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Image attribution and social networks: a pet peeve

\/ by Thomas Leuthard


It's time I got over my pet peeve with image attribution (i.e. how images are credited and/or linked back to the source) on social networks. Perhaps documenting it here will allow me to move on.

Facebook, for intance does not make it possible to add attribution or a click-through link to an uploaded image. I've found it most effective (and least disruptive to user experience) to add the attribution/source information as a comment on the image (which is less-than-ideal).

Twitter poses a similar challenge. Tweets with images perform better than without but how do we credit the source of the image effectively when an image must be uploaded to accompany our tweet (and therefore stripped of click-through links for attribution)?

Here's an example of a recent tweet I shared. I think this is ugly and a less than optimal user experience. Ultimately this feels like a missed opportunity to me. Afterall, these social networks are hardly hurting for resources and could provide an elegant solution (as opposed to this clunky work-around).


Tumblr has struggled with attribution since almost day one. There are far too many Tumblr users who don't know the difference between a Reblog (the one-click action that a user takes to share someone else's Tumblr post on their own Tumblr) and a Repost (when users download another user's post and then re-post it as new to their own Tumblr thereby removing the links and attribution). This illustration does a great job of explaining.

I don't want to be a creep and not give credit where its due regardless of which blog, CMS, email marketing platform or social network I'm using.

In my early days with Tumblr, I followed an academic who shared great content and perspective. She quit in a rage and removed her blog from Tumblr. She was fond of the platform yet not able to reconcile her professional ethics with the rampant problems with attribution.

Sigh. Time to move on.


Best Practices to Attribute Images Online and in Social Networks

As with many things, a search revealed some decent best practices.

First, from Creative Commons themselves, comes this guide to attribution.

A great guide comes from Foter (click to embiggen):


How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos by Foter

Yikes. This means that a correct attribution for Creative Commons includes three different links. Complying with this best practice is entirely possible/feasible in a blog (only done 1% of the time according to the Foter data) or Tumblr post, but practically impossible for a Tweet, Facebook status or LinkedIn update.

My Google-fu has not yet yielded any best-practice resources for how to attribute images on social networks. So for the near term, to attribute is to put up with the ugly less than optimal source details. We continue to skate as the technology on some social networks (ahem - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) continues to make linking and attributing an image less-than-straight-forward. Of course, you can always use your own photos (without needing to worry about attribution at all) or source an image through a plethora of free image sites (thanks to the good folks at Buffer for the list).

"Dutch Skaters" engraved by A.H.Payne after a picture by Cottrau, published in Payne's Universum ..., 1845.





Reader Comments (1)

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June 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Watson

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