As we have entered the blogosphere, new vistas have been realized for Rev Jenna Zirbel, my wife, and me. On one hand, new opportunities for getting our writings out in public have become obvious. On the other, new considerations of personal and ethical conduct have reared their heads. For this post, the subjects are (i) the difference between authoring, writing and posting written materials, and (ii) the issue of attribution, being the way you show who really contributed to the article.
To frame these thoughts, it may be helpful to understand the parties involved. At this point, I will highlight that these descriptions are Andy’s, and that Jenna may well describe us differently. I hope I do justice to Jenna’s opinions, however.
Jenna has a long background in grassroots organizing, teaching, ministry and parenting. One of Jenna’s common sayings is (paraphrased), “It’s not that YOU come to the table that’s important, it’s WHO you bring with you.” Jenna is particularly adept at sharing her power and working hard to make sure a place is available from which others can be heard. Jenna’s primary focus, and I think I’m saying this right, is the “other”.
I have a background in business, corporate and technical training, problem solving and, more recently, ministry. One of my most common approaches is, “Okay, somethings in your way. I will remove the obstacle.” I use my power, which I have yet to fully comprehend, for other people but have yet to come to terms with sharing it. I go to the table on behalf of others, but that makes my focus still about me.
Now, this may sound to some like pretty staid gender roles, but in most other ways Jenna and I are both gender-benders – maybe a topic for a future post. But, for now, I would like to say that these are indicative of personality types, rather than biological imperatives. Anyway, after what may be longest disclaimor I have ever written, let’s proceed to the subject at hand.
I am writing this piece. That is a fact, as is the fact that I will post it – actually push the little button that says “Publish”. Those two activities, however, describe very little about how this post was authored. You see, Jenna and I both authored this post because it is a reflection on out conversations. Jenna could just as easily have written this – or something like it from a different perspective – but the truth is it contains thoughts, concepts and words from each of us.
Authoring, in our minds, is totally different than the other two activities. Authoring is the creative process that goes into producing, in this case, a piece of writing. That creative process is the result of engaging in conversation and sharing thoughts, while wrestling with and changing perspectives. Authoring this article was a collaborative effort, despite the writing being unilateral.
Now, I have to tell you that initially I saw little to discuss. I wrote this or that, you didn’t. That works just fine for me until, of course, Jenna writes something that obviously contains my creative input. Then it’s surprising how fast my knickers can wad up. I’m not Presbyterian for nothing – I can pucker with the best of them. (Okay, alter ego – back in your hole. Sorry about that, folks.)
So, to the other topic. Ethically, and lovingly I might add, how do we give attribution where it is due? I’ll be playing with that over time, but for now I’m inclined to put at the end of each post two things – who authored the piece (and by that I mean, who contributed creative input) and who wrote it. Posting isn’t important – it’s on their by default and it’s simply a matter of pushing a button.
Ultimately, I guess, this is an exercise to see if I am an old dog or not – can I learn and adapt to differing environments and situations. I would like to think that I am still a young pup in that regard.
Authored by: Jenna Zirbel and Andy Little. Written by: Andy Little.