missing or poor attribution creates confusion and uncertainty. in a knowledge marketplace where many suppliers claim the same expertise (often using identical phrasing), this uncertainty results in delay and (sometimes) flawed choices based on imperfect information.
are you guilty of blurring the lines in building your personal brand or business?
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
for as long as the species has been creating content, there have been others wanting a piece of it. most have the best of intentions. they want to pay homage to the original creator. they want to bring the content to a wider audience. “this my version of og painting antelope. should see sometime!” all good.
a journalist writes about a surgical breakthrough that can restore sight. we get amazing haircuts from our longtime stylist at a popular salon. we don’t go to the reporter expecting an operation; we don’t expect the same results if we go to a different location of the same salon. authorship is clear.
now imagine if an ambitious scientist republished the results of an experiment by a peer. the only mention of the originator is a line in the foreword. a lay person or even fellow scientists could easily be confused about the source of the expertise. when asked, the “new” publisher states his actions were motivated by admiration of the work and a desire to provide more exposure and help the community learn. you may know this as curation.
I said. he said, say I
let’s look at some examples, like this tweet from stanford smith at pushing social. here, stanford is promoting his own content on the pushing social site. all good.
here, the tweet promotes a link and includes a hashtag to assist with local marketing.
the linked-to content, however, was written by mark schaefer over on business2community. but smith doesn’t say that. is the information bad? no, it’s very useful. is it bad that smith promoted the content on twitter? again, no, since it gave me and others the chance to see it. what bugs me is that there is no difference between smith’s promotion of his original content and his promotion of someone else’s work. if I read schaefer’s piece and want to share it with my network, I get this:
same link, but with clear attribution. smith, however, provides no clue that the link is to content he did not create. dishonest? probably not intentionally. misleading? absolutely. now, let’s look at a tweet from peter caputa at hubspot:
here, peter makes it clear that he is not the original source of the information. I’m okay with that. I prefer working with inquisitive types open to good ideas whatever their source. I don’t expect anyone to come up with every good idea, and I hope that don’t expect it of me. what I don’t need is someone telling me they wrote macbeth when everyone knows it was
shakespeare marlowe alien beings.
technology now allows the least among us to mirror the greatest, at least at a cursory glance. an admirer can recreate every hue and brush stroke of og’s antelope for his or her own cave. having that ability, however, does not elevate the copier to og’s stature as an artist.
note: my personal peeve with poor attribution is less with the professional implications described above and more with efficient use of my time. I hate clicking on several links on a topic I’m researching only to find the all going to the same article. I denote shared content by prefacing my post with the source name in parentheses. a piece on the next web, for example, would show in my social streams as “(tnw) blah blah blah [link].”