Avoiding Trouble

Trouble with content 1

The most common problem students have when maintaining an online presence is making sure all content (text, images, videos) not of their own creation is properly attributed. Failure to attribute accordingly other people’s work is dangerously close to plagiarism, and can expose you to a fair bit of trouble. Make sure to acknowledge appropriately all content of which you are not the author—the rule of thumb is that it is best to be cautious now rather than embarrassed later. For example, if you are not sure who wrote the piece of content you are using, at least link to the source of the content.

When your online writing is part of an assessment you should adhere to the UOW guidelines on plagiarism and academic misconduct. The relevant section is below:

Plagiarism and Other forms of Academic Misconduct at UOW

1. Plagiarism, the use of another person’s ideas, designs, words or works without appropriate acknowledgement, is a breach of the values of Academic Integrity.

2. Plagiarism by a student is academic misconduct.

3. Academic misconduct also includes, but is not limited to:

a. Cheating: behaving deceitfully or dishonestly in examinations, in the preparation of assessable items and during in-class tests;

b. Fabrication: intentional and unauthorised falsification or invention of any information or citation in an academic exercise;

c. Facilitating academic dishonesty;

d. Fraud: deceitful behaviour by which it is sought to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage either for yourself or for another person;

e. Misleading ascription of authorship (including claiming authorship of parts of a group assignment prepared by (an)other student(s));

f. Misrepresentation: misrepresenting data or information incorrectly, improperly or falsely;

g. Behaving in any way that limits the academic opportunities of other students by improperly impeding their work or their access to educational resources;

h. Re-using one’s own work without appropriate acknowledgement;

i. Using unauthorised equipment or material in an assessment item; and

j. Using another person to undertake an examination or assessment item in your name.

4. Any attempt to engage in any form of academic misconduct detailed in this policy will be considered academic misconduct and managed accordingly.

Trouble with content 2

The other kind of trouble that you might get into involves posting content which other people find offensive.  The first important thing to remember is that you are representing yourself in a public space, in a way that should align to the professional values that are important to you. Secondly, you may have strong views on a topic, but you probably don’t want these views to harm or distress other people, so it’s very important to your practice as a writer in public that you think carefully about the impact of what you might say.

In a university context, you should expect that anyone associated with the university might read what you say, so this isn’t the right space to use to criticise other students, or university staff.  If you do have something you want to speak up about, talk first to your tutors as there are plenty of places to express yourself effectively and achieve change—a cranky blog post can have the doubly bad effect of causing someone to take offense without actually getting anything done about the situation that’s bothering you.

And you should certainly steer clear of expressing opinions that might be sufficiently offensive as to bring about a legal intervention, simply because this is unlikely to go well for you.

Trouble with unwelcome followers

Both blogs and Twitter attract spam followers, and sometimes these are offering adult services. That’s part of life in social media, and you’ll deal with it as a professional—so you might as well get used to dealing with it now.

Sometimes you’ll find someone seems to be following you on Twitter, but you’ll notice that they either have never tweeted, or they seem to be selling something.  Twitter makes it easy for you to both block and report their accounts for spam, and you should make sure you know where the button is for this.

WordPress has strong spam filters to make sure that comments from spammers don’t get through, but sometimes they do.  So make sure that you have set your comment preferences to approve the first comment by anyone new, as this way you’ll catch any spam that gets through the filter.  WordPress will also send you an email every time someone posts (and Twitter will do the same every time someone mentions you) so remember to check email as this is a quick way to catch any problems.

If you suspect your Twitter account has been hacked, contact your subject coordinator.  It doesn’t happen often, but it can result in your account automatically sending messages to others, usually advertising weight-loss products!  Again, this is part of the reality of working in public social media, and it will be useful to you to know how to deal with these minor irritations when they come up.

Dr Ted Mitew