More on web attribution

Last week I described my policy of citing sources on the web after reading this post from Stephen Hackett. I got an email from Mr. Berserk Hippo himself in response (which he kindly let me reprint here), asking how I’d handle attribution in a certain scenario:

“I have an attribution quandry. I inserted names so that hopefully the situation makes sense.

I follow Jane on twitter. She retweets something by Mike, who I don’t follow. Mike’s tweet is a link to an article he didn’t write, but I want to talk about.

Who should I ‘via?’ My gut says Mike’s tweet, but I am not sure.”

Here’s the answer I gave:

Good question. I’ll assume the article Mike linked to is the source. In this situation, I’d write “Jane pointed me to this article…” linking “Jane” to Jane’s tweet and “this article” to the article. Then, at the end of my post, I’d give Mike the via.

Attribution on the web

My Internet Friend Stephen Hackett recently wrote about attribution on the web. Specifically, citing a story’s source and “via” link, or method by which you became aware of the story. He and I pretty much have the same policy.

First, an explanation. The source in this case is just that: a story’s origin. For example, in this post I published earlier today about 3 billion iPad app downloads, the source is ABI’s report.

The reference, or “via,” identifies the outlet that first made me aware of the story. In this case, it was The Loop. As a result, The Loop gets a “via” link at the foot of the post. [1. I always put via links at the foot of a post in brackets.]

Of course, it isn’t always that cut and dry. Let’s say that Jim had a “Via SiteX” on his post. I’d visit that link and look around. If there’s no additional link, I’ll consider SiteX the referential site and give it the via on my site, too.

Sometimes I’ll find a story on my own. For example, this article comparing Steve Jobs and Charles Eames. I found Om Malik’s article on my own this morning, so there’s no via link.

Other times a story will be so big that everyone and their brother is posting about it. In that case, I avoid a via link all together because, like I said, everyone has it. For example, this post about the pending international launch of the iPhone 4S. Apple issued a press release, everyone re-blogged it, so there’s no via necessary.

Like Stephen, if I find something on a big site like Engadget, CNN, etc. that everyone else will obviously see, there’s no via necessary.

Finally, regarding sources. They always get a link in the opening paragraph, and hopefully in the first sentence.

That’s my policy on using the via link. What’s yours?