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Stuart Aken Reveals a Secret of His Writing Craft

From Tales to Science Fiction: Stuart Aken Reveals a Secret of His Writing Craft

No matter what writing expertise you have, we bet you enjoy reading about the source of someone’s genius. There’s nothing like success stories or professional advice to unlock your inspiration. Luckily, we, at Unplag, had a chance to talk to Stuart Aken, a great novelist and short story writer experienced in creating stories of different genres including science fiction, romance, and horror.

Stuart has gone through many difficulties on his way and finally he has found his own source of comfort. It was writing. Besides, Stuart has long started running his own website, which now has plenty of useful and engaging material that would certainly be of a big interest for you (the link to the site is given below the post).

Read on to find out how Stuart manages to always create unique stories, what helps him stir his creativity, and what project Stuart is currently working on. Besides, there will be also helpful advice for newbie writers. Here’s the interview we are pleased to share with you!

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Expert Feedback on Unplag

Here’s What A Renowned Plagiarism Hunter and Media Researcher Thinks of Unplag

Have you already started using Unplag? No yet? Then, you are sure to be willing to read our user feedback, especially if it is given by Stefan Weber, a famous Austrian media scholar and writer, who is also known as a “plagiarism hunter”.

Why are we so excited to share with you Mr. Weber’s thoughts on Unplag? The main reason is that he has already become one of the most experienced researchers who dedicated themselves to the study of the countless plagiarism instances. Furthermore, he has tried out many similar plagiarism detection tools so far.

Mr. Weber decided to have a deep dive into the academic dishonesty issues not by accident. After almost a half of his doctoral thesis was plagiarized, he initiated a media campaign to attract everyone’s attention to the academic dishonesty problem.

Since that time, Mr. Weber has carried out a huge research and managed to collect information about more than 60 plagiarism cases. This was the basis for the book he wrote later on – “The Google-Copy-Paste-Syndrome: How Web-Plagiarism Endangers Education and Knowledge”. The book puts a strong emphasis on the increasing Internet use in education, the arts, and journalism, which brings along bad consequences, e.g.: primitive approaches toward creating academic texts that are often based on “googling”, no space for alternative/critical point of view, which was also referred to as “culture of hypocrisy”, and more.

Well, as an experienced plagiarism researcher, he checked papers with various anti-plagiarism tools. According to Mr. Weber, to get accurate plagiarism check results, it’s necessary to scan texts with more than just one existing solution. This is absolutely inevitable especially when the results they show differ a lot.

I need reliable software solutions which do not lead me into wrong directions. This makes the challenge really tricky. Furthermore, I need the plagiarism software which visualizes matches in a clear and easy-to-handle way. I found out that Unplag fulfills all these demands very well.

Mr. Weber noticed Unplag first at the “Online Educa” exhibition held in Berlin in December 2015: “The team was very friendly and competent and gave me the opportunity to test the system already at the booth. And we had an interesting conversation on what really should be done, for example, opening Google Books for plagiarism inquiries.”

The Unplag checker helped Mr. Weber find the main source of plagiarism in one dissertation that he checked at that time.

I tested the solution between January and June 2016. Unplag convinced me with one dissertation where no other software solution did find the main source of plagiarism, but Unplag ranked the source on the top.

Additionally, Mr. Weber advises teachers and professors to use multiple plagiarism solutions while checking a text for plagiarism. “I would recommend every teacher or professor to keep his or her eyes open and check several plagiarism software solutions. For me, Unplag has to be an obligatory candidate for such a check!”

Stefan Weber’s BIO:

Stefan Weber was born 14 June 1970 in Salzburg. He lives in Dresden and Salzburg and works as a media researcher and writer. His career as a plagiarism hunter has started more ten years ago. Mr. Weber had checked many texts for his clients since 2005 when he first started fighting plagiarism. Besides this, he has published publications and monographs in German and English.

plagiarism in art

Interview with Mykyta Isagulov, Author of Art of Plagiarism – Part 2

Today, we publish the second part of the conversation with Mykyta Isagulov, author of Art of Plagiarism. Check out the first part of our interview here.

Do you think the development in art could have been possible without intermediality?

I tried to show it in my research, my books and articles. The whole history of the arts has plenty of cases of intermediality. They are very interesting cases and very boring cases, easy and complicated. Sometimes you can only guess about the true source that has been used by an artist (like in the Romeo and Juliet case, when there were several potential sources that Shakespeare could have used, in fact), in some cases there is only one-to-one correlation between the works of art. This way or another, the more you dig into intermedial processes in the arts, the more you will become aware that without copying and adapting the stories and plots from other arts (i.e. intermediality) there will be no variety of the works of art. There will be only one Ulysses (of Homer), one Siegfried (of The Song of the Nibelungs), one Thor (of Scandinavian sagas) and definitely no any other works dealing with this plot, story, character or any similar details – no James Joyce’s Ulysses and famous Bloomsday festival in Dublin, no Richard Wagner’s operas The Ring of the Nibelung, no spectacular films like Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Without a doubt, art would never be the same if no artist were allowed to copy, adapt, transform, rework and re-establish the works and ideas of fellow artists. In this case intermediality facilitates the variety of forms, techniques and approaches in the arts.

Given that you have analysed the plagiarism problem from antiquity to neo-modern times, do you think the percentage of plagiarism in art grows over time? If so, why?

It’s a very good question. Just think about Ancient Greece. Homer has composed his Iliad and presented the whole bunch of myths and plots, grouping them around one single event – the Trojan War. He established certain plots, characters, relations that, most likely, have never been “written down” before and existed as some separated myths. As soon as Homer’s work was declared the masterpiece of his epoch, other artists used it as their inspiration – they carved marble sculptures of the characters, painted the scenes on canvas and on the vases, other writers also got their inspiration and either wrote stories similar to Iliad (minor Iliads) or developed some episodes from Homer’s Iliad into separate literary works. Then think about what we have now. Not all the works survived, but any good book on literature, painting, music, sculpture and architecture will probably mention a dozen of famous works based on Iliad, on its original version or on any of its various adaptations and copies.

Every generation of artists – writers and painters, sculptors, composers – brings new ideas, new copies, new intermediality and new plagiarism, when someone is not sure of the origins of his/her ideas and presents them as the result of purely his/her creative abilities. Every year brings more unconscious copying (intermediality) and more conscious copying (plagiarism) into our lives.

Generally, the word plagiarism has a negative connotation. At the end of your book you reach a conclusion that “copying makes the world of art brighter and more intensified.” Why is plagiarism “the moving force of the arts development”?

For me, plagiarism is a purely ethical problem, and I cannot limit the notion only to the cases brought to court or those that raised scandals. It is hard to describe plagiarism and prove that the work was consciously stolen. At the same time you can take the well-known names and write an absolutely different story, and then the lawyer knocks at your door and invites you to court for copyright infringement – as you have bitten off a piece of expensive cake bringing a lot of money to its owner. Sometimes such limitations can cause serious problems to a “plagiarist,” however, I think there should be no limitations in the creative process. Quite often the artists themselves cannot explain why they did that and why they chose that story and picked those names – that happened for various reason, and it requires time to find them out and understand. If we get stuck in judicial processes, we won’t be writing, painting or composing anymore – we’ll simply be afraid of the courts and lawyers. If art and creative processes are not limited to anything, copying and intermedial adaptation enrich the world of art.

Plagiarism pushes the artists to search for new ways, methods, techniques, new borders and limitations [Tweet this] that might be broken and extended by future generations of artists.

What is your personal attitude toward plagiarism?

I don’t like people who steal the labour and ideas of others. I assume that it’s always easier to copy something that fits in perfectly well, but is it so difficult to credit the one who did all the work for you and spent many nights and days writing, checking, and rewriting? It makes me very sad to discover that some young researchers use long passages from my thesis and books and never quote or credit them. This makes me furious. You won’t be breaking a single rule or undermine the importance of your own work by crediting the original researcher, otherwise the plagiaristic approach will just put your whole work at risk and, maybe ten or twenty years later, you’ll have a lot of problems when your plagiarism is revealed.

What is the best piece of writing advice you can give to young writers?

I guess there are many. Don’t plagiarize; don’t listen to anyone who says you should not write this or that; don’t follow the rules. Write as much as you can, read the works of as many authors as you can, travel and get inspired by as many places as possible, join other cultures in every possible way – and sooner or later you will establish your own style, develop your own form and write your first masterpiece, which sooner or later will be followed by another one – in case you continue your search for an ideal plot, ideal story, ideal characters and ideal setting. Enjoy your lifestyle and experiment with your writing – and one day you’ll turn into a new James Joyce or J.D. Salinger.

Many thanks to Mykyta for taking the time to talk to us and discuss plagiarism in art.


Mark Barnes on Hacking Education and 10 Quick Fixes for Every School

Today, we’re talking to Mark Barnes, a veteran teacher, speaker, writer and publisher of Brilliant of Insane. Mark is the author of five education books, and co-author of Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. He also recently created and directs Hack Learning Academy. Isn’t that remarkable? 

Authored by professional educators, Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzales, the book Hacking Education unveils 10 current problems in education and offers time-tested and quick solutions every teacher can put into action right away. Comprehensive and easy to implement, this book is a treasure for all educators. It helps create a truly effective and positive school culture, leading to better learning opportunities for teachers and students.

List of the 10 Hacks:

  • Move meetings to the Cloud
  • Post a calendar of “open house” lessons
  • Create teacher quiet zones
  • Replace punishment and reward with a track record
  • Employ student tech gurus
  • Establish a year long welcoming committee for new teachers
  • Flip your class… in class
  • Build a book nook
  • Build a transparent classroom with social media
  • Collect the data on the whole child


Can you paint us a picture of the current education landscape? What challenges it faces now and how your book Hacking Education addresses these challenges?

Education is rife with many big problems that teachers think are unsolvable, due to lack of resources or lack of money. In Hacking Education, we explain how many problems that plague educators every day can be easily “hacked” with existing resources and, in most, cases at no cost.

Could you shed some light on the 10 Hacks and how they solve daily teacher problems?

A few examples of problems we hack are: lack of teacher prep time, reluctant readers, basic classroom management, professional development, and workday chaos, to name a few. On the surface, these may look like major problems; I mean, we’ve been trying to create a culture of readers for decades. What most education shareholders don’t realize is that solving this monumental problem — illiteracy — is incredibly easy, and schools can start building a real culture of readers as early as tomorrow. We present 10 seemingly unsolvable problems and show educators, parents and community members how to fix them right now.

What is your favorite hack and why?

Picking a favorite hack is really tough, because I love all of them. I’m partial to Book Nooks, because I truly believe the world’s reading problem is maybe most important issue in education. Having said this, I’d probably pick the Pineapple Chart. This has been wildly popular since the book came out; teachers are actually conducting workshops in their districts, demonstrating how a simple Pineapple Chart can revolutionize professional development at any school. The beauty of this hack is that is costs nothing and it builds rapport among staff, while helping teachers become better educators. Again, it comes with zero cost and you can implement it immediately. I’ve seen hundreds of social media shares from teachers who rave about the Pineapple Chart’s simplicity and effectiveness.

Can you give us an inside view of what goes on in Brilliant or Insane lab? What projects you are currently working on?

 Along with publishing Hack Learning books (four more are on the way), my newest pet project is the Hack Learning Academy. The amazing popularity of Hacking Education has inspired me to create the HLA, which is a collection of online courses that follow the Hack Learning philosophy — solve big problems with simple ideas. These online courses are easy, engaging, and extremely inexpensive. I believe Hack Learning should be available for everyone, without breaking the bank. These courses are a perfect addition to the Hack Learning Series.

Many thanks to Mark for taking the time to talk to us and discuss #HackingEducation.

plagiarism in art

Interview with Mykyta Isagulov, Author of Art of Plagiarism

Today, we publish the first part of the conversation with Mykyta Isagulov, author of Art of Plagiarism. In his book, Mykyta explores a plagiarism problem in the arts from antiquity to the neo-modern period, arguing that “copying makes the world of art brighter and more intensified.” This amazing book can help you discover the most prominent cases of copying and adaptation in the arts, and unveil new perspectives on plagiarism and art in general.

Mykyta took some time to share why he wrote the book, its main message, intermediality as a driving force of art evolution, and his personal attitude toward plagiarism.

art of plagiarism

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. How did you become involved with plagiarism in art?

To be honest, plagiarism has never been my major interest until I started my master’s degree studies. All of my annual papers, as well as bachelor’s thesis, were purely linguistic studies, but, actually, words, morphemes, word-combinations, text concepts, semantic cores, grammar exceptions did not interest me greatly. Probably, that was the main reason why I decided to be involved more with literature studies while pursuing the MA degree at the university.

It took me one year to search for samples of plagiarism or copying, to check them again and again, and group them into specific types. Actually, that was the idea of my scientific adviser, to start researching the topic of plagiarism and intermediality in the arts.

Briefly, what led you up to sit down and actually write this book?

Well, I graduated from the university with a first-class degree and had a really nice job. I have always been fond of writing – essays, short stories, novelettes – and I always dreamt of writing a proper book. I gathered a lot of information for my MA thesis and wanted to make a book out of it. It took me another winter to write a draft of the book on plagiarism in arts, edit it, check all the names and dates. I just wanted to share my knowledge and all the information that I’d been gathering for several years together with researchers, art connoisseurs, and other people. You can call it scientific egoism, or willingness to be useful to society.

Please describe what the book is about in one sentence.

Mykyta: Art is everywhere around us, and the number of plots, stories, and topics is limited to a certain extent, and therefore the whole history of arts is the history of plagiarism, subconscious copying, and conscious adaptations of the works of other artists.

Olga: Is there a main message in your book that you hope readers will grasp?

Most writers just write in order to get rid of information and ideas that got stuck in their heads. I have never thought about it in that way. I guess that I just wanted to share the following message with the prospective readership: Everyone can be involved in art, but one should know the specific laws of the world of art.

Such rules and laws should be either followed, or broken – to create the new masterpieces out of all the millions of interpretations and sub-versions developed by the previous generations of artists. Being a master of literature, sculpture, painting, music or any other art is a very hard task. Art hides deep and complicated concepts behind itself, even if one thinks that a piece of art is something simple, he or she might be seriously mistaken. To crack the code, to decipher the message of every artwork a reader, observer or listener has to consolidate a lot of knowledge and think of the epoch when the work was done and know some personal things about the artist-creator.

In your book, you differentiate between intermediality and plagiarism. What is the difference and interrelation between these two notions?

Not so many people know about intermediality. Using the dry scientific definitions, plagiarism is purely a fact of conscious stealing of someone’s work and presenting this work as your own. Plagiarism can and should be punished by international and national laws.

However, the history of the arts does not have that many obvious cases of plagiarism, thus, we can trace the presence of intermediality, which in its form is an artistic phenomenon, a synthesis of arts, fusion of arts, combining arts into one piece of art. Plagiarism is an artistic theft, while intermediality enriches the arts and cannot be punished in judicial terms.

Intermediality, in fact, has various forms and types, thus, for instance, the fact of describing a painting in the literary work is intermediality case (e.g. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890), Michelangelo’s dedication of his poems to his own sculptures and their poetic description belongs to the same phenomenon. The same refers to music-literature, dance-music, painting-theatre and any other combination, when the means of one art are used in the piece belonging to another art. I think in this case any work of art can be analysed in terms of artistic copying or intermedial relations. Such analysis can also bring out some interesting and unexpected results.

According to your book the continual formula for success in the arts is: copy + change the source + unveil something new. Can you comment on this please?

Wow, I did not think that someone would make that kind of conclusion. However, I cannot disagree with the formula. As soon as the artist (inexperienced or renowned master of his art) takes one of the already existing sources, presents the story from a new perspective (using the principles of his age, society, culture, personal beliefs) and unveils something new, it is not necessary for him or her to copy.

The artists only should be looking for the new adaptations of the already existing topics, and believe me, it is not an easy task to take Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1591-95 (or I should rather say, Luigi da Porto’s adaptation of an Italian tale, 1530) and rewrite it in such a way, that the new piece of literature overshadows the original source and the established archetype of young lovers. There were artists who actually managed to present the world-known stories in such a way that the new versions and perspectives were of the same brightness and importance as the original sources. Just compare the Ancient Greek myth about Theseus and Ariadne’s thread with Jorge Luis Borges’s The House of Asterion, 1947, or Homer’s Odyssey with Virgil’s Aeneid and James Joyce’s Ulysses, 1922. Out of the three latter works I can hardly choose the best or the most important for the literary art, even though all three are based on the same type of literary character (Odysseus, a wanderer) and use the same travelling topic.

Even though it is a hard task, sometimes it is much easier to partially copy an already existing story, bring something new into it or discover something new in it than just try to write, compose or paint something extraordinarily new over and over again, something that will attract the reader, observer or listener. Alternatively, think about any commercially successful story. As soon as an artist creates an artwork that becomes a bestseller, they will launch the process of copying and adapting the work to other arts – and the franchise will include music, paintings, crafts, novels and fanfics, etc. Remember Winnie-the-Pooh and what happened after Disney purchased the rights on the teddy-bear character? Now various merchandise products based on a primarily literary character and its animated story bring Disney Company up to 5 billion dollars annually! The animated series turned out to be a very successful copying of the story, changing the source and unveiling something new in it.

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview, coming soon!