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Quote Foul!

? Happy News looking for citizen journalists |


| BusinessWeek bends banner for design ?

July 22, 2005

Quote Foul!

Heather Green

"Everyone is famous for 15 people."

I claim this quote in today's New York Times story on podcasting for David Weinberger! I claim it from the forces that would turn it into an unattributed maxim. And I also want to know how it was turned into a podcasting maxim?

Ok, little background here. While Steve Baker and I were doing our reporting early this year for our cover story on blogging, we spoke with gobs of people. This quote kept coming up to explain the widespread appeal of blogging--whether it was someone blogging about their baby or their cat.

However, everytime someone said this quote, they quickly added, but please attribute this to David Weinberger if you use it. I am all in favor of keeping it attributed to Weinberger!

11:16 AM

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Ow! You're right!

It's my fault. I recalled Weinberger's wonderful coinage ( while exchanging email with Ms. Heffernan, but didn't have Weinberger's name at the tip of my fingers, so I attributed it (incorrectly) to "an early podcaster." I should have been more careful.

Never forget: Even maxims have parents!

Posted by: Steve Williams at July 22, 2005 01:23 PM


I wasn't pointing fingers, believe me. I thought it might just be what you describers, and that it has floated around enough that people couldn't remember automatically who said it.

Posted by: Heather Green at July 22, 2005 03:14 PM

Dave Weinberger's s a clever guy, but this formulation is obvious enough that it's likely someone else coined it no matter what people say.

Above is a link to a usenet post from 1997 I dug up now that uses the maxim as the subject line when mentioning an early weblog. (So early, it was called a "Web diary"!) The post cites a WSJ article. It's not clear if the WSJ article uses the expression or not. Looks like it might. Someone do a Lexis-Nexis search!

Posted by: Gabe at July 22, 2005 06:49 PM

I'd jump in and grab the glory except for two points:

First, although I came up with the line independently, if you google it you'll find a bunch of other people who came up with it independently before I did. Life's like that.

Second, even if I knew that I was the first person ever to say those words, so what? Sure, it's good to attribute quotations when possible, but it's even better to let ideas be assimilated into the cultural body, and that doesn't happen if people have to keep saying "As so-and-so said." I'm proud to have something that I (and others) wrote enter the culture as a "maxim." Cool!

Just to be clear: Had I known that someone else had said that line, I would have attributed it to him/her in the book. That would have been appropriate in that context. It's different if a reporter thinks that it's a phrase that's been floating around for a while and attributes to a general purpose person.

So, thank you for the defense, and I'm sorry to have inadvertently led you to defend my honor when there is no honor to defend. At least in this case.

In short, if I were the referee, I'd say: "No foul. Fair play!"

Posted by: David Weinberger at July 23, 2005 11:07 AM

Thanks for the input and for clarifying all this. I should have checked whether the people who attributed this to David were correct, obviously.

Posted by: Heather Green at July 25, 2005 11:06 AM

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