Sunday, November 22, 2015

Some Thoughts On Attribution

What some of you may not realize (since I've never explicitly pointed this out before) is that I actually go to some effort to attribute the found content that goes into this site. I may not find the true origin of a work, but I at least specify where I found something or whose tweet I saw that something in. Those with a keen eye may have even noticed a pattern wherein the morning posts are 100% found content and the afternoon posts are ones where I have had at least some part in the production (even if I'm simply adding a funny caption to an existing image, which is itself linked to in some way).

When it comes to people reposting my own original work, I'm not terribly concerned with attribution. After all, what's important is that the ideas those works engender spreads far and wide and I don't want to be an impediment to that in any way. The point of the Security Memetics project has always been to take advantage of memes to facilitate the decentralized distribution of information in order to spread security awareness more effectively. I want things to spread from one person to another and properly attributing those works is baggage that can hinder that effort.

That being said, I'm not a terribly big fan of people reposting my original works and then either taking or accepting credit for them. The very least they can do is acknowledge that they simply found the work in question. Maybe it seems strange to abdicate credit in one scenario and then complain about in another, but the fact is that as much as I believe in this project, I also recognize that I'm not very good at it. I'm really not very good at any part of it, whether it's producing content that continues to spread on its own, finding and amplifying the signal of other content producers, eliciting contributions from others, or even raising awareness of the existence of the (created or curated) content here. I suck at this, but someone has to see this idea through.

In the 7+ years I've been working on this project only a few pieces have ever really enjoyed what I would consider success from a memetic standpoint in the sense that they continue to spread long after the fact. The two that stand out are "On the Internet of Things nobody knows you're a fridge" (which was obviously inspired by this classic cartoon by Peter Steiner, and apparently a tweet by Frank Swain that has since been deleted (perhaps he tweeted the cartoon?)), and "There is no cloud, just other people's computers" (which was my way of expressing a prescient sentiment by Graham Cluley as an easily repeatable catch phrase, and given the minimal memetic drift I've seen in the retellings, I think I must have done a pretty good job).

Whether it's ego or selfishness or something else, some human part of me wants those successes to remain my own rather than be claimed either actively or passively by someone else. What will I do about it when it happens? Probably not much. It's not my way to stamp my feet and demand acknowledgement. However, armed with the self-realization that it's important to me, what I can do is work even harder to attribute the content that goes into this site for the benefit of other creators, because... I know that feel, bro.