Quote of the Day: February 27, 2012
John Cassidy on the Total Incoherence That Is Mitt Romney...

Sins of the Internet...

I don't link enough.

I see something interesting on somebody's website--but I don't want to get distracted from the task at hand--so I open it up in a new, hidden window. By the time I get back to it I have forgotten who I got it from, and there is no live "back" button to help, so when I write about it I do not drop a link to the person who did the work of finding the truffle and making me aware of its existence.

This seems to me to be a bad thing: I ought to credit the people who do the work, and whom I rely on.

Plus I spend too much time relying on the Old Reliables of my weblogging generation to bring things to my attention rather than seeking things out--in the lazy belief that if I ought to read it then Marginal Revolution or Economist's View or Free Exchange or Baseline Scenario or Beat the Press or Think Progress or the FT Home Page or Eschaton or Free Exchange or Daring Fireball or Econbrowser or VoxEU or Talking Points Memo or the Reality-Based Community or Counterparties or Macro Advisors or Capitol Gains and Games or Rortybomb or Naked Capitalism or BondDad or Left Business Observer will bring it to my attention.

So I need to reform--without adding to the time I spend procrastinating on the internet.

So how should I change my practices to link more? And which of my Old Reliables should I swap out, and what should I replace them with?

Felix Salmon has some related thoughts:

Why journalists need to link: Jonathan Stray has a great essay up at Nieman Lab entitled “Why link out? Four journalistic purposes of the noble hyperlink”…. [L]inks are wonderful things, and the more of them… especially… external… the better….

In recent days, a debate has emerged online on what I consider to be two very different subjects, which are getting unhelpfully elided. The first question, raised by MG Siegler, is whether outlets like the WSJ have an obligation to say who first broke a piece of news, when they report that news. The second question, which is often mistaken for the first, is whether outlets like the WSJ should link to outside sources of information.

To the second question, my answer is simple: yes. But look at the story by Jessica Vascellaro about Apple acquiring Chomp…. What Siegler wants is for extra text to be added in to Vascellaro’s story, saying that he first broke the news…. If it was Siegler’s article which caused Vascellaro to call Apple, then Siegler certainly counts as an online resource used in writing the WSJ story, and should therefore, by Stray’s formulation, be fully linked and credited….

The difference between linking and citing is the difference between showing and telling. I’m not a big fan of citing, mainly because it gets in the way: we might learn a lot about where the Haas School of Business might be, but at the same time we’ll learn nothing useful about the increase in the number of rental households. On the other hand, if Rich had simply said that “about six million more households are renting”, complete with hyperlink, that would have been shorter, more useful, and more accurate, even if there were no explicit citation.

Similarly, there’s a case to be made that Vascellaro could and should simply have put out a one-line story under the exact same headline (“Apple Acquires App-Search Engine Chomp”), saying “I’ve talked to Apple and they confirm this story is true.” Vascellaro had exactly one new piece of information: Apple’s confirmation of the news. In a world where TechCrunch is only a click away, why write out a lazy rehash of what Siegler had already written, rather than just linking to his story and moving on to breaking and writing something more interesting?

One reason is that the WSJ still has a hugely successful print product, and that therefore WSJ journalists’ pieces need to work in print as well as online….

My feeling is that commodity news is a commodity: facts are in the public domain, and don’t belong to anybody. If you’re mentioning a fact which you sourced in a certain place, then it’s a great idea to link to that place. And if you’re matching a story which some other news organization got first, it’s friendly and polite to mention that fact…. But it’s always your reader who should be top of mind — and the fact is that readers almost never care who got the scoop.

There’s one big exception to that rule, however. Often, a reporter spends a long time getting a big and important scoop, which comes in the form of a long and deeply-reported story. When other news organizations cover that news, they really do have to link to the original story…. A prime example came last August, with Matt Taibbi’s 5,000-word exposé of the SEC’s document-shredding. Anybody covering that story without linking to Taibbi was doing their readers a disservice….

[I]t’s good to link to as many different people and sources as possible, because the more links you have, the richer your story is…. As for crediting the news organization which broke some piece of news, that’s more of a journalistic convention than a necessary service to readers. It’s important enough within the journalism world, at least in the US, that it’s probably a good idea to do it when you can. But most of the time it’s pretty inside-baseball stuff. And in the pantheon of journalistic sins, failing to do it is not a particularly big deal…