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Insular Linking on Blog Networks

Posted By Darren Rowse 11th of February 2006 Blog Networks 0 Comments

jkOnTheRun has an interesting story on how Blog Networks can get pretty insular with their ‘source links’ (ie crediting where they get stories from).

The example given is one where the writer (jk) had been credited as being the source of a story on a Weblogs Inc blog (which was indexed by Technorati) but then on checking later found that the link had been removed and another WIN blog was linked to as being the source of the story.

While it is difficult sometimes to source stories when you hear about them from multiple sources (I struggle with it anyway) it probably isn’t the go to change such links afterwards in my opinion.

What do you think?

Thanks to Phil from Geeky Info for IM’ing me the story

update: As I’ve reflected upon this even in the last half hour I realise that it’s a bigger problem than just a blog network one. All bloggers face choices when acknowledging sources of information.

The first choice is whether to acknowledge it at all (I blog in one industry where I know my blog is watched by numerous others for stories and is rarely linked to as a source – very frustrating) and the second choice is usually about who to acknowledge. The complication is often about multiple sources (and the messyness of this) but I’m sure it is also at times about established relationships/friendships or the desire to impress other blogs or the desire to have an edge over other blogs.

I’m not wanting to say that this issue is an easy one in every instance (it’s quite complex to look at bloggers motivatioins) but it’s a worth while topic to look at and address.

I’d be interested to hear what procedures bloggers use in linking. Do you have some sort of linking policy (formal or informal?) Do you acknowledge the first source you find, the best source, multiple sources, any sources?

Update: It looks like the situation mentioned in this post has been resolved.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Yeah… TUAW been really weird lately. Yesterday they did a post (http://www.tuaw.com/2006/02/10/apple-to-face-ipod-itunes-antitrust-suit/) that was talking about something that happened in september of last year. They credited a post at Paul Thurrott’s Internet Nexus (http://www.internet-nexus.com/2006/02/judge-gives-green-light-to.htm) but apparently failed to read the page he credited (http://www.ehomeupgrade.com/entry/2095/northern_california_judge) which actually states, “it seems that the media last September inadvertently – or knowingly – forgot to post the news…”

    (and really… if you do a search for ‘itunes antitrust’ you’ll see several article from last September by the likes of appleinsider and macrumors)

    I’ve been rethinking my conviction that TUAW is a reliable source for some time now, and this is just kind of finalizing it for me.

  2. I understand what JK means, because I recently I went through a similar situation…

    A story I wrote was picked up by a blog called GameSetWatch… Someone posted the meta-post to Digg and it made the front page (934 Diggs)… Was I pissed off? No…

    Then it made it on to Waxy… Then Boing Boing…

    Was I pissed off? Well… Getting there…

    I posted on my personal blog about the whole situation, and to be honest I am a little annoyed, but any extra traffic at all is better than no extra traffic… Both myself and GSW have benefitted from this… Re:Retro enjoyed its strongest day yet in terms of visitors once the story was Dugg…

    Having said that, if someone enjoys success from something I’ve written then it doesn’t matter that much to me… The people that actually care will realise where the content truly came from… I’d rather have ten loyal readers than a thousands one time visitors…

    Although I guess it’s different for me because I’m blogging for a network… With that comes a certain amount of steadfastness… If another network, such as WIN, was to suddenly be credited with the creation of my content then I think I’d have something to say about that…

    It’s a matter of context I guess… If someone else was credited with the creation of my content then it wouldn’t matter to me that much unless there was my reputation as a blogger resting on it…

    I think that’s enough…

  3. (god I wish there was a way to edit my own comments…)

    If I wasn’t clear: TUAW reported the green-light as news with no indication whatsoever that this had happened 6 months ago.

  4. Here’s an interesting paper on the subject.

    http://www.cse.lehigh.edu/~brian/ pubs/2005/www/link-farm-spam.pdf

  5. I almost always link to the first blog in which I saw the story, based on the date/time it showed up in my feedreader. Though about 2/3 of the time, I link to more than one of the blogs, if I saw the same story on multiple blogs.

    I have some unusual linking policies. I rarely link to any site with a PageRank of 8 or higher, or any site which ranks as #1 for a search for its own name, unless it’s a blog and I’m linking one of its stories. (Consider the silliness of making a link to Google.) This doesn’t often happen, because…

    Most of the Top 100 blogs suck.

    While over half of them deal with topics I write about (politics), almost none of them are, in my opinion, worth reading. In fact, as of right now, I read exactly one of them, Fark, and that one only irregularly. One of them got onto the top 100 due to automatically generated links, and I’m not sure why Technorati hasn’t removed it. The MSN Spaces blogs are just, well, wastes of space, and I really wish Technorati would drop them all.

    In fact, I can find something bad to say about most of the remainder of the top 100 blogs, and I probably already said it at least once.

    Anyway, this is about linking policies, not the top 100 morons attracting undeserved attention, so, back to that.

    When linking to news sources, I go out of my way to find ones which provide free archives. When that’s not possible, I provide links which always bring up the article text, even after it’s been “archived” (e.g. New York Times). And when that’s not possible, I warn people they’ll have to pay to read the article. I have exactly one link like that on all of my blogs.

    In either case, of blogs or mainstream media, I make sure to provide proper attribution. Most bloggers, especially those top 100 idiots, don’t do this. It’s gained me a lot of respect, and even once, a reporter whose story I linked to, commenting on her own blog, linked back to my post. And now I subscribe to that reporter’s blog.

    That covers the common, and the less common, situations, I think.

  6. My linking procedure on product based blogs – credit the original source with a link and the blog or site I found it on with Via: XXXX.com and sometimes the photo source if it’s different from the two above.

    Conversational blogs, well, I try and join in a conversation by linking, pinging or trackbacking. But I’ve found other blogs, especially those run by bigger networks or more prolific bloggers, tend to not do this as often any more.

  7. I blog in one industry where I know my blog is watched by numerous others for stories and is rarely linked to as a source – very frustrating

    How true… I source most of my stories from Press Releases. I have a huge number of RSS feeds from PR companies and from the companies themselves. After I check all these and post then I read other sites and blogs.

    If I find an interesting news story not from any press release then I post and link to the source, the original one when I can find it.

    I do this because I know that I truly found the stories without reading from someone else’s site.

    Because of my timezone (NZ) I see my posts are sometimes hours ahead of the posts in other countries – and sometimes I see even the same pictures I edited, but not the source link.

    Still, people copy, and some people complain when I don’t link to source (why shall I link to a press release on a manufacturer’s site?). I can only guess they complain because it makes harder for them to find the original…

  8. M Freitas, Nice site. Looks like a great source of tech and gadget info. I’ll watch and if I source a story from you, I’ll link up. ;-)

  9. Thanks… I’ve added yours to my RSS feeds too.

  10. I normally credit the first place I read about something, *unless* the source *they* link to is something I subscribe to – on the grounds that I’d have got to it there soon enough anyway, it was just down to the order I happened to read in. No point crediting one site over another purely due to alphabetical order.

    I do think that Weblogs Inc are in the wrong here, though, assuming everything is as JK says (and I’m sure it is – I’ve been reading him a long time, and he’s never lacked integrity). They will get called on this sort of thing, though, and it will damage *their* integrity with other bloggers – not a good thing to lose, and a difficult thing to get back once lost.

  11. I do link to the source I discovered first. Sometimes I update the post with a list of the sources.

    In the last 2-3 months I got 2 “competitors”, who blog about the same topics like I do. They don’t link to any source. That’s not the good way I think.

    The blogs in our niche don’t link to the “bad” blogs but to mine. So I believe it is the right way how I link.

  12. In my arena (science writing) I generally get my news from places like BBC News and New Scientist. They do a good job of filtering what’s interesting from what’s not. What most people don’t know is that most of their news is from press releases from Eurekalert. So just search for a quote from a NS article, and you can find the Eurekalert original. I then link to the PR.

    Most newspaper sources are direct from Press Releases. Quality papers do this less than than others.


    I’d figured out how the whole thing worked before I read the Paul Graham and boingboing articles because it frustrated me to no end as a writer trying to write original content. (There’s *very* little of that in the world; it’s mostly just meta-commentary.)

    Side note: Digg is probably the worst place to get original information on anything. 90% of Digg posters are complete idiots. Pity it drives so much traffic. I used to think it was better than /.’s editor system, but it’s actually not. Reddit seems maybe a little bit better…

  13. I have experienced the lifting of original articles I have posted on my blog, that stuff happens to everyone from time to time. I don’t get upset when sites link to sites other than the original one since most of the blogosphere is a collection of news aggregators anyway.

    What rankled me about this case was the changing of a published piece to remove the source. It is just not right if we as bloggers are trying to remain some level of integrity. I don’t care about being linked as the source of this article or not. I was just passing along an interesting news item for my readers anyway. It just bothered me that a large blog like TUAW would change a published article so nonchalantly as this. If they want to link only to their network that’s fine, it’s their network. But don’t change published works to do so. That is just going to discredit themselves in the long run.

    Once a blog network gets a reputation of only linking to internal blogs, they will be less interesting than other blogs to their readers. That could cause a ripple effect across all the blogs on their network. I guess they figure they will all have made lots of money by then.

  14. I credit the first source where I found the link. My niche isn’t too news-oriented, and there are much bigger fish handling the news.

  15. I usually credit the source I actually found found the info at. If they credit another source, I follow the source-trail all the way to the beginning and credit the original source too…

    i.e. I find a post on site A and post about it. A credits site B. B credits C. C is the one that originally broke it.
    My credit will be:
    [via C via A]

    I’ve had problems with a big “blog-network” blog (well, one contributor to that blog) lifting my ideas/posts and not crediting me with a link. I’m documenting every one of them and will confront them with it once I get a few more concrete examples.


  16. I’ve given some thought to the whole changing of the links thing…

    I don’t really see the problem. It is in a blog network’s best interest to link to themselves as often as possible. While it’s probably “bad form” to change a link once it’s been posted to credit another source, in general, linking to onesself is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your other material, both by increasing page views and for PageRank purposes, particularly if it’s on a separate domain.

    The website I used to write for did this all the time (minus the link changing). Perhaps the editors of the big blog felt as though the story hadn’t been up for very long, and that it would still be okay to change the link address.

    Just some thoughts. But insular linking, when possible, is a good way to get readers to read more of what you have to say, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. And doing so is *not* going to create an insular readership — it’s going to create readers that continue to come back.

  17. I will usually credit the original source, and then link to their source as well if necessary. If everything I am talking about resides on the first place I saw it, then I will just link to them. If I find out about it from them but aren’t really going to comment on what they had to say but only on the article they were writing about, then I will do one of two things:

    Usually, I wrote that so and so wrote about such and such.

    Other times, I will write about such and such, with a (Source: So and So) somewhere in there.

  18. […] Insular Linking on Blog Networks As I’ve reflected upon this even in the last half hour I realise that it’s a bigger problem than just a blog network one. All bloggers face choices when acknowledging sources of information. […]

  19. Our policy is to always link sources, and link a lot. Original source, via whom, etc etc. Links don’t cost a thing and they are the lifeblood of the web. Use ’em.

  20. It really depends on the case/story you are covering.
    If the story is kind of common..I don’t think linking the source is important.
    Otherwise I put the link for sources. If the source doesn’t look familar then I try to search for the same story trying to find a wll-known source. In such cases, I do sometimes put multiple sources..Otherwise one is enough.

  21. TUAW is pretty useless anyway, IMO. Quite unprofessional if you ask me. They take lots of stuff from our site, http://www.macnn.com, and of course never credit us. Luckily, MacNN is several times larger than TUAW, so whatever. It’s not so much that they “steal” news that bothers me — it’s competition afterall. What irks me as they try to make readers think they are the first on the story, when in reality they are far from it. That’s a problem with a lot of the crummy weblogs inc blogs, though — too slow on the news, and they make a big deal out of it when they finally report on it. yaawwwwn

  22. Brian,

    I do the same as you. I credit the first place I saw it and then I trace back and credit the original poster if I can… I am pretty strict on attributing sources. Wins you friends and tends to bring you traffic from the original poster as well…

    I blasted WIN and on my blog and Jason, to his credit, explained that he thought it was a tech glitch. That’s also what the author at TUAW says as well (see comments on jk’s blog).

    Who knows what happened, but maybe this will make us all take our link policies seriously?

  23. Thanks for bringing this topic up Darren. It is something that I struggle with. Just recently I’ve got a blogger in my topic who is not crediting me with my ideas. ..actually, sometimes they do …and sometimes they don’t. I find it really frustrating ..but it has made me a bit more meticulous when I’m the one that needs to do the crediting. Crediting doesn’t really take anything away from the post and as someone said earlier …it can make you a few friends, too!

  24. […] I have been wandering around the blogs and my RSS feeds and I am seeing a flavor of the week as it relates to blogs.� I am seeing people talk about A-listers and the nepotism of their cliques.� I am seeing people talking about attribution and linking and other bloggers snarking about the big guy versus the little guy.� I see that networks are getting a bad rap with their linking policies, and other issues about blogging. […]

  25. Hi,

    I’m the blogger who supposedly lifted the post from jkontherun.com and supposedly edited my post to edit out jkontherun.com. In all actuality, I did nothing of the sort and JK has shown superb gentlemanliness by posting a second follow-up post on his blog regarding this. The culprit has turned out to maybe be a glitch in Technorati and/or Blogniscient.

    Regarding posting, I _always_ give linkbacks to my source, (yes Nick, I do read MacNN, and I do credit MacNN, as do other bloggers on TUAW. If you do a simple google search for macnn site:tuaw.com, you will see all the [via MacNN] chunks in posts on TUAW). I read quite a few indie blogs and I personally enjoy them as much, and often more than, “high traffic” apple and tech blogs. I always link back to my sources. My personal beliefs about the openess of information and software, and hardware (though there aren’t many companies that release schematics openly yet) would never have let me rip off jkontherun.com. If I go back and edit a post, it’s to correct an error or add a note, or some such thing. I have never and would never edit out a source.

    Personally it was hard to be the subject of this “calling out” of supposed plagiarism, but as I mentioned elsewhere, I’d rather the news travel quickly than be squelched. That is, after all, why we blog no?

    aka Fabienne Serriere

  26. very glad to hear it’s been sorted out fbz. Thanks for letting us know.

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    I just started a ne blog and am going to show people what power tools are out there and how to develop higher rankings using wordpress. Leave a coment at http://www.craftycat.org and when there is enough visitors I will post for free a 4 part ranking strategy and how I got to the top 10 in less than a month.

  28. Well, personally I tend to discredit any fact based blog with no links at all.
    There’s not much new under the sun so if you’re crediting yourself with a fresh new idea, well…I’m going to look long and hard on whether you’ve got the right to.
    The more links a blog has, the more I figure the blogger has done some actual research into the subject.
    I may not click on the links but it’s comforting to know they’re there.

    As for my own blog, I happily link to anyone and everyone,
    books, blogs, websites…
    I link to the first or best source of the information
    and when in doubt, multi-link.

    However, on the flipside,
    a blog with no original content,
    no reason why the link is there,
    or why the blogger thinks the link is important,
    adds no value to me at all.

  29. As for as not getting credit for stories, I find it happens all the time. I feel like an incubator sometimes for the bigger bloggers. But there is nothing I can do about that.

    As far as linking…I try to link to the first place I saw the story. If it’s a story with traction or from multible places, I try to link to the smallest site which links to the main source because I just think it’s a cool way to meet new bloggers.

  30. […] Insular Linking on Blog Networks As I’ve reflected upon this even in the last half hour I realise that it’s a bigger problem than just a blog network one. All bloggers face choices when acknowledging sources of information. […]

  31. I link to where I first heard about it, then research on a meme tracker and follow trackbacks, check technorati, and try to find a number of differing opinions on a story.

    It usually all get woven into a long post, and I love linking out to new sites rather than being insular. It is my belief that there might be a search engine benefit from linking out to a wider variety of sources.

    I also take care where possible to give anchor text some relevance.

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