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April 2013

The Color Blind Paint Salesperson and the Workshop Imposter

I know a person who worked in a paint store for a short time.  As a newly hired salesperson, he was positive, enthusiastic, well intentioned, and loved helping people.  But it didn't work out because he was color blind.

Surprising isn't it - a color blind person attempting to give advice in a paint store.  It is common sense that giving quality advice requires not only an ability to "see" the material, but a foundation of experience or level of expertise to give credible advice. He was not just color blind, he was also "blind" to how he misrepresented himself and his proficiency.

Similar things are happening in the craft world with "workshop imposters".

Somewhat related to the Guild of Unauthorized Sharing, the Workshop Imposter typically shows up in two forms:
  1. Imposters who copy and publish content from someone else's workshop.
  2. Imposters who offer to teach repeat workshops based on someone else's workshop. 

CopycolorThe most common example is the Imposter who attends a workshop from an expert and then copies the workshop content or ideas as their own.  They take the information created by the original tutor, then copy and publish the content without permission or citation on their own blog or website.  

Often these are positive, enthusiastic, and well intentioned people, but they are blind to the ethical and legal ramifications of their Imposter actions.  They may rationalize that they are trying to "help" their community, but they are also stealing content and falsely misrepresenting their expertise. Some even draft articles for magazines based almost entirely on content copied from workshops that they have attended.

Here is a true story from Lindly Haunani:

"My workshop was booked almost a year in advance and twenty-two excited students  were setting up. I took a break from setting out my samples and demo materials to see why most of the class had gathered around one of the participants.

Behold.... steps 10-25 of the workshop I was teaching that weekend were displayed step-by-step in three full color, two page spreads in a magazine article.

It turns out that one of my students (from a previous workshop) had taken it upon herself to present it to the magazine as "original content" since she had added three more steps at the end. Using the same title as her magazine article, this same person had launched a new web site “so others could enjoy this new form of exercises to increase your speed and strength.”  Now, that is UGLY!

I explained the situation to the workshop participants and let everyone know they were welcome to "cancel" their weekend workshop registration.  Everyone stayed, with the realization that they would learn much more from me during a two-day hands on workshop than from a second-hand magazine tutorial."


The second type of Workshop Imposter goes even further by offering to "teach" a workshop based on someone else's workshop.  However, in addition to the unethical and illegal behavior, they lack the depth of experience to give a quality workshop experience and diminish the gainful opportunities for the original workshop tutor.

Leila Bidler says: "If I pay someone to teach me poetry I expect them to know a whole lot about poetry and to know the great poets that came before. Same when it comes to Polymer Clay: if someone wants to teach they should know who came before them - it's not like we're talking about "ages ago" we still do have all the inventors and pioneers among us."

Andy Cooperman had a student take his workshop, and then called up to request permission to teach this same workshop. The student properly asked permission. That is "good". The idea was "ugly".

Here is how Cooperman responded: "It is my greatest hope and goal for students to generalize from the specific instance or technique that I have given them and to more broadly apply the information to other situations. I do not expect, however, for what I have taught to be offered as a workshop by someone who has taken mine.  I offer the information for personal use."

I think most workshop masters would respond similarly. 

ColorcopycombinationAs a community, we need to respect the effort expended and expertise required  to master the skills, develop a workshop and the time and logistics devoted to preparation and teaching.   Otherwise the core values of our community become undermined.

We should honor and reward the original authors and makers and support the incentives and professional recognition that motivates them to create and provide top quality workshops. 

Ethical SHARING Honors Original Content

In response to a previous post, Kathy Loomis posed a question.

"Suppose the tutorial in question appeared not in a magazine but on somebody's blog. Do you also disapprove of people sharing that info?
If so, why?

For me, Kathy's question raises at least three issues: 

Ethics   SEO  Motivation

To answer the question, I will briefly address each issue.

The first issue involves Ethics .
Ethical sharing adheres to copyright law and respects ownership of original content.  
By this I mean that original content is owned by the author - and taking other people's property without permission is unethical.  Information and images are property whether on the Internet, in a gallery, or in a studio.  For example, while anyone can view content in a gallery, museum, or artist's studio, a visiting viewer would never take the property for themselves without asking.  Just because the information and images are on the web (and easily copied) doesn't mean the author has given permission to viewers to copy and take it for their own use.

ASK-GREENEthical sharing of content from a blog requires permission from the author. So if you want to share theLinks-gold information, ASK first - or write your own original content (e.g. a review) and link to the original source.



The second issue involves SEO.

Since 2012 Search engines  began to devalue duplicate content. Google and other search engines are increasingly recognizing that duplicate content is cluttering search results and of diminished value to the users.  Consequently, search algorithms devalue or even remove duplicate content.

If content from "BLOG A" is copied and pasted in "BLOG B",
this is duplicate content. This means that search engines will likely devalue BLOG B since the copied content has a later date.  Or worse, both sites will be devalued.

Search engines might also remove the page or the web site from search results completely. A very big penalty. The future of the Internet is all about original content. More about this issue in future posts.

Links-goldIf you find information that you deem worth sharing ... write a review or  write your own opinion about why this information is so interesting. Create your own original content and link to the original source.


The third issue looks at  
Motivation .
What is the motivation behind sharing?

Some people rationalize copying and sharing as a "service" to their community to help disseminate knowledge.  I think this rationale is misguided and will undermine our communities in the long run.  It is highly discouraging for original content creators when their property is copied and distributed without permission.  Instead, our community should honor original content creators with appropriate recognition and respect by linking to and crediting the original author.

In very practical terms, why copy information that is already on the Internet?  There is no need to duplicate information to facilitate sharing. The original blog is readily available, so link to it. 

In contrast, the act of copying information and re-posting all or part of it as one's own content is behavior that I can not comprehend or rationalize at all.

Links-goldLink to the original source instead of copying. Citing a quote with attribution and a link is also completely acceptable which generates recognition and traffic to the original source.

This practical, ethical, and legal action honors original content while providing the best search engine ranking for both your web site and the original author's.

The issue is NOT a prohibition on sharing of information.

THE ISSUE is about SHARING INFORMATION while honoring the original content in the most respectful, ethical, and legal manner by linking to the original source.

*Kathy Loomis commented on the ASK Harriete post titled, "The Guild of Unauthorized Sharing"Read all the comments and responses by clicking here,

The Guild of Unauthorized Sharing

AFTER my lecture The GOOD, The BAD, and The UGLY in the Age of the Internet, many people have responded. Views of the lecture continue grow. Dialog and discussion continues about many topics.....but, ..... 

GuildBut there is a situation that I didn't consider, didn't even think about... until  it was brought to my attention after the lecture... "The Guild of Unauthorized Sharing."

Here are the examples:

  • A guild member takes a workshop, then comes home to show everyone else the workshop's techniques, tips and tricks.
  • Guild members distributing copies of handouts that they did not create or own.
  • A member demos a skill learned in a magazine tutorial.
  • A guild hires a copycat workshop instructor instead of hiring the original innovator of a skill or technique.

Ironically, all this sharing is usually rationalized as "helping" each other. But with some reflection, this "feel good" cloak of generosity is concealing ethical, legal and moral issues that, in the long run, have an impact on our community.

Guild-Unauthoized-Sharing-SIGNBringing attention to "The Guild of Unauthorized Sharing" is NOT an effort to prohibit the sharing of information. This is about knowing the difference between appropriate sharing of your own original content in contrast to the unethical infringement or appropriation of material created by other people. 

This Guild of unauthorized Sharing is also NOT about enthusiast vs. professional. This is a standard that needs to be applied at all levels, with all organizations small to big.


1) Unauthorized sharing misrepresents to the members regarding who is the "master" original author. Members do not learn the ethical boundaries of copyright and intellectual property. 

2) Guild members teaching content from workshops without the experiences and understanding from the master teacher offer a sub-optimal 2nd hand educational experience
from the original workshop.

3) The master teacher,  or innovator looses revenue when guild members reiterate even small portions of their workshop. The impact is if they can not make enough money from their efforts, they may discontinue teaching, writing their books, creating their handouts or stop sharing their technical innovations.

4) If handouts from a workshop are distributed at guild events outside of the workshop setting the master has lost future workshop participants. This is unfortunate as the master workshop teacher has earned appropriate compensation and respect for their efforts in developing these materials. The impact is lost revenue for both the workshop teacher, and the workshop sponsor such as your guild. I hear that some workshop teachers have stopped creating handouts for exactly these reason.

5) Guild demos based on magazine tutorials means that the magazine has lost potential subscribers. If they do not sell enough subscriptions, they will discontinue publishing.

I am hoping that our shared goal is a vibrant and innovative craft community supported by the artists and makers that care about the future growth of their media.

Frankly, I don't think I understood this problem and the impact so well until I heard about so many examples. 

Many people have opened my eyes. "Suddenly I see why... this means so much to me."

ASK Ourselves, ASK Everyone

A profound realization in both my personal and professional life is that the simple act of asking can prevent small problems from becoming big problems. 

ASK-multicolorWe need to ASK ourselves. We need to ASK everyone. Open the conversation.


In my lecture The GOOD, The BAD, and The UGLY in the AGE of the Internet, I raised several issues regarding sharing tutorials, instructions and information.

The important issue is that
EVERYONE needs to "ASK."
This is an issue about respect, not enforcement.

Ask the author, workshop, teachers, blog writer before sharing information from their blog, web site, tutorial, magazine or workshop.… ASK, start a conversation, find your answers.


Sometimes WE need to ASK Ourselves:
ASK-red-yellowAm I going to turn a blind eye to inappropriate sharing of a tutorial by someone who is not the author? Or am I going to ASK that person, "Has the author given permission to distribute this information?"

When our Facebook friend shares a handout from a workshop, can we ASK, "Has the author granted permission to share this handout from the workshop?"


The value of ASK is that the answer will guide your direction.
This is about an ethical foundation within our community. It's time to examine the issues and consider the long
                                         term consequences.

ASK to obtain permission before distributing someone else's content. Contact the author with a quick email, Facebook message or phone call to clarify a situation or even open new opportunities for you and the community.  

If we ASK each other about a question, problem, or ethical issue, huge misunderstandings and mistakes can be avoided.

If you are afraid to ASK the author, or teacher then ASK yourself, "Why?"
ASK-pinkThe answers may be even more profound.

ASK Yourself: What is my motivation for sharing information? If you attended a terrific workshop, or discovered a very informative tutorial, that is great to hear, but it doesn't give us permission to copy the content and distribute material that we do not own or create ourselves.   Instead, it could be an opportunity to follow up with the author. ASK before sharing their information with a broader community.


P.S. You may link to ASK Harriete or a specific post anytime. A recommendation for better SEO is to provide your own commentary, or opinion as original content.


Your comments are welcome, whether you agree or disagree. Each of us can be an advocate for our community by posting a link to the lecture, sharing this post and discussing the issues.


There seems to be some denial that the craft community is "not guilty" of the BAD or UGLY behaviors mentioned in my lecture, The GOOD, The BAD, and The UGLY in the AGE of the Internet.

On the contrary, ever since the lecture went public, more people are "coming out" and revealing more examples of BAD and UGLY behavior.


Perhaps some don't realize the impact of their behavior. We all slide into some patterns. We all make mistakes. But we can also learn and correct our behavior without placing blame.

Every single person can BE a "Force" for "GOOD", substituting alternatives to the "BAD" and "UGLY" behaviors in all media.

Perhaps some don't realize the impact of their behavior. We all slide into some patterns. We all make mistakes.  But we can also learn and correct our behavior without placing blame.

Every single person can BE a "Force" for "GOOD", substituting alternatives to the "BAD" and "UGLY"
behaviors in all media.

In this post, I will share a condensed list of BAD and UGLY behaviors and possible alternatives. (They are listed below in no particular order, and not a comprehensive list.)

BadUgly72The problems are extensive and multifaceted, but there are persistent examples of BAD & UGLY.  I welcome your stories and alternatives which can be added to this post. Please consider submitting an example with an alternative in the comments or send it privately through my contact page on my website.

Pirating & selling of DVD's for which the original author no longer gets royalties or revenue.

Purchase DVD's from the original author or a legitimate authorized seller.


Purchasing a DVD and then sharing the techniques direct from the DVD on your blog or social network without permission from the original author.

Sharing information benefits the field only when it is shared with both ethical and legal foundation in mind. If the information on the DVD is superb, then write a review and link to the original source for the DVD.

Or share information after obtaining permission of the authorciting the source  for the information and citing  permission of the author.

The best option is to share information that you created yourself based on your own depth of skill, experience and your own ideas.


Translation to another language of chapters and whole books without permission, authorship credit, or revenue to the original author.
Do not buy, share or trade unauthorized copies, or PDF copies of book chapters or books. Inform these unauthorized individuals about ethical behavior. Can you report this incident to the original author or publisher?

Public announcements at events, guild meetings or conferences that a person is willing to show everyone how to pirate specific tutorials.

Unethical behavior such as pirating should not be endorsed by organizations. Establish a "higher" standard for your guild, organization or conference that presentations will only be content from the original author or original technical innovator/workshop teacher.

A student expressing disappointment that a workshop had been cancelled due to low enrollment, since she already had six people signed up to take the "copied" class from her the next weekend.
In a similar ugly, six people chipped in to send one person to the workshop so she could copy the handout and then re-teach the workshop the next weekend.

Do not
encourage unethical sharing of workshop demos and materials. This impacts the revenue for the teachers and the sponsor.
Preparations for workshop planning, demos and materials require a huge investment from the teacher and the workshop sponsor. Violations of these principle also means that the information may not be available for future workshops because the teachers and sponsors can't afford to arrange future workshops.


People taking a workshop so the student can now teach the same technique  representing themselves as an expert in the skill.
This misrepresents the experience of the teacher. 

Develop a level of mastery in your own area of expertise, skill or technical innovation along with superb  marketing and demos based on your own depth of experience.


Teaching a workshop based on another author or teachers content. Examples would include teaching a workshop based on a magazine tutorial or a skill you did not develop. This robs the magazine of potential revenue from new subscribers and jeopardizes their future. Teaching a workshop based on other people's innovations is stealing their livelihood after they spent months or years developing the information.

Develop your own artistic voice, skill or technique. This is when you can honestly represent yourself as a master in your medium.

Facebook pages that offer tutorials/books in any media or topic as a free PDF download
when they did not write the information themselves, do
not own the copyright, and are not authorized by the author.

Do not participate in these offers. Report these websites to the author and publisher of the original book. Do not share this illegal source with your community. Be an upstanding member of your community and report  these unethical offers as a copyright violation.

It is necessary to clarify that I am not against sharing of information.  I am speaking out against illegal and unethical sharing of information that was not authorized by the innovator, author, teacher, book, magazine, blogs, websites or publisher.

Citations and quotes for a limited amount of content with a link to the original source is O.K. This would be sharing enough information to pique interest such as a citation for credibility and to warrant further investigation from your reader.

If you care to share with me privately or through the comments, we can all add to this list of BAD or UGLY and ALTERNATIVES.   

The Keynote Objective

An invitation to give a keynote lecture is both an opportunity and a responsibility

TruthnosigncopyFrom keynote speakers whom I've admired in the past, I felt that a conference lecture should be about discovery and community, addressing broad concepts, and perhaps controversial issues that can resonate in discussions throughout the remaining days of a conference . . .  and beyond.

As Seth Godin says: "Respectfully challenging the status quo combined with relentlessly iterating new ideas is the hallmark of the vibrant tribe."


TRUSTCOLOR 1The theme for the recent International Polymer Clay Association Conference was "Seeking Higher Ground."  


 A suggestion from the conference organizers was "reaching the next plateau".  In fact, it was suggested that my lecture address the controversial topics of inappropriate, illegal and unethical copying and sharing of information and more.  And I saw a real opportunity to have impact.  Why?


TRUSTCOLOR3These issues are not just limited to one media. I have heard about similar stories for years, but the problems are growing exponentially with the Internet, hence the topic of the lecture.


These serious issues pervade the craft community. But too often the  elephant in the room is an unspoken concern of being ostracized by one's own community for being outspoken despite the honesty.  We should not be afraid to discuss difficult topics.


TRUSTCOLOR5In the few months prior to this lecture, I leaned on my family, friends, and associates to discuss, debate, and argue the issues to zero in on the key points.  We did not arrive at easy agreement, but ultimately, we all felt better informed and more discerning about the issues and the recommendations. The topics still fuel healthy critique.

My goal is a vibrant, self-aware, craft community.

More thoughts to come in future posts. Share the lecture  The GOOD, The BAD, and The UGLY in the AGE of the Internet on your Facebook, newsletter or blog. Engage in the conversation. Spark debate.

In the meantime I am inspired by the Dixie Chicks song "Not Ready to Play Nice."

It is time to raise our voices.


The "Force" for "GOOD"

The-Broken-Telephone-Project-Dan CormierEach of us has the power to be a force for good . . .  or become entangled in the "Dark Side".

Dan Cormier brings a fresh perspective on these issues in his recent post on The Cutting Edge and The Broken Telephone Project.

Quoting from The Cutting Edge:

"As a community of artists (connected through the medium of polymer clay, but not limited to it), most of us hold certain concepts and values in high esteem: originality, influence, interpretation, collaboration, attribution, citation, and permission. I like to think of these as ‘The Force’ that holds our community together, and most of the time, we not only benefit from that, we celebrate it. Most of us. Most of the time. But we also have ‘The Dark Side’: mediocrity, derivative work, misrepresentation, copying, stealing. These are things we don't like to talk about, or maybe don’t know how to talk about, but they linger and have for a very long time, like a cane-slice-covered elephant in the room."

"This ‘Dark Side’ is something I’ve seen through the experiences of others, but even more first-hand, I have experienced it repeatedly in my own career, as an artist, teacher, inventor, and author."

"Unfortunately, even when the Force is strong, the Dark Side has an uncanny ability to disproportionately drain us, tap our time, rob our energy, and derail us from our creative pursuits, individually and collectively. This is a sad truth."




The-Broken-Telephone-Project-Kathleen DustinBecoming a "Force" for "GOOD" starts with confronting the problems and understanding the causes that lead to them.  Writing this lecture about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly forced me to reach beyond the superficial observations to come to grips with the underlying issues more deeply. With continued and extensive discussions, I've realized that the ramifications are even more pervasive than I thought.

The-Broken-Telephone-Project-David ForlanoBut if more of us acknowledge these issues, raise awareness, share links on our Facebook pages or blogs, and strive for excellence, we can all have the power to be a "Force" for "Good."

Read the entire post by Dan Cormier and Tracy Holmes on "The Cutting Edge, THE BROKEN TELEPHONE PROJECT:SEEKING HIGHER GROUND. It is worth reading and looking at the links provided.

The Cutting EDGE post,

The lecture The GOOD, The BAD, and The UGLY in the AGE of the Internet ;

RECOMMENDATIONS from The GOOD, The BAD, and The UGLY In The Age of The Internet

This series will continue on ASK Harriete following up on the lecture more deeply.

The-Broken-Telephone-Project-Celie FagoP.S. All of the images in this post are from the Broken Telephone Project organized by Dan Cormier. Here is what he says: "As artists, we can choose to face these issues and address them in many different ways. Ultimately, that’s what I wanted to do with my Broken Telephone Project."

CLICK on the images or the link to see all of this exceptional work that proves that inspiration does not result in copycat or derivative work when the maker is speaking with a "singular artistic voice."