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Thoughts on Citing the Original Source

Thoughts on Citing the Original Source

It’s a well-accepted practice among bloggers to link to the original source of information, and even to cite sources in appropriate markup (like blockquotes) whenever necessary. After all, in lieu of in-depth research and investigation, we do this to cite our sources of information, and also to give credit where credit is due.

However, amid all the goings-on in the echo chamber, sometimes it gets difficult to determine where information really originates. Sometimes it’s convenient to cite articles from the mainstream media, such as online newsmagazines and newspapers. Sometimes, it’s convenient to link to your trusted friends. But if the original source is identifiable, shouldn’t we link there, instead?

My friend Ahmed over at Tech Soapbox ranted recently about how he felt bad with Chitika’s citing a post of mine on the Blog Herald about monetizing DIGG traffic instead of his own site, which was actually the source of my article.

I had written a post on how to monetize a DUGG site (basic idea: setup a new website, get it to the frontpage, re-sell). A few sites picked it up, including this post by Blog Herald.

If you read the Blog Herald post, it adds a bit of analysis, but by-the-by, the meat of the post is what I posted.

So it eternally grates my nerves when the Chitika blog added a link to the end of their post about monetizing Digg traffic, only linking to BlogHerald, not here.

This stuff really pisses me off. There is a big difference between posting news and writing something a bit deeper. When companies like Chitika short-change the source and instead link to the ‘better known brand’, it just dilutes the web.

Chitika got back to him (in no less than 15 minutes, I hear) to apologize and say it was indeed somehow a case of “link[ing] to the better known brand,” or perhaps more accurately, a case of linking to the site better optimized for the search keywords used. Alden of Chitika says the Blog Herald came up first on Google for monetizing digg traffic. They have since changed the link to point to Tech Soapbox.

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Ahmed does point out that there is a bit of analysis involved in the Blog Herald posting. (He says I was “especially good at taking something and running it in a totally new direction.” Thanks for that, Ahmed!) My post does link to Tech Soapbox, and does extensively quote what was posted there. So I think if the Chitika blog wanted to cite someone for information, they could have probably linked to both sites, especially since I think there was value added by the BH post, too.

I know there’s rarely any original information these days, since whatever you say has likely been discussed and talk about before somewhere. But statements have to originate somewhere, and following links on blogs, you’re bound to arrive at the site where something was first said.

I admit I’m sometimes guilty of linking to the bigger blogs or the mainstream sources, even if they may be citing other sources–including blogs–as well. Or sometimes, I do directly link to the bigger sites even when I come across the information and link through another site. But in these cases I make sure to include a “via” link on my post, just to make I cover all my bases.

What are your linking/citing practices when blogging? Do you cite all possible sources? Do you include “via” links? Are you selective with sites you link to?

View Comments (6)
  • I must admit that I most commonly refer to where I found the latest article instead of the source. For no particular reason, it has just never occured to me that the original poster deserve a link as well.

    In hindsigt, I am not quite so sure that only linking to the source where I read the information is such a bad thing. The original writer looses a backlink, but if I blog about something, then I base that on the source most recently read, and the insights and comments on that.

    I consider this a bit of a grey area, but it will definately be something I will be more aware of in future blogging.

  • I think you should provide a link to the site you got the info/idea from. If everybody does that, the links eventually get back to the original source. Take out the link-whoring, link-hogging, and link-snobbery and just point people to the site/sites where you got the idea or info.

    We all see things, build on them, take them in new directions, come at them from different angles, etc. and as long as we do our best to give credit where it’s due, it’s all good.

  • I have to half-disagree.

    In the case of blogs, I would say a majority of posts are nothing more than a re-phrase of the original source. At that point, there is no need to link to the site you got the info from (as they have really done nothing but re-post).

    In the case of breakdown analysis – then it becomes questionable. I would still say its best to link to the source – without the source, the further post would have never occurred.

    Linking to the one you found it from is a bad idea imo – it simply makes the big bigger, who are basically gaining links for the work of others.

  • I pretty much follow the same practice as Wil. First, I very seldom cite other blogs because I am not part of the echo chamber, I don’t blog about blogging, so I seldom read something I am going to write about on anyone’s blog.

    But I found long ago that even “mainstream” sources are often quite sloppy about thier own credits and if I link to “a” saying s/he is the source becuase “b” said so, and then “C” pops up and claims ownership I am unwittingly stuck in the middle of a urinary Olympiad.

    Therefore I always cite the source where I read about an item and let _that_ source be responsible for where s/he got the “original” material. Besides, this stuff isn’t supposed to be all that serious. I don’t want to steal nayone’s work but if I wanted a career writing textbooks with pages and pages of footnotes and citations done via the Chicago Manual of Style I’d quit blogging tomorrow.

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