"How do you avoid being a jerk on the Internet? (Beyond, you know, all the obvious ways?) When you post someone's words or images on your blog or your Facebook feed, what's the best way to make clear that it's someone else's words or images? When you pass along an idea on Twitter, how do you show your followers that you're sharing, rather than creating? How do you maximize the generosity ... and minimize the jerkery?
If you're not entirely sure, you're not alone. Linking -- in the narrow sense and the broader one -- is not as simple as it seems. The Internet is still incredibly young, and it's grown up organically. Because of those two things, its users haven't yet come together to determine a fully standardized system for attribution. We're making it up as we go along. Which leads to a lot of experimentation (the hat-tip and the via and the RT and the MT!) ... and to a lot of confusion. On the web, the line between sharing and stealing -- between being a helpful conduit of information and being, on the other hand, a jerk -- can be frighteningly thin.
That could be changing, though. This weekend, Maria Popova (whom you may know as an Atlantic contributor, or as the author of Brainpickings, and either way as one of the web's foremost experts on the art of curation) is launching The Curator's Code, a system -- and, she hopes, a movement -- to "honor and standardize the attribution of discovery across the web." The new project offers both a code of ethics and a common standard for borrowing and sharing. It aims to provide a framework for celebrating curation by way of formalizing it -- or, as Popova describes it, of "keeping the whimsical rabbit hole of the Internet open by honoring discovery."
The code is based on two basic types of attribution, Popova explains, each indicated by a special unicode character (along the lines of ™ for "trademark" and © for "copyright"):
One of the most magical things about the Internet is that it's a whimsical rabbit hole of discovery – we start somewhere familiar and click our way to a wonderland of curiosity and fascination we never knew existed. What makes this contagion of semi-serendipity possible is an intricate ecosystem of "link love" – a via-chain of attribution that allows us to discover new sources through those we already know and trust.
A system for honoring the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery
While we have systems in place for literary citation, image attribution, and scientific reference, we don't yet have a system that codifies the attribution of discovery in curation as a currency of the information economy, a system that treats discovery as the creative labor that it is.
This is what The Curator's Code is – a system for honoring the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery by making attribution consistent and codified, the celebrated norm. It's an effort to make the rabbit hole open, fair, and ever-alluring.
Given I seem to have fallen into a curators role, I've been thinking for a while about writing up a "Curators Code of Conduit" so I want to take a close look at this...
The cool thing I guess is that I've been doing this, the "via" attribution, since I started blogging [looks like I started using it in 2004] as I'm a firm believer in giving people their due, attributing them and their work. Not sure I'm going to go with the whole symbol/unicode thing, but maybe... :)