Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What the Hell is Attribution? Who Wants to Know?

Who wants to know? It's the engineer. The one I married.

The conversation started, "what the hell is attribution?" and a minute later, we agreed to disagree. (One of the benefits to being married to an engineer: short arguments. One of the benefits to being a writer: I can always get the last word.)

My husband forwarded an e-mail to me this morning, with a lovely article (and picture) of one of his "bumps." The "bump" is a new communications radome used by Southwest Airlines to allow its passengers to enjoy wi-fi (sky-fi!) communications while in the air.

The article was lovely, however, there was no attribution. It took me less than a minute to find the source, Run Way Girl's blog, posted yesterday. Then I replied to the e-mail with a "attaboy" and a promise/threat to lecture his sales manager, who forwarded the article sans credit, about attribution.

"What the hell is attribution?" was his reply. Well, the writer deserves credit, first, I explained (and almost lost him right there) but more importantly, the reader needs attribution; it provides context.

If the article had been written by Southwest, or my hubby's sales manager, we'd know to read with a slightly jaded eye. (It's PR.) If the article had been written a month ago, it's old news - not necessarily less important, but time = context, too.

Then he had the gall to say, "Who cares? It's just an internal e-mail!" Which he forwarded to me, and a friend, and fellow pilot, and former co-worker... do I have to explain how this works?

Attribution matters, if you want to know you know. To riff on the old adage, in God we trust. All others need to cite their sources.

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