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Learn from the Hat Tip

How apt. A Financial Times editorial appeared on the last day of the WeMedia conference (“Excuse me while I borrow liberally“) commenting on how the mainstream media should learn from bloggers to show attribution for ideas and provide transparency. While observing the recent cases of high-profile plagiarism, Tim Harford considers something bloggers have done well:

In a world where it is easier than ever to shovel someone else’s ideas into your own work, and where it is also easier than ever to detect when this has been done, readers are becoming more relaxed about whether a work is original and simply ask if it is useful, enjoyable or beautiful. Blogs are so liberally peppered with other people’s work that bloggers have developed a code to acknowledge an intellectual debt: HT, the hat-tip.

We should expect to see more writers grabbing other writers’ ideas, and more honesty about the fact that this is happening. That can only improve the quality of journalism, commentary and even novels. Stealing with acknowledgement is not only polite but economically efficient.

Therefore, HT: Tyler Cowen, Krishna Guha, Malcolm Gladwell, John Kay, Laurence Lessig and Charles Nevin.

This is just one of many example how grassroots bloggers, Wikipedians and citizen journalists have created conventions within the community to increase transparency and to fairly acknowledge original work of others. The MSM should realize that it’s a cultural two way street. Citizens are becoming involved in the practice of journalism by adopting professional media industry norms, but the online cultural norms of netiquette (or perhaps blogiquette) can provide examples of better practices for the traditional media.

(For good reading about a history of traditional media outlets using blog material without attribution, see The Huffington Post, The Raw Story, Majikthise and USC’s Online Journalism Review)

(Cross-posted from Andrew Lih’s blog)

3 Comments on “Learn from the Hat Tip”

  1. #1 Lindsay Beyerstein
    on May 6th, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for the link.

    I think that the FT author is misinterpreting the significance of a hat-tip in the Anglo-American political blogosphere. Where I come from, if you are quoting someone verbatim, you put the words in quotation marks, name your source, and link to the the author’s post (or other source, if applicable).

    Hat tips are to acknowledge a fellow blogger for finding a third source, especially when you don’t intend to quote their remarks on whatever link they found.

    Suppose Engadget links to a cool new cellphone site. I read about that site on Engadget post I go on to blog about that site myself, but I don’t want to reference anything Engadget said. In that case, I use a hat tip to credit Engadget for discovering the site and blogging about it first.

  2. #2 Andrew Lih
    on May 8th, 2006 at 9:47 am

    Yes, as for the specifics, the author may have not been right down to the details. However, I think he does highlight that the Web does generally provide for more transparency and there are social norms on the ‘net that folks in the MSM can learn from.

  3. #3 Strange Attractor
    on May 8th, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    I’m listening…

    I was at the WeMedia conference where Suw was an online curator. Our friend Kevin Marks thought her role was, “pointing out the old media dinosaurs in the museum”. As Ian Forrester points out, my position here is pretty tricky……