To share or not to share

I’m sharing a lot of my knowledge here at I’m sharing images on flickr and SmugMug, quick thoughts on twitter and presentations on The internet is fantastic for sharing content and I think sharing is a very good idea. It’s simple – if you share, people share back. I learn a lot by structuring my thoughts enough to be able to communicate them. And I learn a lot by having an intelligent community out there that is ready to help me out by sharing their knowledge back.

But when you share information people can take it and use it without giving you credit!

Yes they can. And recently I got an email from a person that attended one of my presentations a couple of weeks ago. This person attended another conference with other people speaking the next week. One of them using content that was clearly borrowed from my presentations. And without giving any credit.

So should I stop sharing? Stop sending out PDF files of my presentations? I don’t think so. The value of sharing content is bigger than the problem of someone using your ideas without giving you credit. Such use is of course irritating. And not very polite. For the people in the audience that know where your content comes from you simply look like a jerk if you don’t give credit.

I remember an old interview with the photoshop guru Kai Krause. He was sharing all his knowledge in a series called Kai’s Power Tips. And he was asked why he shared all his knowledge. “You’re giving away your best asset”. He answered that he wasn’t. He was giving away yesterday’s knowledge. He was already working on something new. (And what’s he doing now? Living and working in a 1000 year old castle. With a priceless view and lots of space.)

Kai Krause’s statement is bold, arrogant and full of confidence. And I love it. So for me another important reason to share is the fact that I push myself forward. And that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of people borrowing your thoughts. They’re borrowing old thoughts. Go ahead, use it. I’m on my way further down the road anyway.

To share or not to share

7 thoughts on “To share or not to share

  1. Marko Peršnjak says:

    Hello Eirik,

    It’s quite constructive to question this very delicate subject, but I think you forgot to mention your readers the most basic idea of expectation, that someday, maybe, your good will will be well paid off.

    Working as a researcher at the Institute of Jožef Štefan in the theory of quantum computing department in Slovenia, made me realize something about the importance of sharing your knowledge and work with other people. Making my studies, research material and tens of thousands lines of code, completely open and available to everyone on the internet sometimes didn’t pay off very well, but compared to the positive feedback from other researchers that actually contributed a great deal to my doctor dissertation, it just isn’t worth to worry about the negative side of sharing and making things public.

    Good luck Eirik!

    Marko Peršnjak, PhD

  2. Øyvind S says:

    Agree with Marko – putting in source code as an appendix in my PhD thesis nine years ago I am sure secured a wider audience and more citations had I not.

  3. Not to mention that sharing builds your reputation and credibility. I totally agree with you on this subject, and might I add, thanks for sharing!

  4. B5 says:

    Great point!
    Sharing this days is way cheaper then it was ten years ago. If you would share all your images, lectures and notes in hard copy, it would cost you a fortune. Now days distribution is free and we can afford to share yesterdays knowledge.

  5. B5 says:

    Oh… I want to add something. Digital era is smarter then those copy/paste guys. I was told that at a College for journalism got this software to check and compare thesis among each other and results were horrible! Students were copy/pasting whole pages of course without mentioning in appendix.


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