The Curator’s Code

The Curator's Code — symbolThe Curator’s Code is a standard for attribution — a way of providing credit to the creators of content being shared online, and those who helped you discover it.

Curation is something I do a lot, and something I have thought about in detail. The fact that so many users of sites like Tumblr and Pinterest share content without providing a simple link back to the originator (and sometimes even going to some effort to remove a credit or copyright notice from an image) is maddening. An initiative to combat this problem is very welcome.

While we have systems in place for literary citation, image attribution, and scientific reference, we don’t yet have a system that codifies the attribution of discovery in curation as a currency of the information economy, a system that treats discovery as the creative labor that it is.

This is what The Curator’s Code is – a system for honoring the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery by making attribution consistent and codified, the celebrated norm.

The Curator's Code — website

Sadly, I think the Curator’s Code website complicates their core message with overwritten prose and fancy graphics. The takeaway message is actually very simple:

  • When you link to something you find, add a snippet of code that produces the ‘direct discovery’ symbol:
  • Additionally, if you want to credit the source of your discovery, add the ‘hat tip’ symbol:

There’s a bookmarklet on the site that makes adding these a two-click process.

Curators vs. creators

I’m still a little unclear on what a ‘direct discovery’ is however. I could understand if the ᔥ symbol stood for ‘source’ (ie: the website that originated the content), but it seems to stand for something less concrete. As far as I understand, the meaning seems to be ‘the site that I saw first with this content’, which seems much less useful. I suppose the idea is to provide credit to the other curators (and highlight the ‘chain of attribution’) more than to provide a much deserved direct credit for content creators.

It’s great that someone has been thinking about this problem, but I don’t think we’re quite at the solution yet.

Updated 2012.03.13 to add…

Marco Arment has a great piece explaining why the Curator’s Code is misguided. He concludes:

Codifying “via” links with confusing symbols is solving the wrong problem.


1 thought on “The Curator’s Code

  1. Pingback: Can social content curation without negative actions (dislikes, downvotes) even exist? « stritar

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