Mar 122012
 

Could end up with a kind of Good Housekeeping seal

As words and articles became digitized over the last 15 years, they began to float, there for the plucking and replication elsewhere. Words like “curation” and “aggregation” became the language of the realm, sometimes used as substitutes for describing the actual creation of content. What had once been a craft was rapidly becoming a task.

Traditional media organizations watched as others kidnapped their work, not only taking away content but, more and more, taking the audiences with them. Practitioners of the new order heard the complaints and suggested that mainstream media needed to quit whining and start competing in a changed world, where what’s yours may not be yours anymore if others find a better way to package it.

So where is the line between promoting the good work of others and simply lifting it? Naughty aggregation is analogous to pornography: You know it when you see it.

As custody of content becomes more tenuous, there’s a risk that we may end up passing around and putting topspin on fewer and fewer original works. This has created a growing sense of unease among both digital immigrants and natives that the end of “ownership” could eventually diminish the Web’s value.

Two approaches to giving credit where credit belongs were announced at the South by Southwest Interactive festival here in Austin.

In one instance, an ad hoc group is using a kind of trade association approach to articulate common standards. In the second, someone who makes a living by mining the Web is deploying symbols to create a common shorthand for attribution.

Last July, Simon Dumenco wrote a column for Advertising Age noting that the death of Steve Jobs was competing for digital attention with the salacious story of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman.

Given that the piece was about what was trending on Twitter at that very moment, his column was immediately picked up by traffic-seekers like The Huffington Post and Techmeme. The Faustian bargain of the digital news ecosystem suggests that people get to pick your pocket a bit and then send back traffic in return. But Mr. Dumenco noticed that The Huffington Post, a huge site with many readers, returned very little traffic, while Techmeme, a much smaller site, kicked up plenty.

He went on something of a rant about it, writing that The Huffington Post’s overly aggressive approach to aggregation at the time — in which content is rewritten, links are buried, and very little is added — yielded all of 57 page views for the original item.

The Huffington Post suspended the writer involved and apologized to Mr. Dumenco. He responded by saying that the site was “singling out — indeed, scapegoating — a young writer for engaging in a style of aggregation long practiced, condoned and encouraged by Huffington Post editorial management.”

After getting an in-box full of examples from other writers who felt similarly aggrieved, Mr. Dumenco decided to pull out the big guns: He has formed a committee aiming to establish standards for aggregation. Buckle up, here comes the Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation.

Note: Innovation Toronto is pleased to support Curator’ s Code and participate in this worthwhile system to honor the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery.

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