Simon Willison’s Weblog



5th March 2004

Via Kevin Fox, Wired are running an article that claims that authors of popular blog sites regularly borrow topics from lesser-known bloggers -- and they often do so without attribution.

The first part—that bloggers borrow topics from each other—isn’t a new observation. Link commentary is one of the clasic forms of blogging, right up there with filling in quizzes and posting pictures of your cat. What’s worrying is the lack of attribution.

Attribution is a critical part of good blogging etiquette. It provides “discovery credit” to the blogger who directed you to something, but more importantly it acts as a tool for communication. It’s easy to tell when someone is linking to you, via referral logs or services such as Technorati. By attributing something to another blogger you make two useful statements: I read your blog (or at least stumbled across it somehow), and I’m interested in that particular entry. This is valuable feedback.

My favoured attribution method is the “via” link, as demonstrated at the start of this entry; I even use it in my blogmarks. One problem that I used to have with attributing interesting links, described here by Meri, is that when you browse with multiple tabs or browser windows it’s easy to lose track of how you got to a certain page thanks to a “broken” back button. Thankfully there’s a simple solution to this: the show referrer bookmarklet (adapted from a similar bookmarklet by Jesse Ruderman) which shows the page that referred you to the current page in an easily copy-and-pastable Javascript prompt.

This still doesn’t help you if you clicked on a link in an aggregator such as NetNewsWire, but I’ve started habitually opening the real entry in a browser before clicking any links to ensure I maintain referral information. This is particularly important as the bookmarklet I use for updating my blogroll grabs the referrer for automatic “via” link generation.

This is Attribution by Simon Willison, posted on 5th March 2004.

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