The Ethics of Linking II: In Which We Weigh In on the Curator’s Code.
In a previous post, the Ethics of Linking, I discussed news organizations’ linking obligations. For example, when reporting a story, should organizations have to say who first broke the news? A hat tip is always polite, but don’t overwhelm your reader with links they don’t need to click-through.
The debate continues its way to the blogosphere and at SXSW Interactive festival, nestled itself upon the roundtables of curators and aggregators. David Carr reports on two new efforts to standardize digital content aggregation. The first, spearheaded by Simon Dumenco, along with reps from key digital publications, is a Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation. The second is Maria Popova and Kelli Anderson’s latest project: The Curator’s Code, which offers two unicode characters for attribution (ᔥ means “via”, ↬ means “hat tip”) that are easily pluggable in a post through a bookmarklet.
Yesterday, Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, argued that codifying “via” links is confusing and misguided. He writes:
That’s how I feel about links in general: the source author creates something worth linking to, and the rest of us can link as we see fit, regardless of how we found it. The proper place for ethics and codes is in ensuring that a reasonable number of people go to the source instead of just reading your rehash. (via Marco.org)
Marco thinks in-line links are sort of useless, because no one really clicks on them anyway. Agreed.
My personal take: Through my time at FJP and around tumblr, I’ve learned to credit a source with an in-line link if it’s not totally necessary to click on it and I’m definitely summarizing the key/relevant point in my post. After quotes or extended paraphrasing, I’ll stick in a via link. For thumbs-up to an organization or reporter that really deserves credit for starting up a conversation, I’ll stick in a hat tip. It would be great if symbols were standardized for these purposes, but at the moment, they do seem confusing and as much as I love bookmarklets, my collection is getting a little too big.
In the spirit of helping internet journalism toward a clear and healthy future, at the FJP, we’re all for transparent links, complete with the letters “via” or “h/t”.
Michael weighs in:
It’s not just a matter of giving transparent credit where credit is due. Transparent linking, and clearly spelling out to our readers where we’re getting our ideas from, is part of a larger effort to expose our audience to valuable primary sources that they may not know about and will hopefully begin to include in their future media diet.
To that I’ll add one thought. Credit and clarity aren’t simply the ingredients of good internet etiquette; rather, they are a means of adding value to our internet expeditions, and for journalism to continue to be a public service in the digital era, it might help to think of a blogger’s linking style as yet another tool that can reveal (or hide) much, and thus be harnessed for good communication. - Jihii
Image: Screenshots from the FJP Tumblr