I love to read. I read newspapers, blogs, magazines, cereal boxes, billboards, books, and the labels on cans of cat food. I am hyper-vigilant about acquiring data because I want to know new things and be a better person. In turn, I love to spread the wealth and share pieces of information.
The problem with being a hyper-vigilant reader is that I run the risk of misattributing my sources when I do share stories. Did I read about tiger attacks on MSNBC or CNN? I subscribe to US News, Newsweek and Time Magazine. Who wrote the article on Barack Obama’s Christian faith? (All of them?) Where did I see that cute cat video? Digg? StumbleUpon? YouTube? Facebook? MySpace?
I believe that the best blogs are built on a formula that includes relevant data + current events + an original voice. When I post on my blog, I’m always careful to recognize that my point-of-view is built on information that I gathered elsewhere. I cite the source of my inspiration because it’s important to give credit where credit is due, yo.
I’m not always perfect, and sometimes I think an idea is really mine when it belongs to someone else. As an example, I had a conversation with a friend and I said, “Did you know that Rachel Maddow worked at a car dealership?”
She said, “Dude, I told you that — and PS, I read it in the NY Times.”
Oh snap, that’s right. We just had that conversation. How could I forget? Duh!
I grant other writers the benefit of the doubt when I see another writer’s idea in a blog post without attribution; however, I’m self-aware enough to realize that granting someone the benefit of the doubt is a passive-aggressive way of responding to something that doesn’t sit well in my tummy.
So I want to share my Punk Rock HR rule of attribution:
- When in doubt, cite the source. When you forget to cite the source, apologize and amend the blog post.
It might be tough to figure out if a brilliant idea is yours or if it was influenced by another person’s terrific blog post; however, there is a fine line between being inspired and being derivative. I know that bloggers aren’t journalists, but as Maren Hogan so aptly wrote on Twitter, this week, this is not ‘Nam — this is HR Blogging. There are rules.
It’s simple, really. When in doubt, give credit to another blogger. Even if the idea sprang from your brain like the goddess Athena, the art of attribution makes you seem generous, thoughtful, and gracious.