Thanksgiving via Attribution

I am a prolific sharer on social networks like Google Reader and Twitter. On this Thanksgiving, let me share some of my observations about attribution, and how I try to practice it. Specifically, I discuss attribution while sharing on social networks, not while writing blog posts, which has fairly well-understood practices.

Attribution while sharing in social media, as I understand it, is crediting the author who created or the person from whom you discovered, the content that you share with your network.


When I Discover Content

If I have discovered the article, I share it on Google Reader without any additional effort. On Twitter, I try to include the author’s Twitter handle “by @authorname” while sharing it. In this way, users reading my tweet can easily follow the author if they like the content and wish to do so.

In many cases, ReTweet buttons on blogs do not generate a tweet that includes author names. If I happen to know the Twitter handle, I insert it myself. There are times when I don’t, and here I fail to attribute the author.

Tech Blogs Auto-Tweeting Posts

I like how TechCrunch and The Next Web append “by @authorname” to their automated tweets. This is the blog’s way of attributing content to their authors, possibly increasing their author’s Twitter followers and influence.

I observe that other blogs like Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, and MakeUseOf don’t do so. This may be to shorten the number of characters to make their tweets easier to retweet, or simply an act of omission.

Sharing from Google Reader to Twitter

If I discover a post shared by someone I follow on Google Reader and share it on Twitter, I try to include both the author of the post (by @author) and the person thanks to whom I discovered it (via @source). This of course, assumes that the person has a Twitter account (true in almost all cases), and is very easy to do.

Most tools that ease transfer of your RSS share to Twitter don’t credit the intermediary. Thus, if you share on Twitter via Feedly, FriendFeed, Reader2Twitter, etc. your followers on Twitter have no clue from whom you discovered your content. Ease of automated sharing is at the cost of attribution. This is why I do not use any such tool. I try to include my source in my Twitter shares, and my “via @source” tweets are my way of saying “Thanks to”.

Sharing from Twitter to Google Reader

When I discover something via another’s tweet, and share that in Google Reader, I find it extremely difficult to attribute the source. Because Google Reader was not developed as a social app from the ground up, attribution is incredibly difficult. This is an element that I think has not been discussed in the dozens of blog posts surrounding the Google Reader vs. Twitter war. Twitter makes attribution very simple, Google Reader doesn’t.

There are many additional factors and complications involved when you bring Facebook into the discussion, which I will not discuss here.

Is Attribution Important?

It depends on you. I personally believe in Thanksgiving as a way of life, not something to be done once a year. Also, sharing your sources helps your network discover good sources, which in turn increases your relevance and influence as a curator of content. Your sources value your attribution and this positions you as a Trust Agent in their eyes.

This is how social media thrives and I try my best to practice attribution diligently. Sure, it takes additional effort, but then who said it was all easy?

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  • A well articulated post this is. 🙂

    Usually whatever I like from what you have shared in Twitter, I too like and share. So anyone who follows me can see that you too have shared it, is that not attribution enough?

    The thought never crossed my mind to add a note about where I got it.

  • A well articulated post this is. 🙂

    Usually whatever I like from what you have shared in Twitter, I too like and share. So anyone who follows me can see that you too have shared it, is that not attribution enough?

    The thought never crossed my mind to add a note about where I got it.

  • Poonam, when you retweet or reshare, the issue of attribution doesn't arise (as long as you retain the @source in your retweet). It arises when you share across platforms – discover on one, and share on another.

  • Interesting read.. have you tried out it makes an rss feed out of links shared by your followers on twitter. Not all links turn up, I don't know how their algorithm works, but a really good service.

  • Bala, ReadTwit makes an RSS feed out of the links you share on Twitter, not your followers. I haven't seen a need of such a feed yet. Would love to understand how/why you use it.

  • Nope not the links I share, but those shared by those I follow. On twitter I miss out on a lot of good stories because I'm not checking twitter 24/7. The service helps me catch up later on, the next day, or few hours later. Also, I noticed another thing. A few RSS feeds only shows the headline and one line intro. But if the same link comes through Readtwit I can see a large part of the story 😉 It also shows the original tweet, which is always interesting.

  • Oh…that is very interesting. Essentially it makes Twitter like Google Reader. Though all this is off-topic for the subject of my post, thanks again! 🙂

  • What about `Liking´ stuff on GReader? I think that bumps up the post for others when `sorting my magic´. I personally dont share posts on GReader because of the attribution problem (use twitter instead).

  • Rakesh, I'm not sure if “Liking” bumps up the item in magic sort for others. It is documented that it is used to determine magic sort order for you.

    However, I did not understand how that relates to attribution as discussed here. Thanks for visiting!

  • Somehow I missed this post initially, what a wonderful way to implement sharing and attribution. The social aspect is why I like to quote instead of RT at times, so I can add the history of the tweet, or make my own comment about an interesting read.

    By now I'm confident many of my followers are following you on their own, as I find great value and share your finds with them. Great curation/filtering Mahendra, always appreciate the time you put into your discovery & sharing.

  • Mark, thank you, as always…:)

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