some technical reports be unattributed. ... This both encourages plagarism (the govt doesn't care) and it lowers or eliminates the visibility of the individual or team that produced the document.

Kurtis replies:

Works produced by the Federal government—meaning works produced by an employee or officer of a federal agency as part of his official duties—are not entitled to copyright under US law. (See 17 U.S.C. §105.) This law doesn't apply to the United States Post Office (in accordance with the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970), nor does it apply to works created by State governments … and as usual, bringing in contractors complicates matters. Complicating matters further are laws like the CIA Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C. §403(m)). Although it doesn't provide full copyright protection, it does enjoin anyone from using "Central Intelligence Agency" or its variants in a number of ways, to prevent the appearance of approval or affiliation.

So the issue is not that "the government doesn't care", but rather that "taxpayers paid for a work—even if the expense was paying an employee's salary—therefore the work belongs to the taxpayers". [Standard disclaimer: IANAL, your mileage may vary, results not guaranteed, blah, blah, blah.]

Okay, that's enough of the legal fussiness.

As for your second point: Yes, this policy (often) obscures the person who created the document … and sometimes, that obscurity is intentional. (Look up "CYA".) Is it always intentional or desirable? Not always, and (in my opinion) definitely not. I think that the author (or authors) should have their names emblazoned on the final document … and enjoy the accolades (or endure the jeers) that result.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

-- Kurtis Kroon (email)


Before the prevalence of slideware, Professor Richard Powers (U. Illinois-Urbana) wrote:

"The loss of a great library to fire is a tragedy. But the surreptitious introduction of thousands of untraceable errors into reliable books, errors picked up and distributed endlessly by tireless researchers, is nightmare beyond measure."

Richard Powers, "The Goldbug Variations," p. 495 (Harper, 1991).

Beyond the (legitimate) problem of plagiarism in .ppt decks is the more troubling question of whether slideware is at ground a defective product, with a "designed-in" tendency towards an insidious degradation of knowledge. I want to pose this question for discussion (beyond ET's classic published analyses): Is there something about slideware that induces diminished user standards, including plagiarism?

-- David (email)


Something more mundane: try looking at File Properties.

Most casual plagiarists are lazy or ignorant of changing Properties details.

As such, original file authors, sources, etc are retained in Properties even if modifications are made to the original file.

-- Micole (email)


Kurtis said:

Works produced by the Federal government--meaning works produced by an employee or officer of a federal agency as part of his official duties--are not entitled to copyright under US law. (See 17 U.S.C. ??105.) This law doesn't apply to the United States Post Office (in accordance with the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970), nor does it apply to works created by State governments ... and as usual, bringing in contractors complicates matters. Complicating matters further are laws like the CIA Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C. ??403(m)). Although it doesn't provide full copyright protection, it does enjoin anyone from using "Central Intelligence Agency" or its variants in a number of ways, to prevent the appearance of approval or affiliation.

So the issue is not that "the government doesn't care", but rather that "taxpayers paid for a work--even if the expense was paying an employee's salary--therefore the work belongs to the taxpayers". [Standard disclaimer: IANAL, your mileage may vary, results not guaranteed, blah, blah, blah.]

Okay, that's enough of the legal fussiness.

As for your second point: Yes, this policy (often) obscures the person who created the document ... and sometimes, that obscurity is intentional. (Look up "CYA".) Is it always intentional or desirable? Not always, and (in my opinion) definitely not. I think that the author (or authors) should have their names emblazoned on the final document ... and enjoy the accolades (or endure the jeers) that result.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

Kurtis; I understand the rules regarding copyright of government documents; but what I was talking about was the aversion some agencies have to citing the source of an idea or information within a government produced document. Even if the document won't be ultimately subject to copyright protection, I continue to be convinced that citations should be part of the document. I guess I have a conspiratorial bend in my head when it comes to the idea that I (or someone)could present an idea/concept/solution without citation and reap the rewards and accolades.

Part of the motivation for this policy comes from a simple desire to get the information out in the most direct manner possible, citations and footnotes interfere with this sort of directness. It's not all (or even mostly) some conspiracy. I think it is bound up in a mesh of desired efficiency, hapbit, thoughtlessness, and a very tiny bit of actual plagarism.

-- Michael Beanland (email)


In reading through this thread, I was struck by ETs statement a while back:

"By citing credible sources, presenters may themselves gain credibility: first, by demonstrating to their audience some care and craft with regard to sources; second, by relying on sources with a known credibility. "

As someone with some background in presenting arguments in college debate and what I have done over my consulting career, I thoroughly believe this is true. You use evidence and professional opinions from others to make your concepts, approaches, and theories more credible. You may be dissecting some information in a unique way or relating two pieces of information in a new way - in order to gain credibility, you need to accurately attribute these to the original sources. Additionally, I personally like a philosophy of not reinventing the wheel and using other people's bright ideas (when I can do so ethically), but you must give due credit. (e.g. I like using the open source documentation templates of readyset.tigris.org, but I always give credit back to the site/author.)

Personally, I wish everyone both explicitly published using licenses from http://creativecommons.org/ and respected the wishes of the authors as dictated by the licenses. These licenses are clear and easy to understand. In fact, universities could actually tell students to use the license they deem appropriate for their submitted papers and research analysis so that they can get used to protecting their property in the most suitable manner.

-- Paul M. Boos (email)


I think that the giveaway in this particular case is the (badly distorted) Harvard "Veritas" logo in the next to last slide. Why would that appear in a Florida slide set if it came first?

-- Richard D Kaplan, MD (email)


In my opinion, the smoking gun in this specific example is the terribly flawed Harvard Veritas logo in the second-to-last slide. What purpose would that serve in a Florida deck if it were the original?

-- J M (email)


Re: the use of the Harvard logo. The logo is almost certainly a registered trademark, which should only be used on materials presented by Harvard or an affiliated body. Anyone else using that logo may only do so with the permission of Harvard University. Lawsuit, anyone?

I once worked as a contractor for a very large business consulting firm employing hundreds of associates, mostly recent B-school graduates, who routinely cribbed data, charts, and text from the work of others and plugged the material with no attribution into their PP presentations and reports. They made particularly promiscuous use of reports published by a company that is well-known in the business information field, reports that go for at least $1,500 a copy. This practice came to a screeching halt when one of the consulting firm's clients, who also knew and read the $1,500 reports, recognized the data and charts in a report given to him by the consulting firm, called up one of the managing partners, and, in so many words, asked him what the hell he was trying to pull. Two things happened as a result of this: a blistering, three-page memo from the managing partner to all employees of the firm warning about copyright violation, and the addition of a half-day workshop on copyright and trademark infringement as part of the training course given to all new associates.

-- Ann C. Davidson (email)




Threads relevant to PowerPoint:
Don't get your hopes up.
Compares tables, slopegraphs, barcharts for showing cancer survival rates.
A look at a rich and complex question: What are the the causes of presentations?

Account of the role of PP in the shuttle Columbia accident, followed by many good alternative methods and examples for technical presentations.
Mainly recent examples of leaked PP slides in the Iraq war.