Wednesday, 8 December 2010

How not to deal with uncited images.

So as I enter gracefully into blogging-middle-age (like a swan, I know) one of the pitfalls of discourse for me is how to address an uncited image on another science blog. 


I'm a bit passionate about the issue. (See herehereherehere, and here.) Most science bloggers cite their sources and papers, yet many lift images wholly from Google without a thought.  



Last night, while looking at a relatively new blog, I saw some artwork I recognized as probably being by Nobu Tamura. It was. A quick Google search for the species, and on Wikipedia, the first link, revealed that Mr. Tamura has granted the image of Cynognathus open under Creative Commons, free to be used and posted -and even modified!- provided he is given credit.

Image © Nobu Tamura.  From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cynognathus_BW.jpg">Wikipedia. (See?  That was easy.)

I commented on the blog. I said something like, "The Cynognathus is by Nobu Tamura, and should be credited.  All the cool kids are citing images."  I can't tell you exactly what I said, because my comment has been removed.

The blog in question also has a bit of tweaking to do, apparently:  my comment appeared as black text on a black background, with only links to Tamura and one of my own posts about citing images appearing as orange hyperlinks. So I thought, hey, these guys are on Twitter: I'll say something there.

I said: "Hi, @bloginquestion . Could you plz cite images properly? & my comment appears as black text on black b/g." With a link to the post. 
Then it gets weird.  They sent me 3 direct messages saying it was inappropriate for me to comment on their blog if I had a problem, inappropriate to tweet about it (should have direct messaged) and that it IS cited on the post and they're sorry I didn't see it.

Only...it wasn't cited. The only citation was "Photos from google.ca images". Umm, yeah, that's not even close to credit where credit is due. I have the screen capture to prove it.

Nobu Tamura's artwork is cited now, but none of the maps are.

I couldn't direct message them via Twitter (they are not following me), so I sent a couple of more public messages. Then, I realized they've now blocked me on Twitter!

I sent an email to one of the blog hosts after looking it his address on their Facebook page. It's their prerogative to block me; perhaps I could have somehow handled this with more tact than a blog comment and public tweet.  There's been a bunch of words of support from many science bloggers on Twitter and Facebook about this to me, and thanks.

Being a science-blog killjoy or meter-maid is of little interest to me, roving around handing out tickets. "You parked that image here without a credit. You're fined a minor public shaming".  At the same time, when I see the art of someone I admire being used to enhance a post without a shred of proper credit, I feel I should say something.

Private emails do little to raise consciousness about the issue - the comment is not just there for the blogger and commenter, but for all the subsequent readers.

What should I have done differently?  How do I raise the issue without throwing science bloggers under a bus? Do I remove them from my personal Facebook friends?  It feels weird that they're blocking me on one media (Twitter) yet they can see all my stuff.

Oh, and do make sure you go through Nobu Tamura's deviantArt gallery.  This man is a paleo-illustrating machine


- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.  Except that one up there of the cynognathus.
That's © by Nobu Tamura.  See?  Again. Easy.

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15 comments:

xinit said...

You gave them a chance and they laughed at you. Since it's not your image, all you're really left with is public shaming. Let people know exactly what is going on and where.

Brian George said...

Hmmmm... A conundrum. Well, I think you were certainly right to point out the non-citing of the image. If it were me, I might have sent a private message first via the contact tab of the blog (if there is one). If I didn't receive an answer, I would then post a comment on the blog, ask a question on Twitter, etc.
However, I am of the opinion that their response to you was inappropriate. It's not like you were frothing at the mouth and threatening legal action!

Jason Thibeault said...

How about offering the citation for them, in the comment? Do it a few times, and either they'll be trained, or you can start shaming.

Glendon Mellow said...

@xinit - I'm not crazy about embarrasing them on my blog. Easy to find on my Twitter though, I suppose.

@Brian - perhaps an email first is better. It does less to raise consciousness, but it more polite. I'll have to think about that.

@Jason - I originally intended the citation to be a good thing, for those who cite. I've toyed with spending the time to do a weekly award for bloggers who cite images in their most recent 10 posts. I just wonder if that has any impact.

Glendon Mellow said...

A quick note - a few minutes ago The bloggers stopped blocking me, and started following me on Twitter.

Brian George said...

Something else just occurred to me. Another confounding factor in the exchange that you outlined is that you (rightly) pointed out a design flaw of their website. I bet that THAT didn't induce the warm-fuzzy rainbow feeling. But hey, these are the things that should be tested out before going live. Certainly not your fault.

David Orr said...

I don't think you did anything wrong here - the quickest and easiest way to contact a blogger is via post comments, and it's not out of the ordinary to make corrections and criticism that way. This is an issue that needs to be public. Bloggers may not be acting maliciously when they don't cite an image, but that doesn't mean it's right. As far as blog comments go, a reminder to cite the work of artists you use to illustrate your writing is a pretty easy pill to swallow. What will they do when someone says something harsh?

Marco Ferrigno said...

I cant see a problem with how you went about it, they posted an image without citation publically so you sent them a message publically...

The internet is for making war.

Glendon Mellow said...

@Brian - I totally understand how design flaws happen. Personally, I like when someone cares enough to tell me there's a stain on my shirt. Good point.

@David, I agree. Pretty easy pill to swallow. Le sigh.

@Marco - you tryin' ta start sumthin'? Are ya?! /popeye

wereiartm said...

I feel this was handled in a very arrogant and ignorant way. I understand what your reasoning was behind this, but it think a personal email would have settled this whole situation. Rightful credit would have be given graciously and all would be said and done. But instead it was called out in public and then proceeded to be aired on every possible site attainable like you were riding the world of some evil entity. Some sort of Witch Hunt.I guess you did get one thing right and that was the title of your post, "How not to deal with uncited images." You got an A+ on that one.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks for voicing your opinion, wereiartm.

In the past, I've done either emails or comments when it's come up. It seems different people prefer different methods. In order to raise people's awareness about proper citation, I usually go with comments on the blog.

I think the initial comment was fairly innocent. Would you agree? Was it the question to the blogger via Twitter that crossed a line for you?

wereiartm said...

You know I completely agree with the basics of what you are saying. All artwork should be appropriately cited. I completely disagree with the way you treated the situation and continue to do so. You saw a problem on a "kids educational" blog and voiced your concern in the comment section. It was removed since that was not the appropriate place to comment on such admin/web problems. Emails should always be directed towards the webmaster/blogger, so they are able to make appropriate changes. They did initially cite the artwork to the best of their knowledge. They did not in any way shape or form try to deceive the public or steal any artwork. The maps that were not cited were made by the blog host themselves therefore not needed to be cited.

And if thats not all,you proceeded to air it as many places as you possibly could, and it is still out there for all to see without any kind of fair explanation of what really happened. The damage has already been done. From the commentators on your FB page,twitter and your Blog, it is viewed as this blog host has tried to steal artwork!Which is so far from the truth. You talk about policing,slapping hands,and stealing artwork, but then you turn around and say you dont intend to embarrass them.Well I have no idea what else you intended to do. All you did is try and hurt their unblemished reputation and as far as I see on your pages you have successfully done so. This was handled so unprofessionally by you I can hardly stand it. Very juvenile.

Peter Bond said...

I absolutely believe the initial blog comment Glendon made was appropriate and intended without malicious thought. This should have sufficed, as the bloggers would then add the citation and that would be that. I do not follow Twitter, so am not privy to details.

Perhaps Glendon should have started with a private email, and then posted the comment next, but it sounds like the other bloggers over-reacted and this has spiraled.

What should be focused on is our mutual love for art and the need to attribute masterpieces to their makers!

Glendon Mellow said...

wereiartm, I just double-checked and I never said anywhere they were stealing. I said they failed to cite the creator of an image. That's not the same as theft, so please stop conflating the two and accusing me of saying that.

As yourself and Peter and some others have pointed out, perhaps I should have started with a private email instead.

They've begun citing images on their past posts (including the authors of those maps). I've apologized for any rudeness on my part.

I don't think there's a lot left to say.

Traumador said...

I see no problem with a public demand for citations on artwork whether it be on twitter or a public comment section. A lot of work went into that piece, and the creator deserves acknowledgement.

Especially given that Glendon wasn't "arrogant and ignorant" in his request, simply up front. Rude would have included four letter words and/or names. He has never used any of these... Whereas one might take the accusation "arrogant and ignorant" as an attack, but I will take it as a heat of the moment phrasing.

wereiartm- As an operator of my own "kids educational" site, I find it silly to call foul on Glendon when the operators of said blog haven't bothered to make the site "kid and parent" friendly themselves. The honour system is hardly a deterrent to REAL negative entities (Glendon NOT being one of these entities. He said nothing kid unfriendly). If the blog's admins want only kids and parents commenting it is up to them to put barriers into place to ensure that (comment moderation or no comments at all).

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