Citing authors on the web (and off)

Over a year ago, John Gruber rightfully gave AllThingsD (from the Wall Street Journal) a hard time about properly attributing sources. For the longest time ATD would not use hyperlinks to point to original sources nor even the websites of companies or products mentioned in their articles.

Yet, even when an article was updated to point to an original source, AllThingsD did not cite the author by name (just the publication name). It seemed half-hearted, especially from a publication that so prominently features its principals: Kara Swisher, John Paczkowski, and of course, Walt Mossberg.

These days, the individuals behind an article are just as, if not more, important than the publication they come from. Micah Baldwin summarized this best last night:

I am starting to realize that I dont care about publications (magazines/newspapers, etc). I am now valuing specific writers or topics. (ex. apple biz posts by MG Siegler or writing posts by Ben Casnocha)

I’ve felt the same for a while and realize that my allegiance is to the writers: I’ve followed MG Siegler from VentureBeat to TechCrunch to his own blog. I enjoyed reading Mat Honan on The Awl and even more at WIRED. Brad Feld writes on his personal blog but also publishes on a Wall Street Journal blog.

The importance of knowing and appreciating the “who” behind an article goes back to the (over-simplified) point that companies are simply made up of people. Yes, the New York Times and WIRED are distinct publications, but I could easily see myself reading a great article from Nick Bilton in both.

Related side note: it was strange to me that so much attention was lent to the WSJ story a week ago about iPhone 5 demand being “down”. And the one about the “cheaper iPhone” coming soon (again!) the week before that. The WSJ has been mostly reputable when publishing stories about Apple, but most of the predictive headlines from Asawa and Lessin have gone unsubstantiated. Know who you’re reading…

(I originally drafted this post on July 2, 2011)