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June 24, 2009



I look forward future editions of the book. I would like to buy it but with the proper credits included!


I would really expect from someone who is the editor of Wired. You got caught. What sort of message does that send to readers of Wired?

You must resign for the sake of Wired. Anything less would be a selfish act.

Ashlee Vance


We seem to have missed the explanation for these other word-for-word replicas.


Chris Anderson

Ashlee, I've commented over at edrants. All those were properly cited. For instance, The Jell-O one came from a personal interview with the historian, the Kevin Kelly and Derek Sivers phrases were credited and used with their permission and the Seife book is properly cited and the wording is not the same.


Happy to see you are human too :)

Paw hellegaard

What can i say, its okay.. evryone does it!

Hugh C. Howey

Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."[1] Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud and offenders are subject to academic censure, up to and including expulsion. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to include quotations or give the appropriate citation. While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier, simply by copying and pasting text from one web page to another.

Just my $0.02. In my own words, of course.

Waldo Jaquith

Though Jackson Landers may not disclose it, I will now that I've seen his comment here—he is my twin brother, as "Cville guy" rightly points out. (I've been on a computer-less beach vacation for the past couple of days.) As anybody with a sibling will understand, he cannot and does not speak for me; though no doubt he's as biased as one would expect from any sibling, his words are his and his alone, and I had nothing to do with them. I was not aware of his remarks before he posted them here, nor was I until I read them here. I have not spoken with him about this topic since the story broke, and I will not...other than to call him and suggest that, of all of the topics that he might choose to comment on throughout the internet, perhaps this is one he might consider ignoring.

Mark Jaquith
But my publisher, like many others, was uncomfortable with the changing nature of Wikipedia, and wanted me to timestamp each URL (something like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Anderson page viewed on July 8th, 2008), which struck me as clumsy and archaic.

Chris, click the "History" tab on an article, then click the timestamp next to the revision you're quoting (likely the most recent one). This will give you a URL like:


The content at this URL will never change! It is frozen in time, so your quote will forever match the URL. On that URL, you'll notice a prominent notice that it is an old version of the page, and it will offer a link to the current version.

This should resolve your publisher's concerns about permanence.

Mark Jaquith

Disclosure: I share a last name with Waldo, but we have no idea how we're related, and have never met. :-)

lol oh u

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العاب شمس

This is an excellent post ,thanks a lot ,I'm grateful to you .

Sewa mobil di surabaya

interesting post

Lindsey Thomas Martin

What do people feel about using TinyURL to shorten long, 'ugly' URLs for use in publications? Not very informative in printed documents but work well in digital versions.



Chris, I’d simply ask you: What would you do if one if one of your employees made such a mistake? Would you accept a convoluted explanation and apology?

I’m actually asking sincerely, not rhetorically. I find that for better or for worse, people in positions of authority are generally treated more genially for such mistakes. In other words, the very people who should be held to a higher standard… are held to a lesser standard than the rank-and-file.

I think you are a very fine editor and writer. Unless, however, you genuinely feel that you would accept such an explanation from one of your writers or editors (which I do not believe) then I think the only thing you can do is resign your position. Or give yourself the same punishment you would dole out to anyone else.

Chris Anderson


This has nothing to do with Wired; there are no issues with anything I've published in the magazine. I don't judge my employees by what they do in their personal life.


Jamie Cole


As the editor of a top magazine, your work outside the magazine reflects on both you and the publication, as well as Condé Nast.

This is an important question. As the editor in chief, you must maintain the editorial standards of your publication, as well as protect the integrity and reputation of your editorial product.

If one of your employees made such mistakes as you did in a piece for your publication, would you accept a convoluted explanation and apology?

How have you treated other employees or writers in similar situations? Were they punished or dismissed?


alex chambers

I have been a fan of wired since its inception and a subscriber most of the time. everyone makes mistakes, so i feel that you stepping up quickly with a detailed explanation is sufficient.

just understand one thing, just as a governor cannot disappear for days and assume the media and the public will not question his actions, everything you write/publish from here on out will be checked and double checked for its authenticity.

there are very few ideas that have not been explored, so please give credit to the originator and err on the side of inclusion.

alex chambers

this article here might turn out to be interesting and if found to be true, this could be an act of plagiarism, while your error looks more like an oversight.



Wikipedia should be used very carefully. A lot of information there is not correct.


I imagine now there will be one less critic when Maureen Dowd or Doris Kearns Goodwin makes a similar error.

That said, I'm uncomfortable with your use of the term "write-through." You seem to use it as a synonym for "take other people's work and rewrite it without citing them." I'm sure this isn't what you mean; could you explain?


Hmmm.... Let me think... If any of my students would do THIS I would fail her.him immediately. There are NO EXCUSES for this... Just plain and simple...



Chris Anderson

RJHiggens: I agree that write-throughs are not the best solution, given that they only avoid using the same words but not the same ideas. I think perhaps the best way would be to cite Wikipedia ("according to the Wikipedia entry on the subject", which is a form I actually use elsewhere in the book), quote the quotable bits and then rewrite the rest. That way the intellectual debt is acknowledged, but the words are not shared (outside of quotes). In other words, a combination of attribution, quoting and rewriting. Meanwhile the exact URL citation can go in the online notes or in the endnotes, with or without timestamp as the author and publisher decide.



Unlike the relative freedoms you imply in your position as editor in chief (that writing a book is your \\\"personal life\\\"), your employees do not in fact have those freedoms, do they? In order to write for other publications, publish books or make speeches, they must obtain the permission of their employer. Is this not the case?

In fact, doesn\\\'t Condé Nast make certain these outside efforts maintain the same standards as expected by their employer and that none of their outside activities reflect poorly on Wired or Condé Nast? Is this not the case?

Based on both their employment and professional standards, it makes no difference where the work was done. Despite this, I have asked you the question both ways: both whether or not the employee did the work for your publication or outside of it.

If one of your employees made such mistakes as you did in a piece for your publication, would you accept a convoluted explanation and apology? Would they be punished?

I think your refusal to answer such a basic question - would you treat others in the same way - reflects a deep feeling on your part that you deserve a different type of treatment than others. Otherwise, the answer is quite simple. If you truly believed that the way you have been treated is the proper course of action, you would of course agree that you would treat others in a similar manner.

The truth, Chris, is you don\\\'t believe that do you?


Alexandra Erin

I feel so incredibly conflicted right now. Your book sounded like it would be both interesting to me as a guide for greater understanding of how and why my model works, and as a vindication for the things I've been saying for years to my friends who are chasing book deals and the like.

But I can't believe you would have so completely disregarded the licensing terms of a paid commercial source the way you did the terms of the Free source Wikipedia. Whatever your explanation for how it happened is, I can't believe you would have been so careless if the content hadn't been Free. I can't believe a publisher would have allowed such carelessness.

Jesus, book deals get canceled amid massive recalls over plagiarism of paid published works. I'm not wishing that fate for you and your book, but you have undercut your own message here so badly, and it disappoints me so much because in the sidebar of this page I see a thing about how free ebook giveaways don't cannibalize sales, and that's my personal cause... getting authors to realize this because it lets them put control of their work and their financial destinies into their own hands.

I'd love to be able to point people to that Tumblr blog, just as I point to the recent examples of Catherynne Valente and Tim Pratt and other print authors like Richard Herley who have experimented with a free model, but... gah.

Inadequate, man.


How hard would it have been to include a traditional citation and a link to a dynamic source list? How hard is that to think of? That way the person reading the hardcopy of the book on the plane or in the bathroom or on the beach without a web device handy can see, "Oh, this was on Wikipedia."... and if they want to look it up, they can go to the webpage and click the link? You cover all bases that way. How hard would that have been? How much time did you spend wrestling with the problem of attributing web sites that you didn't hit upon that?

Alexandra Erin

And I'd like clarification about one thing I'm not sure of: the portions that you "wrote through", did you include an in-line acknowledgment for each of them that the information came from Wikipedia? Because in some of the comments here you seem to indicate that you think that's the best way to handle it, but your initial explanation seems to suggest you did the write-throughs in order to avoid a citation at all.


Don't be fooled, folks. These guys are in the business they're in because they're used to settings the terms of the debate. I've worked with many people like this. They just love to think they're egalitarian and committed to all sorts of high minded principles.

It's easy to be high minded when life is on your own terms. It's not so easy when someone else is asking the questions. The first thing Chris did is declare himself his own adjudicator. Nobody noticed because of the deft sleight of hand. Picking and choosing the questions you want to answer with no real repercussions... or is it commendable openness in addressing the issues. Which is it really? What do you think is going to happen if Chris gives an insufficient answer or refuses to answer certain questions?


Let me lay it out for you real simple: Chris does what Chris wants to do. And that's the way it's gonna be. The rest of this is just a show. Maybe he'll even have a big meeting about these issues with his staff. Say anything you want! Hallelujah high ideals! And we'll all sing Kumbaya.

That's all just a smokescreen. At the end of the day, Chris does what Chris wants. Punishment for his transgressions? None. Get it? You step out of line, you pay the standard price. Not guys like this.

Jeff K.

I am amazed at all of the ridiculous explinations given by Chris for citing Wikipedia and plagiarizing from it. The reasoning sounds like the reasoning I get from undergraduates who feel I have been unkind to them for a)downgrading for using wikipedia as a source and b) given a 0 for plagiarizing a paper.

First, proper citation in any form (Chicago, MLA, APA, etc.) is not hard. Use the proper citation. Period. Second, to Bob Creutz who wrote "In our business, we understand that whatever people feel about the legitimacy of wikipedia, it is a widely used research resource," I can only laugh in incredulity. It is only a "widely used research resource" by lazy undergraduates and lazy reporters. The rules about using encyclopedias for research have long been agreed upon by those who teach writing. Encyclopedias (like Wikipedia) are tools, and when used for the proper purpose, they are great. No one really doubts the "legitimacy" of Wikipedia. Rather, there are a number of us who are simply pointing out that it has never been okay to use encyclopedias for research. If you want to become familiar with a topic, then any encyclopedia (including Wikipedia) is a great start. Wikipedia has source citations, which also make it a nice place to _start_ research. After that point, however, it is time to do real work, and real writing, research, and reporting do not include cutting and pasting from Wikipedia because you are too lazy to go out and find actual research on a topic. You had no access to article databases Chris? Did those academic articles have words that were too big for you? And then there are good old hard copy books, the ones that have been around for about 1000 years, and will still be around after the next dozen attempts at an "ebook." Not everything worth reading is online. At the end of the day, to do anything less than to acknowledge that you committed plagiarism because you were too lazy to go to a real online database or to a library is to bury your head in denial. You are merely the latest journalist to pull this nonsense, and you will likely not be the last.

Ezequiel P.

I love it how people on web forums can easily become self-righteous pricks.

I think he made an honest mistake, after all nobody could think he actually believed he could get away with copy-pasting wikipedia. He is the guy who wrote The book on "The Long Tail". Do you think he isn't aware of the fact that there would be hundreds of eyes searching his work for signs of plagiarism once his book was out?

Alexandra Erin

@Ezequiel P.

Of course he didn't think he could get away with copying and pasting Wikipedia - that's why he "wrote-through" as many of the passages as he could and apologized for the ones he missed.

But if he did those write-throughs to avoid having to cite a source and did not use an inline nod to the "intellectual debt" for the Wikipedia sources, as he himself said in a comment was the best way to do so such things, then he is guilty of something far worse than "missing" those copied passages in his write-throughs: deliberately obscuring a source to avoid acknowledging an intellectual debt.

And even more than that, he may have been trying to avoid any question of being caught up in the Creative Commons License. Under the terms of Fair Use, one need not have a license to quote from a work, but the diehard boosters of Creative Commons might not have seen it that way and he might have had a fight on his hand. That could have been Chris's motivation... could have.

That much is just speculation. It's also equally possible that he simply thought on some level that the "Free" source online was deserving of the same respect he would give any other source.

If he didn't do so much as an inline "According to the Wikipedia page on the subject...", then it's a big stinky ball of integrity FAIL that he has yet to answer for. If that's the case, then apologizing for all the passages he missed on his write-throughs is just sleight of hand to distract from his intellectual dishonesty.

Are you going to answer this, Chris? If you can tell me that yes, you did acknowledge Wikipedia wherever you found and "wrote-through" a passage from it, then I'll laugh at how overblown this is and I'll go out and buy your book with a clean conscience next week.

If not... gah. You're essentially apologizing for having failed to obliterate the evidence of your wrongdoing.


What you are describing as a "write-through" is still plagiarism! It makes you look terrible to claim this as your excuse -- it's like saying "I meant to plagiarize better, so it would be harder to catch, but I got pressed for time" -- and it makes your publisher look like a bunch of sleazy amateurs that they accepted this slipshod excuse and backed you on it.

Alexandra Erin

@Anon - Exactly. He acknowledges in the comments here that an in-line credit is still needed for a "write-through". If he didn't do that...


"Paraphrase can still be plagiarism of ideas, as the discussion on VQR clarifies"

True that. This is a good example why we need more software patens because it should be forbidden to have the same ideas as someone else. Ideas are a scarce resource and only the first idea should be able to get to the market.


Ricky, what's your deal? If your axe isn't ground down by now, it's never going to be.


Are we all done disclosing things now? Will some of the people having meltdowns please disclose some totally irrelevant things about themselves like the names of their own siblings?

I believe in journalistic integrity as well, but some of these comments just smack of kids in school learning to play writer who haven't done a damn thing for themselves yet.


"wanted me to timestamp each URL ... which struck me as clumsy and archaic"

I see nothing clumsy nor archaic about a reference indicating how exactly to get to its source. If I get something out of a particular edition of a book, or a specific issue of a magazine, I'd cite that in the same way. Besides, a Wikipedia URL (among the simplest around) plus a timestamp seems one of the most elegant and modern lines in any bibliography.



- A famous celebrity known by millions shoplifts in a luxury store surrounded by security cameras (Winona Ryder)

- A popular "law and order" governor of one of the nation's most powerful states, considered to be a promising candidate for President, frequents the services of a prostitute ring (Eliot Spitzer)

- Another popular governor, also considered a strong candidate for the White House, disappears for a number of days, claims he was hiking and finally confesses to an extramarital affair (Mark Sanford)

The list could go on and on.

Why do otherwise extraordinarily successful people do self-destructive things? I don't know. But the idea that someone did or not do something because they are successful holds no water. I don't think there's any correlation to the crazy things people do and their success in life. If only...

Chris Anderson

Alexandra (and others),

My apologies for the delay in responding; I'm in England and mostly working off an iPhone. Again, let me repeat my original message, which was that what I did was sloppy and inexcusable, and I don't try to justify it in any way. Also, please note that the full notes are all online, the digital text editions will all be corrected before publication, and the next printing of the book (underway shortly) is also corrected.

But you asked for some clarifications, so I'll try.

First, I do cite (and properly quote) Wikipedia in the book in some places, so if there was any confusion about whether I think it is okay to quote and cite Wikipedia, that should answer it. You'll note that that is also a mistake, of sorts, since after we killed the notes I had intended to delete or properly integrate all Wikipedia material, and in those cases I actually left it blockquoted and attributed in "according to the Wikipedia entry on the subject," form. That's inconsistent, to be sure, but not an offense.

The main problem areas were other places where there is text from Wikipedia authors around quotes from press and historical sources. In those cases, where I kept the quoted historical sources, I should have both citied Wikipedia as the source in-line, and either quoted the Wikipedia authors' text or done a better job of rewriting it. Instead, those passages in the original text have neither an "according to Wikipedia" citation nor quotes around all the words from the entry. (The same goes for a few other scattered passages without quotes from historical sources.) That's just bad. Sloppy and bad.

When I killed the notes and the inline footnote numbers, which had been my flag for "text to be properly attributed", I had assumed that I'd be able to go back in and reconstruct what was mine and what wasn't. Obviously I was wrong, and I'm still trying to figure out why I didn't have a better process to catch these.

Now we've got what we should have had all along. We use "According to Wikipedia" in-line, and the full citation in the online notes. I've acknowledged the error, apologized, and been properly pilloried in everything from the New York Times to the Boston Globe. My book, of which I was very proud, has an indelible asterisk next to it, as do I as an author. This was a painful lesson in the perils in cutting corners, and I am very, very sorry.


Clint Bradford

There's a reason some major educational institutions refuse to allow Internet citations in masters thesis works ....

Chris Anderson


You are misinformed about Wired policies. Nobody needs my permission to give a speech or write a book.


The comments to this entry are closed.


The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!