A 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.
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!