You know when you’ve been viper-ed

viper44A tweet this morning from @jon_scott alerted me to the fact that sometime over the weekend, the University of Leicester has been visited by the PR machine for the Viper service. Paving slabs had been stencilled with the company’s logo and web address. Rather ingeniously, the marketeers have jet-washed the image rather than painting it on, which I presume guards them against accusations of vandalism because all they’ve actually done is remove dirty (thanks to @jobadge for pointing this out, she is obviously more ‘direct action’ savvy than me). The image on the bumpy pavement at the traffic lights makes the wash v paint strategy most clearly.

viper55 viper33

Viper is marketing itself as a way for students to check that their work is not guilty of plagiarism. Several institutions have already wrestled with the question of whether to let students pre-submit their work to Turnitin so that they can see for themselves if it is going to get pinged by that software with the same intentions. However laudible this seems, one of the difficulties is the fact that students will simply learn how to mask their tracks rather than developing bona fide study skills. The subversive nature of the current marketing strategy reinforces the view that this is a way to “beat the system”. I was interested also that one of the recommendations for the software on the Tucows site seems to come from a student who bought a ‘bespoke’ essay for her course and was now asking for a refund as the software showed it was not quite the original work she thought she’d paid for!


  1. Dear Sir,
    I wish to complain. I was perfectly happy bathing in my own filth until these rogues came along and started to clean selected surfaces up. Where will this all end?
    Reginald P. Gruntfuttock.

    • They’re welcome to come and spraywash my drive if they’ve got time on their hands

  2. Thanks for this Chris – interesting to see that the owners of the scanning system is a custom writing service, re-enforcing the fact that this is seen as a quick cheat check, not a way to learn how to think critically and write better.

    • Yes, that is interesting – hadn’t spotted the identity of the ‘parent’ company.

  3. Hi,

    Viper is owned my Academic Answers the parent company. Viper is not intended to help students cheat the academic system and neither is Degree-Essays (or any of our other sites).

    Viper is intended to help students avoid accidentally plagiarising their work, similar to TurnItIn’s product WriteCheck. We give help and advice for avoiding plagiarism, but everyone makes mistakes, this is where Viper offers a solution.

    We actively encourage the proper use of custom essays, as fantastic study guide, and do not sell to students intending to hand them in. Custom essays are no different from finding you essay answer in a text book, website or journal, but they do give you all the relevant information in one source.

    Anyway, I hope you don’t mind the logo’s too much.

    Thanks :)


  4. “Custom essays are no different from finding you essay answer in a text book, website or journal” This is exactly the sort of disingenuous sophistry that is designed to lead students astray and which is very damaging to their academic progress – there is a world of difference between a student developing and practising the research and critical skills required to construct a good answer to an essay compared with handing over cash for someone else to cobble together an answer for them to copy.

  5. […] detection software since 2004. The latest round of tests included a system that we have seen promoted to our students at Leicester, Viper (also known as This requires local installation on a PC and purports to be […]

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