Give and Take: Who loses, who gains?

Girl Blowing on a Dandelion --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisI met a friend for a drink the other day, and we were discussing how we share our presentation materials. I said “I just send people my whole presentation – or make it available on Slideshare.org.” I do this because they can see the animations and read the speakers notes (of which I have many, because my slides are text-light, and more conceptual in nature).

My friend was concerned that the work that she had done – extensive work – could just be taken and used by others as if it was their original material. My friend had built up her knowledge through years of experience, and created IP that was unique and valuable. She wanted to make sure she got some return out of all that effort by presenting it, writing about it and getting recognized for its value.

My friend also has had the uncomfortable feeling in the past of watching others present material – without attribution – that had been derived from her work. This left her feeling a bit used.

As we were sitting at a bar, with drinks in-front of us, I told her: If I take this drink from you, I can enjoy it, and I’ve deprived you of its enjoyment. But if I take your work and present it to others (even as my own), you still have your work, and others have been educated with your concepts. The result is a net increase of knowledge in the world.

My friend looked up and said: Increasing knowledge in the world is my ultimate goal, so maybe I need to think more about my feelings on this.

This is obviously not a black and white topic. I remember being unpleasantly surprised when I was attending a sales call and I saw an image that I had created for one of my decks come up in someone else’s sales presentation. In these types of scenarios, context does matter. For example, if you are making your living by selling your IP (say as books, or videos), there are different issues at stake because when others use the material, they are potentially depriving someone (the author/owner) of a sale. But, if you give presentations as a service to your fellow humans, do you lose anything when others learn from your content and reuse it?

What do you think?

About Ruven Gotz

Ruven Gotz is a Director with Avanade, Microsoft’s Global Partner. As a Microsoft SharePoint MVP with over 20 years of IT industry experience, Ruven has spent the past nine years delivering award-winning SharePoint solutions for a wide range of clients. Working as a Business Analyst and Information Architect, Ruven is able to apply his eclectic education and varied experience in Psychology, Computer Science, Economics, Software Development and Training to get to the heart of complex problems. Ruven is a great communicator who is able to discuss technology concepts in language that is relevant to his audience, whether they are from IT or business. He has become a leader in the use of visual tools to help his clients and team members achieve shared understanding of problems and goals and shared commitment towards implementing a successful solution. Ruven recently authored “Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture” (Apress) Ruven lives in Toronto, Canada. On Tuesday nights in the summer, you’ll find him racing his 24’ sailboat ‘In the Groove’ (NOTE: Ideas and opinions on this blog are my own: I am not representing my employer.)
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