Recently, I was giving a presentation and an audience member asked for my advice on what to do if someone online steals your idea.
“Think of a better one…really fast,” I answered…only half joking.
I told the audience member this: “Your ideas are your weapons and your gift is that you can make more of them. All a stealer can do is sit and wait for something new to steal.”
While maybe not the most satisfying answer, it was the only one I had at the time…and the only one I have still.
It’s a question and topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot here on the first day of SXSW.
I’ve been in a few sessions (including today’s keynote by Danah Boyd) where the topic of conversation has centered on this space where data and technology meet the best and worst in human nature.
It’s not a very pretty place.
The tangled web we weave
The stuff I share online gets stolen all the time. People steal my ideas. They steal my content. They steal my quotes.
And they do so quite easily because I have made this information public within the many social networks I use for my business.
Problems occur because the fundamental weaknesses in social media are also the fundamental weaknesses of humanity.
Although we humans love, share, support and nurture, we also (just as naturally) commit breaches of trust, invade other’s privacy, lie, discredit and yes…steal.
We’ve been doing this since the beginning of time. Now we just have shiny new tools that allow us to do it much faster and with great swarms of people to serve as our audience and oftentimes accomplice.
It’s an intersection that’s producing some interesting (and often disturbing) questions to contend with:
- Does all this data we’re sharing make it easier to understand and relate to each other or does it just fuel a growing sense of global narcissism and competition?
- If you need to be socially vulnerable online in order to establish the authenticity necessary to create a productive social interaction, how do you ensure that this vulnerability isn’t exploited (especially when it’s in our DNA to weed out the vulnerable in favor of the “strong?”)
- What is the line between having your content syndicated and having it stolen? Who gets to make that determination? If it’s your stuff and you gave it to the masses, is it their right to then own it?
- If our share-centric culture rewards those who are most transparent, what do you do when that transparency attracts people whose only gift is that they have the patience to troll for others’ ideas and the ability to delude themselves that it’s acceptable to pass them off as their own?
These are some of the issues that marketers are struggling to contend with, measure, monetize and control.
Perhaps tomorrow’s session will bring some new answers. But I suspect we’ll continue to toss around these meaty, ambiguous questions.
I look forward to sharing what I learn, either way…even if that means someone out there is just going to steal it.