Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Attribution: a lost art?

With thanks to Sameer Patel, on whose tweet I based this title. And with thanks to Creative Commons of course for using their newest Attribution icon

Attribution seems to be turning into a lost art form, at least in my social web

First, I totally agree. I answered

RT @SameerPatel: Attribution seems to be turning into a lost art form, at least in my social web < +1. Especially "thought leaders" do it...

which is a typical tweet saying "Yes I totally agree with you, I've seen it before too, and especially socalled thought leaders do it, in my opinion

Second, I could have asked Sameer why he said it but I'm second-guessing it has to do with the financing of Atlassian by Accel - 60 million good old-fashioned dollars

The original post on that is by Techcrunch. Somehow magically someone named albert5888 gets the first tweet on it, and a few seconds later the auto-tweets fire away.
All 104 auto-tweets of them, that all have the chance to attribute or not to attribute. 18 of them attribute in some way by including the word TechCrunch in their tweet. All the others don't. That's 86% non-attribution by machines. I'm being leniant as well, as only 7 of those 18 mention @Techcrunch, the other half just mentions the word TechCrunch so I wouldn't want to count that for full attribution: after all, those tweets doesn't reach Techcrunch unless they search for them

Amidst all those tweets, there's Jevon, who manages to (read and?) tweet about Techcrunch's article all within 85 seconds. Without attribution. His tweet gets picked up by others who ReTweet Jevon's tweet - without attribution

So, if non-attibution starts with the auto-tweets, are the chances getting smaller or larger that attribution will occur? That's an interesting question but not in this case: it's a post by Techcrunch and they have all the buttons in the world to ReTweet it in some way

Two minutes later, the human tweets start. Those people must have been lurking all day for this post, read it in 90 seconds and found time to adjust the original tweet to their needs. Simply astonishing.
There are 158 human tweets within the next hour. Of those, 54 somewhat attribute by mentioning the name Techcrunch, and only 41 really attribute by using @Techcrunch

Of course, it's hard to measure attribution that way because people might not be following Techcrunch (count me in) so when they see the tweet and don't bother to read, the best they can do is ReTweet it as it is.
So, only counting @-replies: in 72 tweets there's an RT or a VIA attributing it to someone. That's a lousy score of 46% of people who attribute

Total score? 262 tweets, 79 @-replies or mentions (30%). 72 include the word TechCrunch (27%), only 48 (18%) correctly attribute to @TechCrunch

A sad, sad score. Here is the entire list of all 262 ReTweets so you can judge for yourself

And Jevon? Jevon got 16 @-replies and / or ReTweets out of it. That must have upped his image of 'thoughtleader' a bit, I guess: 1/3 of what @TechCrunch got

Hope it was worth it

6 reacties: said...

This is, indeed, a sticky wicket as well as a slippery slope (how's that for a mixed metaphor and, to boot, who the hell can I attribute it to?) I wonder if Twitter's lousy retweet feature is part of the problem, though I have no doubt there are lots of very sloppy "thinkers" out there. Piracy hasn't magically disappeared.

I learned a long time ago, especially driven home in Law School, the value of attribution - we called them citations :) In argumentation their lack can be fatal to your cause; in Twitter their lack is mostly annoying, though it does tend to skew the perceived value of the "thoughts" people are credited with.

I'm glad you brought this up, Martijn (you too Sameer). I have noticed this issue, but never paid detailed attention to it. Now I've had the opportunity. Hope this kind of scrutiny continues. Thanks.

Harold Jarche said...

The digital environment makes copying very (too) easy. Add in the 140 character limitation of Twitter, plus a first to post sub-culture and you get what you describe. BTW, I know @jevon personally and he's a really nice guy.

Zoli Erdos said...

Interesting post, and I guess linking to Jevon's tweet would have ruined the logic... since Jevon links to the TechCrunch post.

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you Rick, Harold and Zoli

Thanks for the word-boggles Rick, and yes it's annoying to say the least. By the way this post is not to pick on Jevon, he usually RT's properly, but it was a good example of how you can get massive RT's on someone else's work

Zoli, I included all the tweets, and I thought I made it clear enough what I understand 'attribution' to mean. In your logic you would never have to RT or VIA or HT because you always point to the post itself

Non-attribution is especially disgusting cross-timezone and cross-language. I notice people from the Netherlands tweeting in their own language (great excuse to not RT) when it serves them well, bringing big news as if it were their own

Which strikes me because I've seen the news being aired on Twitter throughout the day or night, properly attributed mostly, and then suddenly there is this Dutch tweet conjuring it from out of thin air. It turns those people into magical thought leaders and news finders for their Dutch audience

@arjantupan said...

Second attempt :).
First f all: great issue you have put on the table here, Martijn. Thanks.
For me, attribution is both recognition and a way of saying thanks. Recognition of the originality of thoughts reflected in a post, tweet or status update. That is why I like the rise of the like-button. It's a simple way of saying: wow, nice thought; or wow, nice find.
And saying thanks for sharing an idea or thought, or pointing me to something that added value for me in some way.

With the limited number of characters available in a tweet, I regularly choose to attribute it to the one that pointed me to a piece of content, and then link to the original post, so that the source gets the credit for the thought, and the finder for pointing it out to me. To me, that seems rather fair. But most important to me is the original thought. Especially the lesser known ones. Sure, we all value Mashable and Tech Crunch, but to give some credits to the slightly lesser known, such as this blog is something I find more valuable than being perceived as the one who's quickest in spotting a new Mashable post.

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you very much Arjan! Glad this one made it, I changed the heading when you comment to remind people to "quickly copy before posting" - you're person number three now...

Yes 140 characters isn't much and shuffling RT's for VIA's takes time too, but I agree with you that it's accrediting people what counts much, not being (among) the first to spread other people's news

After all, it's still Social Media ;-)

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Copy your comment before signing in...