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Citation

April 1, 2024

I am proud of the things I do. I try to avoid tooting my own horn too much because I know how I feel about people who do that. People who know what you do will appreciate it.

I have never felt a great need for attention. What I have NEVER liked, though, is for others to take credit for work that I do. Actually, I hate it when ANYONE takes credit for the work of someone else.

At one period during the Quality Assurance phase of my career, team management, at some level, decided to require a significant set of metrics each week on each project. We were testers. Metrics meant the number of bugs (problems in programmers’ code), the number fixed, how long tickets were opened for them, etc. It was a lot. We were required to include graphics and summaries of the data. It was complex and required software to compile, calculate, and report. Excel was the software used.

I don’t remember the whole set of information required, only that it screamed for automation. My wife took up the task at first because, first, she was also a Quality Assurance tester (on a different team), and second, because she excels at this kind of documentation. She is not a programmer though, so we talked it over to see what could be done to simplify and automate. She did a lot of the work but got stymied (just a little) on the programming aspect of the project. I had been a programmer for much of our married life, and my experience included multiple languages including one called VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications. This is a programming language included in Microsoft Office that allows users to write programs to make Office products work magic that is not explicitly coded into them out of the box.

Using VBA, I wrote some code that did some magic at moving and manipulating data around and between Excel tabs. It was a pretty significant bit of work but it is the kind of thing I enjoy and once started, I’m kind of focused.

When it was done, I inserted a cheesecake tab at the very front of the workbook. It was a silly bit of decoration seeming to quote major news services (CNN, USA Today, Fox, Reuters, Associated Press, etc) blurbs blaring how smart the world was finding me and this particular bit of work. All except Fox News, which said I was a bloviating self-absorbed wannabe or something to that effect. I did things like this in a lot of my work, even in comments I added to production code. I did it because I have always believed that some lines just cried to be crossed when coloring. It hurt nothing. I did nothing to call attention to this tab. It was an ‘Easter Egg’ in an area of the workbook that few would even notice. Anyone who did would get a kick out of it. This obscurity led to an interesting development.

A year or so later, someone in a completely different department, with a completely different function, took our work and presented it to their management team as their own. The thing is, they did not look through all tabs of our work and thus failed to notice my irreverent credits page. Imagine their embarrassment. I like to think of the awkward moment they had to explain it.

One of my graduate classes required a report on a self-chosen topic. I chose data security. It is an obsession of mine and, actually, the research I did in this class has infected much of my outlook on the Internet. It made me scared of the very real threat of identity theft, which at that time was only starting to peek through the glitz of electronic processing. I did a clever cover page with a background image taken from a magazine article I had read and referenced (and credited). The year after I graduated, a young woman whom I had helped in earlier classes in my program copied passages from my paper verbatim without any citation. She showed it to me and I did not respond well. We were friends, to some extent, but ‘friends’ was not a get-out-of-jail-free pass for something I took seriously and personally.

This case was not a financial issue. I made no money from my paper and she made no money from hers. This was an ethical issue. I did not pursue it further than taking her to task, but this is and will always be a serious issue with me. When I write something, if I use the work of others to support or inform my own, I always cite it in my work. Plagiarism is an indefensible defect in a writer. Stealing the work of someone else may make someone look better than the situation justifies… For a moment. There is always the possibility of getting caught. THAT does not make a person look better or smarter. It is a significant smear on a reputation. Citing the work of smart, diligent, skilled people does not diminish an author/inventor who builds on that work. It usually does just the opposite.

This is why some of my articles have hyperlinks or, in printed form, end notes. Hyperlinks are less intrusive and easier to reference. End notes are untidy but I feel bound to include them so that anyone who wrote something that snagged my interest or inspired me is represented. Their work is acknowledged. The worker is worthy of his wage. (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

References also help prove or support a point. A lapse in this area recently cost a Harvard president a very prestigious job. Dishonestly (or laziness) is simply never worth the cost. I wish I knew everything about everything. I do not. Fortunately, there are people out there who know what I do not; Who thought what I did not. They shared their work. I acknowledge theirs when it is part of mine.

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