The Curator’s Code to the Internet Galaxy

The News: This past weekend, Maria Popova, best known as  the mind behind Brainpickings, launched The Curator’s Code, a system to “honor and standardize the attribution of discovery across the web.” You can’t skip across the Internet without finding someone writing about this project, which basically provides new symbols of attribution for “via” or “HT”.

Popova explains:

? stands for “via” and signifies a direct link of discovery, to be used when you simply repost a piece of content you found elsewhere, with little or no modification or addition.

? stands for the common “HT” or “hat tip,” signifying an indirect link of discovery, to be used for content you significantly modify or expand upon compared to your source, for story leads, or for indirect inspiration encountered elsewhere that led you to create your own original content.

The intention, as Popova describes it, is for “keeping the whimsical rabbit hole of the Internet open by honoring discovery.” Amazingly, this simply project has set off a firestorm of people debating its merits.

Con: Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan says: “for the writers who care about this issue, such a group is unnecessary; for writers who don’t care about this issue, such a group will have no influence. Therefore such a group is worthless.”

Pro: NYT’s David Carr: “where is the line between promoting the good work of others and simply lifting it? Naughty aggregation is analogous to pornography: You know it when you see it.” And, “they are an effort to bring back the promise of the consumer Internet, creating visible connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information. It’s called the Web for a reason, after all.”

Opinion: I can see it both ways, sadly, and pretty much agree 100% with Daniel Howells. The people that really need a curator’s code for proper linking and sourcing of “via’s” and “HT’s” are the MSM and television news stations. They are the absolute worst — worse even than places like The Huffington Post — when it comes sourcing content.

As much as we’d like begin to using ? for “via” and ? for “HT” in solidarity, it’s just too cumbersome to try and copy unicode from a bookmarklet or whatever. We don’t use the HT too much around here, anyway, so you might not see that one all that much. Admittedly, we could probably be using it much more often for the stuff we find and share with you.

In this case we’ll have to give a hearty ? to Swiss Miss, who writes: “I don’t care if anyone adapts to Maria’s proposed symbols for attribution or if people continue using a simple via/HT or ~. All I care about is that people *do* attribute their findings. Why? Because it shows respect *and* most of all, it allows us to discover news sources. The ‘via’ is oftentimes a virtual door into a magic new world that I didn’t know existed.”

Like her, it’s just nice to finally see such a conversation take place. It doesn’t matter how it’s done, the symbols used to denote a via or HT, as long as it is done. Our best practice has always been to link to the original in the text of our post and then provide a via link to where we found the content. In our mind, a “via” and a “HT/hat tip” are one and the same.

And yes, we’re sorry we just glazed over everyone’s eyes talking about attribution on the web. As an apology here’s a video of a red panda playing with an orange in the snow — via superpunch.

Comments on this entry are closed.