Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Does Everything You Blog About Need To Be An Original Idea?

There is a comment on yesterday's blog post that is worthy of its own discussion.

A reader named Ari Herzog, whom I do not personally know, but have corresponded via social media for over a year (I like him, and respect his efforts in life. He is a media strategist, consultant and an elected official on the city council of Newburyport, Massachusetts - pretty impressive guy), left a comment on my post titled "Strike While The Iron Is Hot", which was inspired by Chris Brogan's blog post the same day titled "While The Iron Is Hot".

Ari says:
"...but by different irons, Thom, never the same. It's great you credit someone for an idea, but the credit only works if it's your idea, not his idea that you're trying to use for yourself.

Ideas come and go but they only become successful if they are unique."

This begs the question of Does Everything You Blog About Need To Be A Unique Idea?

First, I have always believed that what makes blogs successful is not solely the brilliance of the blogger to have totally original and unique ideas in each post.... but instead their ability to take nuggets of information, concepts and theories to extend the discussion. Adding perspective, spin or highlighting minor points that might have otherwise been over looked in the piece that was the inspiration. They key here is to give credit to who or what was the catalyst for the writer.

Too often people take concepts and run with them, disguising them as original thought. This is bad. I see lots of bloggers who work hard to make themselves look really smart.... all the while they are ripping off others. But is being inspired by someone and adding your two cents a bad thing?

Second, if you look at my post, I mention (with links) that I had written about this same topic on my blog (twice) and on Twitter in recent weeks. It was already a topic that I found important to discuss, and thus I was NOT ripping off Chris Brogan's idea, but instead extending the discussion by crediting his post and writing more. I agree that Chris Brogan is a much bigger deal in the blogging / social media world than am I, but that does not diminish my ability to write about similar subjects .... or to be inspired to write because of him.

I am not picking on Ari.... as he is a smart guy with his own track record of successes. But his comment did get me thinking about how quick people are to jump to conclusions about the motivations of others. Heck, I did when I read his comment (as I felt he was calling me a fraud). Can one only be authentic if they were the first one to have an original thought? If another blogger (especially someone famous) writes about a topic, is that topic off limits to the rest of us (or we look like a copycat?)

And is it true that, as Ari said, that "Ideas come and go but they only become successful if they are unique". Hmmmmm... I see lots of ideas (and people) that are wickedly successful which are not necessarily unique.... but instead made successful through hard work and tenacity.

What do others think?

Have A Great Day.



Liz Wiltsie said...

I take issue with the general concept of "original thought." I would be interested to see a true "unique idea." Social Media is about collaboration, and how can real collaboration exist without lots of people talking about the same (or similar) ideas? So, I agree that citing is HUGELY important. Reference the people you think are very smart, try to add something. But I think it is slightly egotistical to think that as an author you're having a "unique idea."

Anonymous said...

Cannot figure out why he attacked you for what seems like a good post discussing an important issue. It says more about him than it does about you. Do not stop doing what you do.

Ari Herzog said...

Thanks for the shout, but as I just commented over on the other post, I have no idea what I was thinking about so I can't figure out what I was trying to say!

Larry said...

I think that one of the really useful aspects of blogs is to inform readers about information that can be found elsewhere (and adding commentary of the blogger as well). As you mentioned, the blogger should credit the source in those cases, which is the link for the reader to the original piece.

If every blog were nothing but original though, blogs would end up being stand-alone journals, and that would reduce their usefulness.

Mark Merenda said...

What silliness. Of course you should discuss (or repeat) any idea you like, as long as you are giving credit. There is no copyright on ideas, and as someone who occasionally has an original thought, I am delighted when thought leaders like Thom give a wider distribution to my take on things. I am likewise happy when he takes a thought, and adds a thought, making something richer, deeper, and more profound.

Aruni said...

There's nothing new under the sun so it's pretty hard to be 100% original about anything. What is original is your take/spin on it...the way you observe and interpret the 'idea.'

If it resonates with someone or even just yourself, then you have flapped a tiny butterfly's wing.