So How Should We Attribute On The Internet

Given the whole curation, via discussion kicked up by someone actually believing symbols will solve the problem, I thought I’d complete a pending draft. I started sharing my tech analysis, opinions, how-to guides, scoops through this blog. I spent hours gathering sources all over the web to help me find a story within an update. Over the years I’ve struggled with the problem of attribution. Let’s be honest, I was not a big shot in the tech blogger world, add to that I was in India, it was tough to make a name. I found videos, stories within those videos, searched and pieced together stories based on another story—all this takes time and effort.

Today, I write about an industry for ZDNet and have the privilege of being the founding editor for The Next Web’s Microsoft channel (currently run by Alex). I still have problems about attribution. Mary-Jo Foley who covers Microsoft on ZDNet credits sources by linking the author names and website names within the article to where she found the story. She’s a reputed source within Microsoft and the tech world, a name drop on her website is a huge thing for any small time blogger. Her links tell her readers about another blogger and his website—it’s like an ad. Hamburger (yea, that’s his name) points this out as an important aspect of crediting, he is right.

GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, a respected figure within the Seattle tech community and tech blogosphere takes the trouble of adding a link to the author’s twitter profile. This again is a huge deal—telling YOUR readers that here’s the guy I got part of my story from and you should check out his twitter profile.

On ZDNet and even on Techie Buzz (where I currently cover tech) I try to follow Mary-Jo’s and Todd Bishop’s method of crediting. Instead of a tiny link at the end of the article, I mention the author and website name within the article and adding a long link so that the reader knows that here’s where I got my story from. I am trying to develop the habit of linking to the author’s twitter profile but that’s an added step that I will take time.

We don’t need symbols. Don’t be ashamed of telling your readers that here’s where you got your story from, they won’t stop reading you. Don’t leave tiny via links at the end of the article, proudly spread the word about your fellow bloggers—a click to their blog from yours will only increase the respect for you.

Update: Good friend @krazyfrog over on twitter made a point that this method of attribution means that the reader will go to another site in the middle of reading your article so the vias should be at the end, he also later says he doesn’t read most articles and jumps straight to the end to see the source. Here’s my take on that:

  • I don’t give a rat’s ass about readers who don’t read my articles
  • Websites that delve into echo-chambers (content curators who simply paraphrase) don’t want readers to leave their site
  • I add a perspective or collate and relate stories to build an article, I like to believe that my reader will get more information/insight by reading my article than reading what’s on the source, hence, like in peer reviewed articles, I mention the source in line
  • I want the reader to read my analysis and know where I got my information
  • I don’t want to trick and make the reader believe that the story he read is mine and at the end tell him here’s where I got it from

One more thing, don’t copy paste everything from a source, such as take all the features/screenshots leaked by a site. Take a few and tell your reader to go to the source for the rest. This can be at the end of the article but a second link to the same source in one article.