Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How and Why I think I am Devastated: Face of Malawi Plagiarised My Blog Post

I was going through news posted on Hacker News on Y Combinator. Suddenly I bumped on a link that simply said “Plagiarism”, so I was curious to read it. In the article, Joshua Gross, complained that TheNextWeb plagiarised his blog post entitled The $144,146,165 Button. He even cited some sentences where TheNextWeb copied word for word. The article shows he is very much devastated, and I do understand now that he has a good reason why he is devastated like that.

On Friday 11 May 2012, I wrote an article about How and Why I think Malawi has to Move on with Software Localization. I published it on that day because it was the birthday of Professor Kevin Scannell of Saint Louis University, one of my friends and mentors in natural language technologies. Prof. Scannell is the developer of http://indigenoustweets.com/, a site that collects tweets and blogs in under-represented languages. Prof. Scannell and I have been close friends for close to 5 years now and publishing the post was a subtle way (quoting his words on chat) of saying happy birthday to him. I kept the post in my Kanjedza (that is the name of my laptop) since 30 April 2012 when I conceived it.

I developed the blog-post from a comment I made on a picture on Facebook. A friend of mine, Patrick Kalamula of PatKay Graphics, tagged me on a graphic captioned Microsoft Mawu, depicting Microsoft Word with a Chichewa interface. I was a excited about it, a wishful thinking I may call it. I was responding to Patrick's comment that he would not love working on a Chichewa word processor because he finds even the Chichewa bible hard to understand. I can actually hinted that I would just copy and paste-blog it. You can check my comment is still there on Microsoft Mawu.

Joshua Gross article on plagiarism made me think twice about my blog post. I did a simple search on Google to see how many have written something similar to what I just blogged. I was very much astounded to find that Face of Malawi plagiarised my post. I am have been very much devastated too.
What Face of Malawi have done is just making a word for word copy-and-paste of my post. They have not changed anything. I am sure they got it from Twitter where I posted soon after publishing it. What they have managed to do is to paraphrase the article title and add a picture on it. They were too quick to plagiarise such that they copied it before I edited a few things on it. The time I was writing this post, I could still see my silly mistakes on their post:
  • But language regulatory bodies and linguists always have great concerns over the “unsupervised growth” of terminologies. (I removed quotes in this statement because the phrase unsupervised growth was italicized and I wanted to keep formatting uniform.)
  • Chichewa is just 38% (5/13 — ija, Panopa, pa, ina, yake). (I left the word Panopa titleized)

  • I have always argued on elsewhere that it is volatile and unpredictable. (In my original post, I replaced the word Twitter with elsewhere and forgot to remove the preposition on)
You will also notice that the post on Face of Malawi is lacking some statements that I added later on:   
  • Both mean the same: "Some banks were opened long ago but they do not have a lot of customers"
  • The whole issue of localization comes to a bottleneck because there seem to be a tag of war between developers of new terminologies and users of such terminologies. Terminologists are fast developing new terminologies when the users are not ready or willing to use them. In languages of business, terminologies easily flow in. But that leaves other languages with the task of generating new terminologies or risk dilution.
They have not asked for my permission to repost it on their site. I am a simple blogger, they are a giant website. If you search my article on Google, their plagiarised article is appearing on top. It may look simple but this is distracting. My readers' traffic is technically being detoured from my original post to theirs.

I think what Face of Malawi have done is not good and should not be condoned. There are better ways of copying someone's work. They could drop me an email, asking for permission. Of course, I have no problems in anyone publishing my views but they should inform me first. I am proud to see my views being cherished out there. What I write on my blog are personal views and they cannot even defend why I wrote the way I did, and so they have no authority to plagiarise they way they did. I would ask them to apologise and recognise that I wrote it first. I am sure I have not offended anyone in publishing this.


  1. Plagiarism in any cases is not good. This should be avoided especially in your business as this is an illegal act.


  2. i experienced the same a few months ago and from the same guys. I wrote them and we discussed.

    1. I think they are not in business of blogging. They should just stop it. If they do not know how to write posts, they should open for membership on their website and people should be posting there, just as people do with other sites. They should not pretend that they are clever.