Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Could this be the beginning of a return to integrity?

In my Barbells & Bullshit series (2009, book, video and audio) I spoke of a possible return to integrity at a global social level, brought about by a number of factors including the dawn of a new Age, the Age of Aquarius. So you can imagine I was very excited when I came upon one of the first fitness industry writers calling for integrity:

I’m taking it upon myself to clean up the online strength & conditioning world, one guru at a time…Hopefully this will make a difference and keep gurus more grounded and honest, but in the meantime, I’m goin’ hunting!
I was further excited when I read his list of the top 12 things the online industry could learn from the journal publication process:
1. No plagiarism tolerable – you give credit where credit is due
I was attracted to the promise of what this writers actions may result in:
….these posts will serve four purposes:

1. They might make gurus think twice about what they say

2. They’ll teach my readers to think critically and sift through the b.s.

3. They might help cult followers wake up and smell the coffee

4. Critical analysis and discussion can only lead to more knowledge and advancements in sports science
The writer had a definite focus on plagiarism:

7. Plagiarism
I was further impressed in another article with the suggestion that those who put profit ahead of principle would be ‘shunned by the same industry that made him rich’. You see, I have not seen this to date.
It’s funny when I stumble upon a site that steals my work right out from underneath me. Personal Trainer/Life Coach Danny plagiarizes my Deadlifting article from Wannabebig here, here, and here. I encourage anyone out there to spread my methods and advice. It’s always nice when individuals give credit to the originator too. But if you use someone’s exact wording from an article, the least you could do is reference the article!
I pity the individual whose primary goal is to maximize profit at any expense. This individual will never get a second chance to make a first impression, and unless he changes his ways he’ll be shunned by the same industry that made him rich since the experts will see through his bullshit and the consumers will eventually realize that they’ve been scammed.
Those who are aware of the copyright breaches that have been conducted in relation to my works have certainly not shunned the offenders. If anything, they have embraced them and provided excuses and justifications and excuses for them. Surely not this writer however, based on what I have read.

And when I read the below I thought he may have been referring to my situation!

Here’s another thing I can’t tell you: the number of times I see my colleagues get “ripped off” by aspiring writers who try to play another individual’s idea off as their own. It’s not necessary to credit every single aspect of every article, but novel ideas should be credited and in general your articles should reference other writers.
…I want to make sure I’m not repeating something someone else made public. We all have unique readers and should therefore be sharing others’ brilliant work, but we should make sure to give credit where credit is due.
This sounded great! I was truly happy to read a person seeking to return integrity to the American-led fitness industry, especially in the much-needed area of publishing.Imagine that – another person who believed it was inappropriate for a person to seek to take credit for another person’s concepts! And who believes that one should make the effort before publishing to ensure this!

Now this was published in the lead up to the first  guru-grilling’ , so I thought if I analyzed this first ‘guru grilling’ it would give me an indication as to whether the actions would support the rhetoric.

This writer was a self-proclaimed ‘guru-hunter’, which was very promising.

After reading this first ‘guru grilling’ I was concerned as to whether this writer had the conviction of his claims, as I felt he broke some of his own rules:
There’s nothing wrong with arguing and disagreeing. Just be sure to focus on the topic, not the person. Sure you can mention a person and quote them in your argument, but be fair, give them the benefit of the doubt, and don’t call them names.
I was willing to give him some latitude – he appeared to be upset by the perception of the treatment he had received, so I read on.

And then I found a very specific reference that I believe would be an excellent test of the congruency between his words and his actions, this in a post below one of his articles:
Dave C says:
August 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm
Awesome vids from Ian King, that guy is spot on with his stuff, very funny. Any opinion on his claims of plagiarism by some very well known coaches?
What would the response be? I quickly found out:

Bret Contreras says:
August 22, 2010 at 1:35 am

Dave, I didn’t watch this video because I’ve already spoken to some of the accused. I think it’s a bit of a misunderstanding on the part of the accused. I believe Ian has accused a few coaches and one in particular I feel was very undeserved of this accusation. There is definitely some damning evidence regarding the main target of the accused but I think that he obviously learned his lesson and won’t continue to do it. Since I really like the main target of the accused, I am biased. I think this guy is one of the nicest guys in the industry and I feel horrible about the entire situation. I can definitely see Ian’s point though.  
I was shocked – not what I was expecting. Looks like I was not the only one:

Josh R. says:
August 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm

The main accused person is 100% guilty of plagiarism and should have to deal with consequences that are commensurate to the gravity of his actions. The accused has a history besides this of copying other people’s work, almost word for word. If this were any other field aside from the lucrative cash cow side of the fitness industry, he would of likely faced graver consequences. Directly copying someone’s written work is completely unethical to our society’s standards.
The response confirmed some key points in the original response by the writer:
Bret Contreras says:
August 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm
Josh, not trying to make excuses for the accused, but have you ever met him? One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. That’s why it’s hard for me to be objective here. I also don’t like to speculate when I haven’t heard both sides of the story. I know it sounds like I’m making excuses as I’ve heard of the other situations as well, but I’m just wondering if there is more to the story that I don’t know.
So to summarize:

• I didn’t watch this video because I’ve already spoken to some of the accused.

• I think it’s a bit of a misunderstanding on the part of the accused.

• ... [the main target] obviously learned his lesson and won’t continue to do it.

• I really like the main target of the accused, I am biased

• I think this guy is one of the nicest guys in the industry

• … have you ever met him [the accused]? One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

•  I’m just wondering if there is more to the story that I don’t know.

I also wondered why no names were being mentioned – they were coded as ‘main target’ etc. This struck me because in another article in the ‘guru-grilling’ series, the writer has very clearly spoken about the need to name people you are talking about:

Reason One Violations – Making Shit Up, Being a Jealous Hater, Talking About Stuff Without Possessing Experience, Cherry Picking, Not Admitting When Wrong, Being Too Scared to Name Names

 7. Why are you afraid to name names?

Ian King says:
May 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm
Bret – I tire of people making excuses for blatant copyright breaching or plagiarism as you would call academia. One of these ‘nice’ guys (we can go without name use if you want) has published enough of my work verbatim to fill a book, and used this content to form the basis of books and articles of many years. This is irrefutable. If you have seen anywhere that permission was granted for use let me know. It doesn’t exist. Who would give permission to copy such extensive volumes of work? Where are the credits? Where is the ‘permission given’ to copy? It doesn’t exist because – it doesn’t exist. And where the paraphrasing was used that may avoid legal definition of copyright breach, this issue of non-original work comes into play. I understand the inter-connecters of friends and not wanting to throw these associates under the bus etc etc – so I appreciate you and others want to keep out of this – but lets call a spade a spade – this is in my 30 years of being in the industry the most extensive case of copyright breaching I have ever seen – so please, let’s not pretend is a minor issue or a ‘mis-understanding’.
 I appreciate you efforts to stamp out plagiarism, non-crediting, and non-original works. I would hope therefore it would be difficult to side-step this one, no-matter how many time it is claimed the dog ate the permission letter…..I don’t normally engage in forum / blog exchanges about this, however after publishing so many innovations over the last few decades it’s not much fun watching the attempts to take credit or benefit commercially and professionally from my works. It’s even less fun watching professionals with integrity turn a blind eye out of fear of offending their buddies or damaging their cash cow, especially in these public forums. The message to others if the industry turns a collective blind eye to this is more of the same. Thank you for your time.
By then I stumbled upon another article by this writer that included adulating comments about certain ‘coaches’ , and I realized that it would be very unlikely that this writer would apply his ‘commandments’ and ‘guru-grilling’ against certain people. They were buddies.

Unfortunately I don’t think there will be too many people concerned by the threat:But perhaps it is the beginning of something greater – a genuine return to integrity. A world where those who lie, cheat and steal are truly shunned.
If you want to avoid my scrutiny, just be humble, be cautious with your conclusions (say things like, “I feel,” “I think,” “It is my belief,” etc.), don’t act like you’re superior to all the hardworking trainers out there, stick to what you know, gain experience with something before drawing a conclusion, focus on science, present both sides of an argument, and in general don’t alienate other trainers and try to brainwash your followers. Hopefully this will make a difference and keep gurus more grounded and honest, but in the meantime, I’m goin’ hunting!
It was great to see the issue of integrity and zero tolerance to plagiarism. It didn’t rise to the promise of the writer’s words but it was a start.Anyway, I always seek to act respectfully and understand that in this case he would not want to name is friends, so in my response I respectfully complied with this mode of communication:

Note - References available on request