The Curator's Code: a step towards standardizing how content is attributed

April 2 2012 | offbeatbride

One of the ongoing joys and pains of web editorial is figuring out how to correctly attribute content. My editors do their best to always source their stuff, which can range from always correctly attributing images to giving shout-outs to readers who email us tips. We've got attribution policies in place.

But the rules of how to attribute are slippery. I get irked when other blogs find content on Offbeat Bride, for example, when they write a post about our story they link to Flickr instead of us. Yes, the original source is absolutely on Flickr, but it's a courtesy to acknowledge that you didn't find those photos on Flickr — you found them via our site.

The Curator's Code feels like it's an acknowledgement of the slippery nature of attribution; a preliminary stab at trying to standardize the ways that we credit the information pulled from the datastream. They're trying to encourage publishers and curators to use little icons ( and ) to easily show where your bits of content and ideas have come from.

One of the most magical things about the Internet is that it's a whimsical rabbit hole of discovery – we start somewhere familiar and click our way to a wonderland of curiosity and fascination we never knew existed. What makes this contagion of semi-serendipity possible is an intricate ecosystem of "link love" – a via-chain of attribution that allows us to discover new sources through those we already know and trust.

While we have systems in place for literary citation, image attribution, and scientific reference, we don't yet have a system that codifies the attribution of discovery in curation as a currency of the information economy, a system that treats discovery as the creative labor that it is.

This is what The Curator's Code is – a suggested system for honoring the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery by making attribution consistent and codified, celebrating authors and creators, and also respecting those who discover and amplify their work. It's an effort to make the rabbit hole open, fair, and ever-alluring. This not about policing the Internet from a place of top-down authority, it's about encouraging respect and kindness among the community.

I love this concept SO HARD, and will be doing my best to make use of the suggested tools of the Curator's Code, and encouraging my editors to do likewise on their respective sites. FUCK YEAH, ATTRIBUTION!

  1. I think this is pretty awesome, but I'm not a web publisher, just someone who's been in academia long enough to have taken and taught classes on citation, so…I guess that makes me an attribution nerd old skool style?

  2. I love this post… the culture surrounding Internet content (especially IP issues) is fascinating to me. I am very fond of grassroots, localized efforts to "curate" and "aggregate" in a respectful manner that lessens the need for laws, suits, etc., since that level of mediation could lead to big changes in how freely users are able to access content and experience the Internet.

  3. I heard about this on NPR the other week and love it! My friend and I are working on getting a blog off the ground and I plan on using this as well.

  4. Today I shared the curator's code with my 3 colleagues (together we're team internal communication, writing the company's intranet & journal etc.).

    I also presented it to my 3 interns (students of journalism / communication sciences / communication management), urging them to develop a sense of ethics in a digital world.

    Even though their reactions were all lukewarm at best, I still felt giddily excited when I included a hat-tip to Offbeat Empire *grin*

    I thank you for the inspiration !

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