Writer's Community Ethics?
I'm very interested in the protocol or social graces involved in online communities such as Info Barrel, Hubpages, or even something like Facebook. Most often we're here to be productive, but we're also here to be social, and to form friendships, not to mention business relationships. That we more often than not don't know our fellow community members personally in the face to face world does not factor into this at all.
I'm concerned about competition. We content creators are most certainly competing, for our content is almost never truly so unique that there's not dozens of other articles on the world wide web that address the same subjects, issues, or concerns. But what about competition within the community? How do we determine what is and isn't the right thing to do so far as creating our content?
I'm thinking about one situation on Info Barrel involving myself. I decided to create an article on a thing, and in the specific case it was Elixir brand guitar strings, and after I'd finished my article here and published it, I then realized that there were two or three articles on this site already about the exact same product. Now, had I realized that before starting my own article, I wouldn't have wrote on that subject - not here on Info Barrel. But why not? Surely I have every right to do so anyway, don't I? I think that I do, and I think that if you would like to create your own article on that exact same product, that you should also do so - so long as yours does not copy or mimic mine, I'm fine with it.
...but it still can lead to uncomfortable situations within the community here for any two persons to address the exact same product or issue within one domain or community.
My take on the issue of competition concerning subjects that I'm passionate about is simply, "I'm sorry for competing with you, but I can't apologize." I'm passionate about acoustic guitars, and that I'd not seen the other person's articles on Elixir guitar strings also precludes me from feeling overly concerned about having also done the same thing. What I do think of as being bad business is to read someone's article on a subject, and to THEN decide to write about that same subject in a competitive manner. But even then, what if someone is writing in YOUR niche, the niche that YOU are totally passionate about, and that you can simply blow every one else's content out of the water due to your extreme knowledge and love of a subject?
My thoughts are GO FOR IT. We really are competing with each other online, and so long as we aren't mimicking each other, then the chances of any two persons writing something overly similar to another's work is unlikely. While I might think that my article here on Elixir strings is clearly superior to any or every other article like it on Info Barrel, and the rest of the world wide web - it's not me that is the judge. In the end, it's Google and the readers that determine who's article is best, and that's really how it should be.
While it's easy to imagine that spats and conflicts will certainly sometimes arise in online communities - that is what rules and moderators are for. So long as we are creating unique content about things we care about, then I think we're bound to succeed, and stay out of the sights of a reasonable person's anger.