Rant on Blogging Ethics, Attribution and Digg.com
Now that I have started actively updating the blog again, I have noticed that the state of attribution in the blog world has taken a deep dive. With all of the personal downtime lately due to the surgery, I spend a lot of time randomly surfing a lot of blogs, large and small. I keep seeing the same links posted on several different sites including, sadly, a few that I link to in my sidebar*. There is a common lack of attribution. Some can surely be explained by them having a very popular source (stories from major magazines/newspapers), but some of these are quite obscure and also share another common component - They are all popular links on Digg.com.
For those not familiar with digg.com, it is:
Digg is a user driven social content website. Ok, so what the heck does that mean? Well, everything on digg is submitted by the digg user community (that would be you). After you submit content, other digg users read your submission and digg what they like best. If your story rocks and receives enough diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of digg visitors to see.
Digg is changing what you see on the web, especially on blogs. This is an awesome thing for everyone and allows more content to be shared. However, it is being abused by a lot of bloggers.
It is as if, simply because it is on digg.com, that the link is fair game and can be treated as one found "in the wild." The part of this that really gets me is that the readers of these blogs, some very popular, will never know. When only 1 out of every 10 posts are marked as "found at" or "via," it makes the blogger look as if they are the ones who are uncovering all of this great stuff. It is a lie. If you read blogs like this one (and most that I link to), know that we rely heavily on the work of others to get our content. Attribution is important to our integrity.
I know I am in the extreme on this. If I post something I can't remember the provenance of, I let you know that. If I see a cool site, but it has been heavily "dugg" already, I will either let you know it's from digg, or just add it to my digg sidebar. Another common and accepted convention is to just admit "This one has been everywhere."
This effect is not restricted to digg.com, aggregating sites like the various meta/monkey/sports-filter.coms, del.icio.us and fark are also mined without mercy by these parasites.
I also know why the other bloggers post without attribution, they need an edge, they need the traffic, they need the impression that they are the place to go for those things you would never find on your own. Well, we "sifting" bloggers have been finally usurped by digg.com. It might not be obvious now, but with digg adding more mainstream categories and it getting a lot more non-geek press, it is only a matter of time before a time strapped user will just go to digg and get their quick web fix. And why not have thousands of users decide what you read and feed it directly to your My Yahoo or other feedreader? When these users see that you are just reposting (and without attribution), they will stop reading your site. Those of us who do this aren't in it for the money (I made about $30 from amazon links this year.) We do it because we like to share what we've found with others. We like the attention.
Where does that leave us sifting bloggers? It means that those of us who have always attributed common things and found unique items will be able to adapt and survive. Those who don't will find themselves losing readers because most things on their blogs aren't new. Admitting you found something somewhere else is not a bad thing. It helps your readers know where they can find other cool stuff. They will come back, because you always have good stuff. Hell, admit that "We read digg, so you don't have to" and just get "thebestofdigg.blogspot.com" and be done with it.
For a great guide on how to attribute on your blog, this article, Ethics and Blogging: Attribution where due, is a must read.
*Why do I still link to the sites I am ranting about? I need the readers. They link to me and send a couple or three folks a week over. Again, it's about the desire to be read that compels. Why won't I tell you who they are? Because then they wouldn't link to me anymore. So much for my integrity...
If any links to here suddenly disappear, I will be glad to spill the beans. However, if you look at the sites, it will be obvious which are the offenders.