It’s a nasty name, “swipe files,” but it’s an idea you should implement immediately if you haven’t already gotten yours started!
If you’re like me, you run across great little ideas and tidbits on the Internet every day.
But if you don’t record that idea, or web site, or reference, or “how to” hint for later recall, you will have forgotten that it ever existed within a day or two.
If you’ve been involved in copywriting, direct ad creation, web site development, graphics creation, email headlining, and any number of other online business tasks, you’ve probably heard the term “swipe files.”
That’s kind of a nasty or unpleasant term, but the concept is smart and the results of you building such files will be significant as you venture into your new information business.
If you don’t know what a “swipe file” is, or you’re not convinced you need one (or several), read on.
A “swipe file” is merely a computer (or paper) folder that contains ideas, or strategies, or examples of things that others have tried that you feel might be of value to your own business in the future.
You, in essence, borrow or “swipe” the idea or example by making a copy of it and stashing it away in this folder for later reference and use.
Is this method of “swiping” or copying others’ work really legal, ethical, and above reproach?
The answer, of course, depends upon whom you talk to and, more importantly, how you do it.
Here is my take on “swipe files” being ethical in business:
– It is legal and ethical if you don’t use the copy that you have put in your file. If this copy is the “inspiration” or merely the model for a similar but different idea or approach, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that could make a valid case for copyright infringement.
– In some cases, the author is giving you the information so you will know how to do something or so that you can come to a similar result.
Again, if you apply this information to your own situation or project, you shouldn’t run into any trouble.
It’s when you copy all or a substantial portion of someone else’s copyrighted work (articles, graphics, web site, products, etc) without their prior permission that you tread on thin ice.
– Swipe files, to me, are simply viewed as a way to capture a thought, or idea, or technique – some particular information – that you believe will come in handy later.
Often you don’t want to interrupt what you’re doing at the moment, or you don’t have time to be sidetracked, so you copy whatever it is and stuff it in this file . . . or you record the URL of the information so you can return later to digest it.
– By having a “holding place” of this nature, you always know where your information is and you can easily come back to it quickly for further review.
It’s not unlike book marking or underlining a passage that you want to highlight for a future reading.
– Swipe file material shouldn’t be used for direct reproduction in any form. If you copy something and then insert it into a document or paste it online, without permission, you are most likely committing plagiarism.
– To me at least, the whole idea of not re-inventing the wheel at every turn in your business makes perfect sense.
If someone else has figured out a practical solution for doing something well, I think you ought to adapt that solution to your own situation if you can.
I realize there will be some who hold opposing or more rigid and negative views of swipe files.
I welcome those opinions and ideas.
I find that it’s usually pretty difficult and subjective to make a determination about what is infringing on someone else’s work and what’s not. I am not an attorney and don’t pretend to know all the rules covering copyright law.
But I do know that my own swipe files are invaluable in “remembering” all the little details for me that I come across online that I would otherwise quickly forget if left up to my own recollection.
Whether you call it a swipe file or something more pleasant, the idea that you have a storage system for things you want to come back to – so you’ll always know where to find an idea – is one that every webmaster and business owner ought to implement!
To your online business success,