Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Think for yourselves, plagiarists

informalIn 2006, Jossey-Bass published a book of mine on Informal Learning.

The book describes informal learning as “the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs”

It compares formal learning to riding a bus and informal learning to riding a bicycle.

The book says that “Work = Learning; Learning = Work.”

For the second time in a week, I came upon words I had written, unattributed, in an infographic and  a presentation on the web.

I put “unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu” and “informal learning bicycle bus” into Google and found those three words, verbatim but unattributed, in these works:

huffpostThis infographic on Informal Learning appears in Huffington Post.

ASTD InfoLine: Designing for Informal Learning by Bruno Neal, Linda Hainlen. “Informal Learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs….”

The most blatant rip-off is by Brainshark‘s Audrey Polce who uses my bus and bicycle analogy and wording without attribution in a webinar entitled Using Brainshark for Formal and Informal Learning. From her slides: bus:bike

[Update, from Twitter August 27th:

  1. How is informal learning like riding a bike? Apologies to , the original source of this great analogy:

  2. (3/3) It is never our intent to misappropriate information, and we apologize for the mix up.

    Brian also Tweeted me that this was completely unintentional. I don’t understand how Audrey could have unintentionally presented several paragraphs of my ideas as her own when clearly they were not.

    I’ve accepted their apology because feuding’s not fun.]

Informal vs. Formal Learning: What’s the Difference? by Brendan Cournoyer, Director of  Content Marketing, Brainshark. Cournoyer thanks her for this knowledge in another post. “We can liken the difference between formal and informal learning to travelling on a bus vs riding a bike (thanks to Audrey Polce for this metaphor.”

Most of this next batch use the words “unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs.” Often that’s the only transgression, although to my way of thinking, that’s enough. When you quote someone word for word, you need to acknowledge your source.

Informal Learning Management, Evaluation, Regulation by Brian Swisher on the “eLearning Heroes” site. “I am writing a paper for my ISD Masters Program on informal learning. Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs.”

 How social  networks and Web 2.0 can support informal learning in your company or organization, EU Net Knowing Project,  funded by EU Leonardo da Vinci Programme in the framework of Lifelong Learning European Programme. “Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs.”

Learning Networking through Mobile Apps, proposal defense by jepputeh iot. “Informal Learning: Unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way of us learn to do our jobs”

Informal Learning Context, EDU 09 – THEORETICAL BASE  OF  PHYSICAL SCIENCE EDUCATION – II by T.K Thankcom. “Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs. Informal learning is like riding a bicycle: the rider chooses the destination and the route.

Organizations and Cultures by dcarmona.”Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs.”

A Study: Informal Learning & Formal Learning in a General Music Classroom by Joon Hwang WONG Raffles Institution, Singapore. Presented at the 32nd World Conference of the International Society for Music Education. “informal learning takes place in an unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs. ”

The words pop up on at least five term-paper writing services (although they may all be drawing on the same batch of papers) but I’m not about to pay a fee to read my own purloined words.

My take on this
I don’t promote Informal Learning for the money. Believe me, it’s not lucrative. I spread the gospel of informal learning because I’m convinced it works and it feels like the right thing to do. I’m a true believer, but I don’t like to feel that people, especially LMS vendors, are taking advantage of me.

A couple of weeks ago, I came upon an LMS vendor’s site that described his company’s way of doing things with several paragraphs lifted directly from one of my white papers. The CEO apologized profusely and we had a lovely conversation. The fellow who wrote the copy said “I used your blog structure as an idea however must have published the wrong version with your text rather than mine.” Uh huh.


This is hardly the first time. Three years ago I blogged Where to Draw the Line on Plagiarism? and gave several examples:

This morning I looked at a presentation on SlideShare by the head of learning of an Irish insurance company. Eight of the 33 slides were copied from a colleague’s presentation deck without attribution. Another slide credits me but gets the numbers wrong and attributes the idea to Time Magazine instead of Internet Time Group.

One slide re-labels Charles Jennings’ examples of 70:20:10 as 50:20:30 — I guess the presenter couldn’t believe that formal learning had such little impact. Another slide quotes a Nobel Laureate but fails to acknowledge that the quote was borrowed from Charles’ presentation. The Irish presentation had been rekeyed. Hint: keying someone’s material into your presentation doesn’t make it yours.

It gets worse. Clark Quinn and I found an entire white paper we’d co-authored on an international university’s site. It reappeared word for word — except for our names, which were nowhere to be found. It looked as if the university had written it. When we called them on it, their first defense was that they had found it on the web and couldn’t remember where. I demanded an apology; the university said it was not at fault. I gave them a choice: I would out them as brazen intellectual property thieves or they would take down the article immediately. They chose the latter.

Last month an LMS vendor borrowed 200 words from my site without attribution. They told me it was a mistake. The post now acknowledges *research authored and compiled by Jay Cross at:

Marcia Conner once sent me a book, not a very good one, that printed 30 pages from my site without permission! These are not isolated instances.

I wrote a professor in New Zealand that “Your presentation presents words and graphics from three principals of of Internet Time Alliance (Charles Jennings, Jane Hart, and myself) without attribution and in violation of international copyright law.” He wrote back, “My sincerest apologies. I thought I had properly cited the work but it was not at all. Shame. I have removed the presentations. If you would like more recompense please let me know.” I told him “No need to remove the presentation. Just note sources for our material.”

I think I’ve been too much of a softie. I am fed up.

Future response
Maybe there’s an opportunity hidden here.

Henceforth, when I come upon plagiarism of more than a handful of words, I’m going to send the transgressor a link to this post and a bill for $1,000. If it’s a Fortune 50 company, it will be for $5,000.

If I don’t get a satisfactory response, I will out the company on Twitter and append the incident to this post.




Serendipity, Push Learning in action

Bank branch in Scotland. Staff Training



“Learning is the work.” You shouldn’t stop work for training. It’s better to integrate the two. Work as you learn.  Learn as you work.

This is “Push” training, studying what someone else tells you to learn.

I didn’t notice the Push sign on the door until after taking the photo.

In the reflection, you can see me taking the shot.

Mileage Plus

milesAll I wanted to do was use Frequent Flier miles to buy tickets from San Francisco to Mallorca to Athens and home from Istanbul. Business class.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with United Mileage Plus and ended up with oddball flights I would never have purchased for myself, e.g. depart SFO at 7:24 in the morning, twiddle thumbs for 3 hours in Houston, spend five hours in Munich awaiting for flight to Palma. Later, fly Palma to Athens via Copenhagen, along with a six hour wait at the Copenhagen airport. Depart Istanbul at 6:20 in the morning, spend more than three hours at Munich Airport and then another three hours at O’Hare.  A monkey could pick more convenient flights.

I requested all Lufthansa flights but ended up on United (which I hate) and SAS (which routes through Copenhagen no matter what) except for two short legs.

Route after route had no seats available even though I was booking three months in advance. Business class. We will have to fly coach within Europe. Premium Economy was the best we could do for the return flight; seat upgrades and taxes cost an additional $786.

The clerk at Mileage Plus was saddled with an ineffective system. We spent a bit of time waiting for the screen to refresh.  Rather than select from a menu, she had to check everything manually. “Could you go a day earlier? Two days earlier?”

For 360,000 miles and $786, I ended up with tickets that would cost $18,000 out of pocket, so I’ll keep accumulating miles. (Virtually everything we spend goes through a credit card that rewards miles.)

What I fail to understand is how United managed to set up a system that is so aggravating. People in other industries have gone to jail for bait-and-switch tactics that are everyday practice at United. I dread speaking with Mileage Plus because I know they’ll let me down. It’s bad enough when United pisses off regular customers (charging for luggage, serving pricey junk food, and an attitude of no can do.) That they cull out frequent fliers, the profit-making travelers, and hassle them with what are supposed to be rewards in unconscionable. It’s plain stupid.


Week before last, our flight from Germany to SFO arrived a few minutes early, but it took the better part of an hour for our luggage to show up on the baggage carousel.

I suggest the FAA and others change the definition of what makes a flight on time. It should include time to pick up your baggage. Alaska Air gets the suitcases off in minutes; why can’t the other airlines follow suit?

How many pages of that new book did you read?


According to Business Insider, readers of Capital in the Twenty-first Century made it through just 2.1% of the book on average, with the last highlighted section appearing on page 26.

Other results: Most people have gotten through only an eighth of “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, and only a fifth through “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis.

I’ve been searching for a statistic I used to quote. How many pages does the typical business reader read before quitting? I believe the answer was nine pages!

I cautioned an author recently that he better put his message in those first nine pages if he wants everyone to read it.

I’ve been thinking about writing the sequel to Informal Learning. Informal Learning 2.0? Maybe I should leave pages 10 through 300 blank, for taking notes.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about unfinished reading:




Book Pirates

informal learning

Wow. If these guys’ stats are accurate, they’ve downloaded more copies of my book on Informal Learning for free than Pfeiffer has sold!

I have asked my editor for Wiley’s take on this. If someone is giving my books away, I’d rather it be me.