Via, hat tips & digital methods of attribution

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, half-length portrait, standing, facing left, tipping his hat.This weekend on NPR’s On the Media, I heard an interesting segment about how to begin codifying the method by which we recognize and attribute sources of our information on the web.  Now, I’m an academic, so I tend to live and breathe American Psychological Association (APA) referencing.  However, with the advent of Twitter and Facebook, these media’s constraints don’t really reconcile easily with the notion of a two or three line APA reference.

Many bloggers and tweeters agree that it’s good netiquette to acknowledge where sources of information were retrieved.  In research, we consider referencing essential. Hat tips, sometimes abbreviated “h/t” in Twitter posts are pretty common. As common is “via …” with a URL or source website filled in.  At the Curator’s Code, they have attempted to standardize and operationalize “hat tip” and “via.”

How it works

Via is used to denote a link of direct discovery. The folks at the Curator’s Code have even gone so far to suggest there is a symbol that should be used instead of the word via.  It’s this sideways S symbol.

The unicode for this symbol to use on a webpage is ᔥ

Similarly, hat tip indicates a link of indirect discovery, story lead, or inspiration.  This is different than simply repeating or reposting something you found elsewhere.  Instead, hat tip is used as a source for your own original content that may in fact be remixed from multiple sources.  The symbol for hat tip is this curly arrow. It looks like this:

The unicode for this symbols to use on a webpage is ↬

Connecting to APA & Twitter

For me, my students, and the preservice and inservice teachers that I work with, I have to figure out how we can connect with this system with the systems we are currently using, like APA. I’m going to watch the Curator’s Code system closely. I find these symbols to be helpful, particularly in Twitter posts and possibly with SMS texting.

I liken via () to a direct quote, that is I am not making a change to the original source. I find that it most often used when retweeting or reposting a URL or a piece of another’s post. Hat tip  () then for me is similar to a paraphrase or in-text citation, where I am using others’ works to support or inspire my own. Hat tip may be used with summary or with synthesis.

Will it function?

Unfortunately, I just tried using the unicode versions and the symbols themselves in TweetDeck (my tool for Twitter), and neither worked.  I also tried using the bookmarklet that Curator’s Code has released (see it below).

The bookmarklet pulled in the HTML code for the link to Curator’s Code and the unicode for the symbol, but I didn’t see where it actually attributed the link to the current page I was on at all.  Also, it didn’t work for a pop-up window, like I’m typing in right now.

I also tried using the bookmarklet directly into Twitter and that didn’t work either. Twitter didn’t translate the HTML.

I am attempting to see if I can tweet this post with the hat tip symbol and a link to the original On the Media article and podcast.  (I’ll let you know how it goes. Update: The hat tip symbol worked going from WordPress to Twitter, but it did not show up in TweetDeck. See below.)

From Twitter:

From TweetDeck:

Will it function?

Like I said earlier, I’m going to have to watch this. Conceptually, I like the idea of standardizing, or at least operationalizing, how to acknowledge our sources. It’s critical in academic work and it’s a good method for teaching students to acknowledge their inspirations. But the system isn’t completely functional right now outside of webpages and HTML. It’s got to be easier to implement across all of the social media we use, like Twitter and Facebook, and possibly texting, where each character counts.

Your thoughts? What do you think about this idea of using the symbols and agreeing when they should be used.

Oh and by the way,

Brook Gladstone, On the Media