The Free Geek

Ramblings of a Free Software Geek

The Copy-Paste Syndrome Fri, 26 May 2006 12:58:56 +0000

Filed under: SoC — Bon Goose @ 12:58:56

Well, I really have no idea how to explain this. I wrote two specifications for Ubuntu, especially for Google Summer of Code '06. One was for a SAMBA GUI Configurator and another one was for an Offline Update Tool for Ubuntu. I had applied for both the projects and the Offline Update Tool idea got selected.

Now yesterday, I noticed that someone had applied for the SAMBA GUI Tool and her idea got accepted too. I was curious and went to check out the proposal and I was dumbstruck when I saw the proposal. It is a word-for-word copy of my original specification! Now I really don't mind others using my specification as the basis of a proposal, that's actually what it's intended for, but certainly not like this. I also understand that the Ubuntu Wiki is Public Domain, but licensing of content is not the issue here. It's the integrity of the student & the viability of the project I am worried about. I am worried about Ubuntu here. Can we really expect somebody like that to write good or any code for that matter? A proposal like this gives away the following information about the student —

  • Laziness
  • No willingness for attribution
  • Lack of honesty
  • Lack of creativity
  • Lack of judgement
  • Probably sub-optimal IQ

Now I am not screaming for revoking the scholarship from the student, I am just worried about the selection process & Ubuntu. It caused me a lot of pain when a good friend of mine didn't get selected. I thought there were better people who got through … but this tells me something else.

I also have extreme respect for the Ubuntu mentors … but my heroes, how could you overlook such a thing? Quite a few of you guys knew about my Specification, couldn't you just check it once and ask the the student to modify the proposal? Weren't there any better proposals than this? Can we really expect this project to be completed?

I always thought that the Copy-Paste Syndrome is a purely sub-continental obsession … but this incident has changed my notion completely. I feel bad about this.

To the student: I have nothing against you. I am happy that you want to help Ubuntu. But this is not the way it should be done. Remember, there are always two paths — the easy one, and the right one. What's easy now, will prove out to be wrong … soon.


10 Responses to “The Copy-Paste Syndrome”

  1. anant Says:

    A lot of us expected that there will be copy-paste applications, but never could one imagine that one of them will actually be selected.

    Think about it, the student gets $500 for just making that proposal. While hundreds of others have suffered heart-burn for being rejected because they thought there proposal was good and saw no reason for rejection. For example, the Internet2 applicants were automatically required to have an extremely high-standard because of the quality of mentors.

    The blame is a bit more on Ubuntu, rather than Google, the spec was right there on Ubuntu’s Wiki, linked from the ideas page. Many organisations specifically mention that “You cannot expect to copy-paste our proposal ideas and get away with it”. But it seems like someone indeed has.

    Revoking the students acceptance is a bit harsh though, the best you can do is to ask the student to re-write a more detailed proposal and explain the situation.

    I’m going to call this the “Joe and Jane Scam” 🙂

    Whew, a lot of things didn’t go as they were supposed to this SoC!

  2. Baishampayan Says:

    I don’t want her scholarship to be revoked right-away. That’d really be too harsh. But may be she could revamp her proposal or provide some acceptable explanation.

  3. lawgon Says:

    the only thing that worries me is that this same attitude may get extended to copyrighted material too. I saw many proposals that took stuff from the mentoring orgs wiki/docs – but always acknowledged, thought about and expanded on.

  4. Chris DiBona Says:

    Please know that we are looking into this.

  5. JaneW Says:

    In Ubuntu’s defence we had 240 applications – not easy to review that many!
    Also with our release next week our team is also pretty busy right now, not really an excuse, but it could account for something falling through the cracks unintentionally.
    Thirdly the application is question was not on our final list, but was added during a last minute shuffle by Goggle to resolve conflicts where students were accepted at more than one org. We lost 3 good projects (and students) and gained 3 lesser ones.

    Right now what’s done is done and all we can do is make the best of it.

    I am sorry the system and process was not perfect, but we will endevour to improve next time.

    G0SUB thanks for your effort on putting good specs and proposals together. You applocation was highly regarded, so all the best with your project.

  6. Baishampayan Says:

    Chris — Thanks a lot for looking into the matter. 🙂

    JaneW — I understand the problems, it happens. Thanks a lot for your kind words … I appreciate. Thanks for taking quick action. We will miss you 😦

  7. tuxplorer Says:

    Hi Ghose!
    Yes! After selecting the student and building up lots of dreams in her minds, rejecting her is harsh. But another student who had spent nights preparing his application would be really happy to get accepted now.

  8. Camille Percy Says:

    Hi Ghose!
    I don’t know whether you read my other proposals or not, I wrote a proposal for an on screen keyboard and a proposal for reboot to another OS and I wrote both of them from scratch. But I found the specification for samba configuration GUI complete and I thought that it was discussed. I would like to have your help on development and maintenance of the project. I didn’t know that you wrote this for spec for SoC. although it is my first python/gtk program, I am diving into python ( and I think I can do this project. And between please s/ * Laziness
    * No willingness for attribution
    * Lack of honesty
    * Lack of creativity
    * Lack of judgement
    * Probably sub-optimal IQ
    You can’t judge people by just one (maybe) mistake.

  9. lawgon Says:

    Camille, the only mistake you made was not to mention that you had taken the proposal from the wiki. Lots of students took proposals from the wiki and wrote something like this:

    ‘I want to do the project on page ‘BlahBlah’ on the wiki. The good parts of the spec are: blah blah, i disagree with these points ‘blah blah’, and i propose to implement the spec like this …’

    I am a mentor of a student who also took a proposal from the wiki, but drafted his proposal as above.

  10. Camille,
    No, I haven’t read your other proposals. I don’t really mind somebody using my spec for writing a proposal … but why did you just copy-paste stuff like that? I guess you could have very easily rephrased what’s written in the spec and put them down in your proposal.

    Well, never mind now since you are already selected. I will be happy to help you out in the project if needed. Do feel free to ping me if required.

    And about my comments on your personal traits, I pray to God that I was wrong about those … best of luck for the project 😉

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