Should Bloggers and Link-Sharing Sites Get Credit for Discovering Content?

It’s common for bloggers and aggregation websites to credit their sources with a link, but who credits the curators for their taste? Maria Popova, editor of Brain Pickings, has come up with a Curator’s Code that, if implemented, will give credit to curators for “discovering” links with little symbols.

A link marked ᔥ, or “via,” means it will take the reader back to the source; a ↬ , or “hat tip,” acknowledges the person or site that directed the writer to the original source.

“Discovery of information is a form of intellectual labor,” Popova told the New York Times. “When we don’t honor discovery, we are robbing somebody’s time and labor. The Curator’s Code is an attempt to solve some of that.”

Social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest already allow their users to credit each other for sharing or “pinning” a link. Applying this idea to blogs and other sites that aggregate content is an interesting idea, but is it practical?

In many ways, the curated Web is a sloppy version of academia, where scholars build on the ideas of the experts that came before them and are careful to cite the sources of their information in the footnotes.  Actually writing a blog post is more like racing to finish the timed writing portion of the SATs than crafting the perfect term paper. And adding aggregators into the mix would be a bit like trying to defend a thesis with similar time constraints.

In an age where a bystander can break a news story on Twitter minutes ahead of reporters, it’s hard to say who should get the credit for “discovering” a story on a microblogging site that’s viewed by 100 million active users around the world. By the time it makes the headlines of a major news outlet, the story has already passed through countless other channels.

And if that news story makes its way to Reddit, it’s probably also on TechMeme and numerous other aggregators. They’re all wonderful tools, but where do we draw the line between protecting intellectual property and filling up blog posts with distracting links?

Marco Arment, the creator of the bookmarking service Instapaper, thinks the codes are misguided. “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,” he wrote in a blog post. “Codifying ‘via’ links with confusing symbols is solving the wrong problem.”

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