Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Participating in the Emergent Internet

So you like the idea of the internet getting better and better. You want to do your part. You share cool things with your friends - and with strangers, you're not particular.

But maybe you could do a little more? You know, make the internet better without actually putting any effort into it?

Can do!

The internet of the future is not simply sites, but links. Who links to what? What links to who?

To help build this, simply remember that there are two kinds of posts - two kinds of content. One kind introduces new stuff, while the other kind reshares that stuff. Both are important. Creators are often not very good at the whole "resharing" thing, while people who reshare continuously get very, very good at knowing what will make a splash with who. They're different jobs.

Right now, you're a resharer. You find something interesting and want to share it. So you do.

Well, if you want to help the internet grow and flourish, you need to give credit.

Nothing about giving credit diminishes your reshare. Giving credit makes you look like not a dick. So let's give credit!

First and most importantly, give credit to the original poster - the person who originally created the content. If you're sharing directly, this is easy: just link to the page you got it from. But even if you are sharing a reshare of a reshare of a reshare, give a link or a name-drop to the original source. If you can't find the original source, say so.

Then make sure you give credit to the other resharers who, like you, are striving to make the internet more interesting. If you read someone's resharing of a Shatner video and want to spread the love around, link to the original video and to the resharer's post. Links are free. If it's a long chain of links, or of the sharer's link is not something you want to directly link to for some reason, no problem. Do a "via" and tag everyone. "via +doggydoggydoggy and @mobileskunkarmor" or whatever.

Pretty easy, right? Just link. LINK LINK LINK LINK. Links are free. Just get in the habit of linking. The more threads you connect, the better a netizen you are.


What, you want a more advanced course? Okay.

If you want to be a good citizen of the internet, one part of that is being a filter to purify all the bad citizens.

Bad citizen number one shares images and animated gifs by reuploading them to imgur or G+ or whatever. The cool image just pops up in his stream. Even if he doesn't claim he created it, he certainly doesn't give any link love to the author!

Well, simply post the link yourself. A simple reverse image lookup at http://images.google.com/ can give you the source. Don't make any accusations, just a simple comment that says "original source -> LINK". Chances are, the author isn't intending to be a dick, and if he gets upset at you, well... problem solved, he's going to lose a lot of followers and his reshares won't matter.

Bad citizen number two shares direct links to the original author, but never gives any "via" credit. Sure, maybe they stumbled across every single article on their own. More likely, they're leeching off other resharers, aggregating other, interesting people's work and pretending they did it. Make no mistake: finding and distributing interesting content is work, and these leeches are not doing anyone any favors.

A big giveaway is if more than 2/3 of the posts they make are links with no real added commentary. If someone links to a news article and says "I think this is probably a sign that France might be about to raise interest rates 0.1%", that's probably okay. If someone just posts a link to the news article, sans comment, they may be resharing without giving credit to the resharer they originally got the link from.

I don't know what to do in these situations, aside from keeping in mind that the guy probably doesn't consider a resharer's work to be of any value. Funny, considering they are a resharer themselves.

EDIT: There are some people who reshare privately. Maybe Maggie doesn't want her parents to know she's gay, or whatever. If someone has reshared privately, use your best judgement as to whether to include them in your credits or not. If you're thinking this deeply, you're probably not a type 2 bad citizen, no worries.

Questionable citizen 3 makes derivatives and post them without links to the original. For example, creating an animated gif but not linking to the video you ripped it from.

In these situations, I recommend simply linking to the video, if you can find it. Done simply, it should be okay. For example, "ha ha, I loved that bit. Here's the full video->"

Remember that the questionable citizen in question actually did a fair amount of work. They're not really leeches, just clumsy.


Following these guidelines will hopefully result in a culture of clear link love. Sort of a dawning of the age of Aquarius sort of thing, except geeky. Do your part for the internet: LINK!


Kevin M. said...

I think there is annother thing to consider. Non-public sources. I often post links that get sent to me from other people (your bad citizen number 2). Often I am doing this though because I am unsure if the person who sent me the original wants their name associated with it outside of their initial semi-private group. I know lots of people who do not want to be followed by random people through random links. Not everyone uses the internet the same way, or wants to. Some people want to maintain privacy.

Craig Perko said...

If you are SURE someone doesn't want to be credited, that's fine. They're opting out. But I think that's rarer than you think.

Jansen Smith said...

That's been my rationale for not including via tags. Maybe I should anyway and let people opt out.

Craig Perko said...

Well, use your own judgement. But I tend to assume giving credit won't make anyone upset.