Curator’s Code: First Impression

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The Curator’s Code was unveiled at this year’s SXSW festival. Aside from having a sharp-looking website, the Code seeks acknowledgement of the Internet articles we use every day by introducing two symbols to use as “source” and “hat tip” nods to other websites.

I don’t particularly endorse the Code, not because I think it’s a bad idea, but because we already have methods of acknowledging sources. I’m not sure how much time we’ll all be saving by typing a single symbol rather than an actual word, or why citing sources the old-fashioned way is somehow detrimental to the idea of sharing information. If perhaps there’s a fear that the younger generations won’t acknowledge the internet as a collaborative effort, how is having a symbol going to make a difference when, 30 years down the line, it would be as ubiquitous as a footnote mark?

Another thing that came to mind is that the web-savvy already know that highlighted link text in an article or blog post frequently refers to source material. Rather than simply encourage the practice of actively citing sources, the marks make citing “cool.” Normally I wouldn’t bellyache about it, but again: there are already words in place for that sort of thing.

Ultimately it won’t be the end of the world if the new marks catch on or not, as long as the goal of regular sourcing and citation is reached. But wouldn’t it be better to just lead by example and cite one’s sources whenever possible? What difference does it make that science and journalism already have citation guidelines? There’s nothing about either of those systems that doesn’t already work for Wikipedia. Exactly how is clicking on a Unicode button to insert the “source” and “hat tip” marks any less time-consuming than the two seconds it takes to write “source:” or “thanks to”? Positive messages aside, it just seems like a wasted effort.

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