Learning to live with a linkage issue

I don’t like what’s happening with the links in this blog. Some are gorgeous and blue like the stuff in the right column and underlined to indicate some linkage; some are just black like the text, though still underlined so readers know what’s going on and that they can travel somewhere else that might be relevant to what I’ve written. I don’t really want to investigate this appearance issue right now because: 1) I know it’s a code thing (I know I could fix it now that I’m not totally afraid of code); 2) I know it will continue to bug me, but; 3) I’m tired (and I have a tooth issue, too–getting bitter over that).

My willingness to allow this appearance issue to slide is partly due to what I stated, but it’s also part of my learning process. I am fairly new to blogging, and I’m learning a lot from many folks I know and from watching people think through/on listservs. (As I wrote about before–I don’t do everything as I should in web writing, though I know folks who know how to do it right: Writing Spaces, and I value their expertise to the point of employing some strategies in my own work as I can, where I can. I used to have only one link in the Blogroll, but I added multiple places I love or visit regularly–that feels like great progress at the moment).

A perfect example of how I learn from others on a listserv is this: I’d been thinking about linkage (not just appearance but when and how and why) and a listserver happened to share a link that inspired this post. Recently, on the techrhet listserv, Charles Nelson shared this link to John Gruber’s blog: Daring Fireball, a post about attribution and credit in web writing. I was wondering about this issue because it was a topic of conversation in a class I’m teaching about writing across the curriculum (WAC) and OER and open things in general, how being open can lead to great things for writers and teachers.

But how does being open work in terms of attribution? We need to attribute, but how is this changing from traditional academic papers? “Cite, cite, cite.” That’s what we tell students. And if they don’t, some folks trot out the “P” word and condemn the lack of citation as cheating. But citing, attribution, plagiarism, cheating–so complicated. We can say: don’t do bad things or you’ll be in trouble with your professor but maybe the university, too. Might cost you a job later (I just saw this happen last year.) Really, it’s our questions that need to change: why aren’t students comfortable with credit where credit is due? What aren’t we saying or teaching; what about our teaching needs to change? The Citation Project has done incredible work on this issue. How we teach citation, or attribution, must change. And whatever we do, it must be adaptable to web writing; it’s not your daddy’s academic paper anymore. You know that’s right.

Of course, the business of writing and teaching writing is changing. Of course, we’re talking about this in my class because serendipity is the core of my teaching style, and part of our talking has revolved around creativity, collaboration, and openness, as information comes to us, as we do research. It’s organic and dynamic for us, not linear, though I had a plan for a trajectory of learning that got us started. Part of our talking has been about licensing available through Creative Commons because we have also just read The Power of Open together and have been talking about that document on our blogs. Really an inspiring text. I love the profile genre personally and professionally (one of the reasons I like and use this essay by Catherine Ramsdell in Writing Spaces, Vol. 2 to teach–a lot: “Storytelling, Narration, and the Who I Am Story“–this is not about the profile, but it values the same storytelling idea behind the profile–a good alignment for teaching the art of telling a story whether it’s an “I” story or a profile).

Now, after reading Daring Fireball’s take on attribution and credit, I’m wondering if I haven’t been guilty of less than respectful links and attributions. Probably. But like the linkage appearance issue, I won’t probably go back to find and fix everything at this point. (Teaching two classes this summer–a WAC class and a writing class for scientists/engineers, writing a LOT, a tooth thing this week, a conference coming up, it’s hot and humid here… blah blah blah.)

But this attribution issue is a big one for me (much bigger than how my links look), and I’m deeply grateful for this specific information. I’ve now read Gruber’s post twice and clicked around in his links to see exactly what he’s talking about. I didn’t really have a concrete way to talk about this issue or to teach it that referenced an authentic professional situation (though I had this terrific part of the Web Writing Style Guide by Writing Spaces on hyperlinks to work with). I haven’t taught respectful linkage before, though I’ve taught smart linkage–but these are two different things. Respectful linkage is about attribution; smart linkage is about the placement of the link (both about understanding the rhetorical situation). Now, thanks to Gruber’s attention to the subject, I have a particular instance to share with students. And thanks to Nelson for sharing the link because Daring Fireball is NOT on my radar.

I’m going to write a post about Daring Fireball on my class blog because: 1) what a cool name, and 2) my WAC students need to know that a professional writer feels this way and took the time to write about this in some detail (so do the scientists, for that matter). (Number 3 would have been that Gruber’s blog includes footnotes–oh, how I dream of being able to do that one day–but that’s not a professional issue I need to share with students; it’s a personal desire.) I will also tell my students about my choice to take more time to craft attributions in my web writing in the future–how I deal with various different kinds of authors, whether I have essentially re-posted a concept (consumed it as Gruber states) or whether I have ripped, then remixed and shared; I’ll be much more aware of what I’m doing as a writer regarding attribution that is respectful to other authors and smart for readers.

My post and Gruber’s thinking will dovetail so nicely with what we’ve read in the Web Writing Style Guide on hyperlinks and with other readings we’ve undertaken and must cite according to class performance criteria. (In my class for science writers, the tutor working with me, who is also a grad student in the WAC class and writing teacher, Sarah Fish, suggested we have a whole week named, “Attribution Week,” to tackle these issues with our science writers. I’m quite hopeful we’re laying the ground work for a group of young writers to re-conceive what research and citation should be and can be. Collaboration rocks. Ahem. That’s if the collaborator is the right one, as Sarah pointed out.)

Gruber’s post is not about whether sharing is right or wrong, nor about where to place links for maximum ease for readers. It’s a question of writers sharing where they got their inspiration or information from, how they arrived at their thinking, when that’s appropriate to mention, and what the appropriate attribution practices are for the rhetorical situation. As a writer who has moved from mostly print to mostly web, I’ll be more aware of making visible the shoulders I stand upon, whether those shoulders belong to giants or peers.

(And here’s where I wish I could have put a footnote citing Kirby Ferguson’s film project, Everything is a Remix, for reminding me of Isaac Newton’s quote about this standing-on-shoulders business and that Newton probably got the idea from Bernard of Chartres. And I’m 100% sure that I found Ferguson’s project through a listserv post. Nice.)

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1 Comment

Filed under Attribution, Web Writing

One response to “Learning to live with a linkage issue

  1. Pingback: What *EXACTLY* is the Power of Open? « thesarahfish(think)tank

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