Editorial: Plagiarism Amongst Selenium Instructors?!?

A very bizarre thing happened to me this evening! But first a bit of history…. I’ve been “between jobs” for a couple months. When my last QA gig ended, I decided to look for the next one in a rather slow and deliberate fashion, while working on three personal goals. I’ve done really well on two of those goals, but not the third – converting myself from an RC/Perl test developer to an RC/Java one. However, I’ve had a “crutch” in mind all along–there was a 5-session course on RC/Java starting this evening, at the very same institution where I originated and taught both Selenium-IDE and RC/Perl courses during 2009-2010.

So, a couple weeks back, I finally decided to sign up for the course. Alas! I’d waited too long–it was full.  Only mildly deterred, I wrote to my former (teaching) manager, beseeching her to let me, along with my laptop and wireless modem, into the course anyway. I asked her if I could give her a check tonight to make clear that I intended to pay for the course the same as any other student. Much to my delight, her reply indicated that I could indeed take the course AND for free–she termed it “staff development.”

I showed up at the classroom this evening, only to find yet another pleasant surprise–I didn’t need my MacBook and wireless modem; there was one extra Windows-7 student desktop that I could use. This meant that I could easily get to any materials which the instructor might put on the network drive.

That was the last little bit of nirvana connected to this story!

The instructor began by going around the room asking everyone about their background in both Java and Selenium. Several of the students knew nothing about Selenium, having ignored the pre-req Selenium-IDE course. When this happened to me during my RC/Perl course last year, I had simply provided those students with links to IDE material, primarily a 49-slide tutorial I had presented to the Silicon Valley Software Quality Association (SSQA) in March 2009. But this instructor seemed to think that she had to start her RC/Java class with an overview of IDE, so I prepared myself for being bored for awhile.

What I did not prepare myself for was seeing my 49-slide tutorial, minus 7 slides, being presented as her overview of IDE! The title slide was amongst the missing–it had my name on it. The final slide was also missing–it contained my email address.

I was APPALLED! I had allowed the SSQA to publish my slides two years ago for everyone on the planet to use if they wanted. I never envisioned somebody stripping my name off the slides, then using them to make money, AND in front of me to boot!

After I started exhaling again ;-), I realized that my 49-slide .pdf file was probably on sites all over the world, and very likely without the first and last slides that provided my identity. Tonight’s RC/Java instructor could have found it in that condition, and used it without ever realizing that the content was created by the instructor she knew was sitting in her student audience!

But does that realization on my part make her behavior any less reprehensible? Since the slides weren’t created by her, even if they didn’t include the first and last slides when she found them, shouldn’t she at least have “credited” the web site where she found them, perhaps along with a little caveat that she wasn’t sure the site was the originator of them?

I have a few courses of action in mind in response to this mind-boggling incident, but would prefer to hear from you! Please add a Comment to this post or email me at mam_p at yahoo dot com.

And thanks for listening!

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About Mary Ann May-Pumphrey

I'm a software QA automation engineer, focusing primarily on Selenium/Webdriver automation of the front end of web apps. View all posts by Mary Ann May-Pumphrey

7 responses to “Editorial: Plagiarism Amongst Selenium Instructors?!?

  • Shobha

    First question that I have, did the instructor ask the students to introduce themselves? If she did not that’s the first mistake. It’s always good to get some background of the students.

    I think you should talk to her, possibly after the class, and introduce yourself. Then talk to her about the slide deck that she used. Maybe she is not aware of citing sources while pulling online materials.

  • Sailaja

    Woohoooooooooooo!!mam it is really amazing how people do things!!
    You should have asked her from where she got the material.

  • Richa

    I think you should have asked the instructor about the source of website from where she got it. Crediting herself for somebody’s else is defiantly unethical and hurt people.
    You must inform the course adminstrator and the instructor about this incidence so that in future such things never happen.
    And last but not the least I wanted to tell you, we all appericate your work .
    Best!

  • Donna Molinari

    Hello Mary, I think first you should get a copyright for your work and then confront the person who took your slides as hers and that she should give credit where credit is due. I would also work with the school to not allow other instructors to use your material only by permission only.

    I do Photography – so I didn’t want anyone stealing my stuff, I now have legal copyright http://www.molinariphotography.com.

    And the government takes it serious for copyright infringement cases.

  • Mike V

    Hey Mary,
    First. I know you are a very knowledgeable Selenium User (and teacher for that matter).. Your comments and contributions in our User Group on Linkedin are simply amazing.
    Second.. I’m sorry this happened to you. I personally would have embarrassed that instructor ! That said.. it does happen in our industry a lot especially in the consulting world. Most people certainly “sanitize” the documentation a little better though. I personally think you should at least name the company in your blog that made people PAY to see your teaching materials.

  • Tarun

    If I were there in session then I would speak to instructor about the course (after the session) and letting him/her know about the original source of document.

    b/w Mary, did you support new selenium proposal backed by SeleniumHQ? if not then please do. It is available at –
    http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/4693/selenium

  • Rick

    I suggest you laugh it off. After all, plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.
    If it seriously bothers you, then consider going to the Silicon Valley Software Quality Association and giving them an updated pdf with a copyright notice on it.
    Teachers are generally given a lot of leniency when it comes to the fair use doctrine. However, you may want to suggest to the instructor that when presenting materials of others, she should give credit to the original source.

    This is hardly worth being alarmed over. At least she stole from the best.

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