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A quick guide to referencing

A quick guide to referencing

Back in March as part of a series on Blog Ethics I wrote about Attribution where due, but in light of all the recent noise about spam blogs, newbies, and professionals engaging in an all you can eat content use fest whilst the rest of us slog away, creating content or providing our own views and commentary on the news of the day, I’ve dug through the archives and rewritten the earlier post for those of you looking for guidance or even if your after a refresher. If you’re simply looking for a holier than though, table thumping dose of Riley blog ethics check out the original post here.

Referencing for bloggers

If you are going to quote part of a post from another blog directly, provide direct attribution with inline link, for example, for a direct quote:
Threadwatch reports that “At the start of the week Danny Sullivan exposed Google’s underwear” or
Darren Rowse at Problogger stated “I would also add that it helps with the search engine optimization of your post”

Block quotes have also become quite popular and are even a better way to highlight content from another site
Miller said

“Riley is a d*ck head and because everyone else [allegedly] does it then its ok for me to do it, I’m looking forward to the bridge jumping for my next trick”

for an indirect quote go this way
Robert Scoble asks a good question as to how much Yahoo! paid for Flickr

The link can be either on the name of the author, or on the short reference “a good question” or the long part “how much Yahoo! paid for Flickr”. There are no strict rules on where to base your link on an indirect reference.

Ideas or seeds are the most often ignored form of attribution. Simply, if you’ve read a post about a topic on one blog, then are inspired to write in a similar vain, provide attribution at the end. For example
(via Radio Free Blogistan)
(in part via The Gadget Blog)

if you want to be even safer, you can double refer or more
(ref: via SMH)

There’s no hard and fast rule as to the methodology either, “via” is the most common term used, although “ref” for reference can be substituted, or even “from” or “link”.

See Also

The term “Hat tip” has become much more common in the last year, and it’s a nice way of giving attribution. If I get a tip via email I use you’ll also see me use “thanks to XYZ for the tip”.

I’ve also noticed that terms like “news source” and “read” are being used without providing the name of the source (just a link from the word). Its not my choice of phrase but its better than giving no attribution at all.

There is 1 exception to the referencing rule, and that’€™s media releases. This would only really affect news blogs, but I often receive media releases directly from firms (1st person) which include direct quotes from the CEO and others: these releases are designed to be used in full or part without attribution as they are about getting a story out. As someone with a Marketing/ PR background I know when I’ve written a Media Release I’m actually hoping that the all the text will be used! The only time attribution is required for a media release is if the media release has been taken directly or in part from another site or blog.

Back in March a few people disagreed with me on Media Releases, if you’re in doubt reference it as via media release.

View Comments (12)
  • Now if you really want to make blogging friends you can hook them up with some prime optimal anchor text that is similar to the heading of the post.

  • I certainly agree that offering a link back to your source is good policy. While much of the stuff I blog about on SNP comes from press releases, much of it still comes from my own web browsing.

    I’ll spend hours perusing manufacturer sites from one to another, following links to various products, or doing Google searches. Eventually, I find someting worth blogging about. But before I blog it, I’ll run a search on Technorati and Google to see if it has been blogged before. If it was blogged by only a few other small blogs, I’ll go ahead blog it. But I don’t credit the other blogs because they didn’t help me find the material. Is this unethical?

    I get the feeling that these other blogs may be complaining that I “stole” their content idea.

  • Steve
    the difference here is only a moral one I suppose, if you found the info yourself your the source, if others have blogged it but your not aware they have then you don’t have to credit them, but if you got the idea from them then you should. Its a fine line, in the stuff with WebProNews for example Miller was taking stuff from the Blog Herald in one example, provable by the se of the exact turn of phrase, if he hadn’t used that term I wouldn’t have a case, sure, Id suspect it, but it can only be proved because of the term.

    Honestly, treat others as you would like to be treated in terms of referencing a links, we all love links, sure, I tend to be generous with them, but I’m generous with links because I want to be linked back, and its certainly doing ok for me so far :-)

  • Thanks for the reference guide. On one point, if I have a quotation within a sentence, I use quotation marks, but when using block quotations I follow the academic style of not using quotation marks.

  • Steve – because I also blog a lot of press releases, I’ve seen a story I did get picked up by a couple of blogs, then MSM, reasonably often. And I’ve seen it go the other way, too. Neither one bothers me.

    Like Duncan said, if it’s an exact turn of phrase, or you took the material, that’s one thing. Independent discovery is another. And face it, other people have exactly the same rss feeds (in some cases) as we do. Not their problem, and not our problem. It also probably helps if you’re on good terms with the other bloggers in your niche(s).

  • Duncan, great reference guide and everything you write I agree 100% with … should be a permanent link somewhere for all bloggers to read.

    Oh yeah, being in the press release industry and escaping it ;-) a direct media release from a company is a free-for-all. That’s exactly what they want: for it to be published as is. Ayone can simply place the full media release on their blog and be happy with that – someone with more editorial instincts would use the release as part of a greater story (ie: many, many parts of a press releases are pure fluff).

    I’m also very generous with my links, I think it’s just common courtesy – and Steve has a point in his comments. You find a souce for a story, write it up and then do a google or technorati search and find a dozen others have written about it. What do you do?

    Firstly, if I’m pulling content I would attribute it (that’s a given) and I would also acknowedlege the original source where I got the idea from (even if I don’t take any of their content).

    Unfortunately, we all in the blogging world have to learn a little about the journalism game: stories spread like wild fire, the idea of a story is not yours to keep. Your written word yes it is. Once you have written it many will take your story further and run with it or go in a different direction without ackowledgement. That’s just the nature of the game.

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