Longtime readers may have noticed that there are essentially two types of articles on Opus: original articles that I have written (e.g., blog entries, music reviews) and “elsewheres” (articles intended to spotlight content on other websites). The line separating the two can, admittedly, be a bit blurry, but I try to keep them relatively distinct. For example, I’ll “convert” an “elsewhere” into a blog entry if it evolves into something more substantial and original than just a link.
I didn’t invent this format; I adopted it from folks like Jason Kottke and especially John Gruber. What I liked in particular about Gruber’s approach was the visual presentation of the different types of articles, something I’ve replicated here. On Opus, “elsewheres” are presented differently than original articles: the headlines are a smaller size and they tend to be shorter in length, usually consisting of two or three paragraphs from the URL that I’m linking to followed by a little commentary of my own.
Why does any of this matter? Simply put, giving credit where credit is due is the right thing to do. This was basic stuff when you wrote papers in junior high, and it’s perhaps even more important online where it’s so easy to pass someone else’s content off as your own. Not giving proper credit or attribution makes it difficult for others to learn who the original author might be and, in addition to stealing content, it steals pageviews that rightfully belong to someone else. I’ve seen numerous blogs that give no thought to copying and pasting someone else’s article in its entirety, and presenting it as something they did. It doesn’t matter if the offending party did so maliciously or not: such behavior is disrespectful, both to the original author and to the readers.
As Gruber writes in “On Attribution and Credit” (emphasis mine):
Much of what I do here at Daring Fireball, on the other hand, is designed to throw traffic to stuff written elsewhere. It’s true that in the pursuit of style and tone and reader suspense, I will sometimes link to things here at DF without saying who it is I’m linking to… I do so knowing that I’m throwing several thousands of readers to that source material. I’m not taking page views — I’m giving them. And yes, I see what I do as better — more respectful both of the writer/creator (who gets traffic to their original post) and the reader (who gets sent to the original source, rather than reading a regurgitation of the same facts).
Obviously, you don’t need to follow the exact same style and format that I use here on Opus. But do follow this basic advice: If you find an interesting article that you want to share on your blog, then really share it by doing everything you can to point your readers to the original article. Quote a couple of paragraphs as a teaser of sorts but make it very clear as to who wrote the article and/or where they wrote it. Don’t worry about losing traffic because you’re redirecting readers away from your site; if people find out that you’re linking to them, they’ll be more likely to link back to you, thus sending their readers your way. (It helps, of course, if you’re writing interesting original content of your own.)