Friday, March 12, 2004

the publishing week that was

Friday 5 March 3 pm :: I blog some brief thoughts about art and Mel.

Saturday and Sunday :: I work on an article on creativity and spirituality for Reality magazine. This is unpaid. This diverts time from my book. But I have been asked to do it and I am passionate about the topic. I send the article to reality late Sunday evening.

Tuesday 9 March 1:30 pm :: I got to see Mel’s passion.

Tuesday 9 March 2:00 pm :: Reality ring to discuss the creativity and spirituality article with Lynne. Lynne mentions I am at the Passion and Reality ask what I think.

Tuesday 9 March 5:00 pm :: I suggest Reality should do a feature edition on the movie.

Tuesday 9 March 10:00 pm :: I draft an initial 500 word letter to Mel. This is for my own benefit, as it helps me process my thoughts and extends my blog thinking.

Wednesday 10 March 1 pm :: Reality ring and ask for a 2000 word article on Mel. (This means they will shunt the article I have spent all weekend writing, to a June edition). I have been deeply disturbed by the Mel movie. I am aware that my feelings are out of step with much evangelical fervour surrounding the movie. I am concerned about how my thoughts might be perceived. Do I want to be cast as grumpy? Reality promise to edit me carefully. On this basis I say that if an article emerges, I will submit it.

Wednesday 10 March 5 pm :: The keyboard taps and I have some coherent thoughts. I am still very concerned about my thoughts. I am not sure I want to publish. I put my thoughts up on the blog, asking for feedback. In my mind this is a draft piece and I am, as my blog says “a work in process”.

Thursday 11 March 5 pm :: I have had 4 appreciative comments. Encouraged by this, I decide to submit the piece. I make some changes. I send the piece to Reality. Reality is primarily a print based medium, but they also publish work on their website. If Reality accept the piece, then I can take the draft piece down. I have a church AGM to run that evening, so I leave the office in a hurry.

Friday 12 March 9 am :: It has been a big Thursday evening and another night away from my family, so I drink a slow morning coffee with Lynne and Kayli.

Friday 12 March 11 am :: I arrive at the office to find messages on my home phone, work phone, cell phone and email from Reality.

By the time Reality have cleared their email, and received my piece, that Friday morning, they have already received two copies of my draft post, emailed to them, cut and pasted from my website. I am totally unaware of this. No one has told me they are cutting and pasting from my website and sending it on to other people. This is a draft piece of work. I am angry.

Technically my creative common license makes this OK, although it does cut across my statement on the blog that this was a piece in process, and my request for feedback.

Reality say they like the article and want to print it. They are, quite rightly, concerned that by the time their print based medium has printed my article, lots of people in New Zealand, might have read by piece by email. So I can either publish (unpaid) with them, or publish (unpaid) on my blog. However, since they will put my piece on their website, I can get the best of both worlds, just at a slower pace. I pull the draft piece of my blog.

Friday 12 March 3:00 pm :: I am now under internet pressure to put the piece back up on my blog.

I (think) I have learnt
1. The internet moves VERY fast.
2. Print based medium is under huge pressure from internet media.
3. That I cannot trust the internet, including other Christians. Anything I put up on my blog, can and will be, cut and pasted and sent without my knowledge.
4. That unless something changes in either writing medium or the way people use the internet, that my print writing and internet writing career are incompatible. I can no longer use my blog as a place to process work.
5. That this is sad, and I would love to find another way forward.

Posted by steve at 09:47 PM


  1. Dear Steve, once it’s on your blog, it’s published (even if it’s a “published draft”. Once it’s published you can’t control it any more. Lesson: don’t give away your best ideas too soon.
    lots of love 🙂

    Comment by maggi — March 12, 2004 @ 10:51 pm

  2. Publish or perish

    As someone who has published a couple of academic articles, and is writing more, I’m all for proactive, author-controlled, management of the rights to a work. As you surf through the blogosphere* you’ll find a lot of sites that are…

    Comment by — March 13, 2004 @ 12:47 am

  3. Steve, I agree with your five points, but please dont feel you are under pressure from me to post the piece up come deadline, despite your point 2. It was merely a suggestion, as you are the sole person who says where the article can or can’t be published (as opposed to distributed).

    Although your creative commons licence will not protect your work from being emailed – in fact the licence encourages easier distribution – I trust this chain of events will lead to more people reading your published letter to Mel.

    Comment by dave — March 13, 2004 @ 4:07 am

  4. I understand the problem. I post things regularly that are in process. I am working on an article right now–instead of posting the draft. I usually post piece that need work not the entire thing. However, journalists are working online for print.

    The small pieces link tells about David Weinberger’s fears of having commenters preempt ideas that he has already thought all on their own.

    I am beginning to wonder if we should think of ourselves as authors–maybe we are gatherers, co-creators with our readers. Maybe its okay that others ‘steal’ our ideas because we steal theirs.

    Just thinking out loud. I feel your pain for not getting paid.

    Comment by Tim Bednar — March 13, 2004 @ 4:33 am

  5. steve
    thanks for your honesty and vulnerability that you are trusting us with this info – i am fascinated by the opportunities and pitfalls of self-publishing and of working with publishing companies – we are all trying to find a way forward. i will read and re-read this story and the rest of it when you complete it. keep on blogging

    Comment by andrew — March 13, 2004 @ 5:58 am

  6. Steve,

    I have been where you are and it is no fun. A lot of people I wish that didn’t read my blog and not everyone understands and respects the context. I know there are church consultants selling my stuff for a lot of money in violation of my creative commons liscence and even before that, stealing my copyright and one magazine has plagerized my original writing more than once and then scolded me for publishing it online while they make a profit off it.

    I disagree with Maggie. The web is a commons place but it is still a place where people can expect their intellectual work to be respected. That being said, I think people need to be educated and even held accountable (I don’t know how, Wendy thinks “hired goons” is too severe but it’s a start).

    I think it is an uphill battle. A librarian at the University of Saskatchewan has told me that the two sections most targetted by theft are law and theology. Sadly, I believe her.

    Living in a public space like a bunch of us do is a hard thing. In the last year Wendy and I have been threatened with lawsuits after thinking aloud. One does beome jaded by it after a while and the impulse is to never post anything again but then I realize that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

    Just me thinking outloud.

    Comment by Jordon Cooper — March 13, 2004 @ 12:50 pm

  7. Steve, I hear what you’re saying matey.I see blogging very much as “open source” we fund, resource, interact with each others work. We rework (hopefully with due acknowledgement)…this is the nature of conversation…people share, they open up to one another to varying degrees etc. etc. I think that’s a good thing, BUT given the intention to publish in a more traditional fashion – print media: book, journal, magazine article, like Maggi, I think it’s unwise to publish electronically, even in draft form, something you’re working on…you loose control…Now you and I could have a conversation about all of those things, we could fund/modify each others thinking…BUT we do so on the basis of an embodied friendship and trust…you simply can’t have that with everyone who reads your blog – it’s in many ways, to quote Richard Neuhaus, “a naked public arena” – there is ‘nakedness’, there is vulnerability. I think if we want to explore/develop\ get feedback on a draft we have to be more intentional – e-mail it to a few people, read it to a few people over a beer, talk about it…modify it then, and publish it. I don’t want to see you not blog, but like Maggi. I think a little caution is required, and the using of other “closed” media for feedback. Given human nature, I think it’s a little naive to expect that all people will “respect” the medium enough, not to copy, plagiarize etc. I hope you find a way forward.

    Comment by Paul — March 13, 2004 @ 2:43 pm

  8. flogging blog posts for publication and distribution

    The following comments are selections of a series of emails that Dave and I exchanged following his post on this topic and my subsequent follow-up above. For what it’s worth we decided to add much of this exchange to the…

    Comment by — March 15, 2004 @ 2:25 am

  9. I appreciate the problem – its really making me think! I will chew and get back…

    Comment by paul T — March 15, 2004 @ 6:22 am

  10. amazing how the net brings with it a whole heaps of unique issues that we never really had before – or maybe it just enhances them.

    Sorry to hear about that Steve – it sucks when you put a lot of hard work and thought into something to see it abused by others.

    I’m hoping you don’t stop doing what you’re doing though, you give a lot of us hope through your online writing. I’m inspired every time I come here to keep on keeping on with my community of faith. Hang in there mate.

    Comment by Darren Rowse — March 17, 2004 @ 10:37 am

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