Five Tips for Giving Credit Where Credit is Due


Most bloggers read other blogs and get ideas from them, and sometimes use those ideas to jump-start a post of our own. For example, when I did my Five Things Friday this past week, I noted I shamelessly stole the idea from Megan. At the moment I decided I was doing a post similar to what Megan was doing, I had the opportunity to take either the right or wrong path. I believe I did the right thing, but wanted to give some thoughts about how to avoid doing things wrong.

There are few worse things as a professional than having your work stolen. I have had the wonderful experience TWICE of having to battle for control of intellectual property I created – one time successfully and the other time my company decided not to pursue action. And as a writer on the internet I had a review of a game I had written about on a USENET group in the pre-Web days turn up in a print magazine verbatim with a different name on the review. I sent an alert to the editor, but never got it resolved.

I have also been noted and cited in the works of others, and had others contact me about my work based on seeing references to things I had done. That is an incredibly gratifying experience because it shows that others read your work, hold it in high regard, and use it as a basis for further exploration.

The reason I mention these is because had the infringing people come to my company and asked permission things could have been settled easily, with all of us winning.

Here are a few thoughts about how to make sure you are doing the right thing when it comes to ideas and items from other blogs:

0. Link to the Original Source

I almost forgot this one, as it seems so obvious – when you see something that inspires you, link to it! Send that blogger some love! If you take an idea without even providing a link … you are not much better than a scraper site.

1. Encourage Traffic to the Original Source

Going back to my Five Things Friday last week, I encouraged everyone to head to Megan’s site because the way each of us does things is very different. There was basically no overlap in style or substance – each of us focused on very different topics and handled the way we wrote about the links in a distinct manner. In other words, there is nothing in my post that diminishes the value of visiting her site.

That is a HUGELY important thing, and something you should always think about: when I post this, am I enhancing the traffic of the site that gave me the idea, or am I taking away from it.

I think it is easy for those of us with small blogs to think it doesn’t matter … but doing the right thing ALWAYS matters!

Another way to look at it: once someone reads your post, is there any reason to visit the original post? If not, you are essentially plagiarising.

And that final idea? I got it from a site called ‘me and my diy’ last week when I was looking for etiquette tips about addressing my #2 point below. And that is just the beginning – in her article, Debbie Thompson provides loads of examples of how to do things right or wrong, references, and other things … if you are interested in this topic, her article was the best thing I found last week!

(see what I did there?)

2. Don’t Steal Images

If there is an image on your site that isn’t either your creation or public domain, you are potentially stealing someone else’s traffic. One of the best examples I can think of is from the site T-Rex Runner, who took a great picture you have probably seen online at some point of the shirt a guy ahead of her in a race was wearing.

I had discovered her blog through another blog earlier in the year, so when I saw the image on a Facebook group and then on a Buzzfeed post, I contacted Danielle as well as the Buzzfeed author and worked to get proper attribution. If you don’t know the whole story or don’t follow her blog, check out the link … it is a pretty cool place.

Also last week I did the I Am Enough post, and included a graphic from Arianna’s Random Thoughts, because I thought it was beautiful. It took me 3 seconds to create the source link, so others could check out her site. Now I follow her blog, she follows mine, and it is great.

More recently I think about the huge infographic in the Five Things Friday post about nutrition in fruits and vegetables. When I saw that initially I knew I wanted to share it – but the article I found it in lacked a source link. In other words, although the person notes they ‘found it’, they don’t provide a link.

When you use an image – especially one loaded with information – and you don’t provide a link to the source, you are mis-representing the content as your own (even if there is something on the image itself). In the case of the vitamin infographic, actually provided an embed code on their site to make it easy to share correctly.

One thing that is important – most sites want you to provide a LINK, but NOT to directly reference their images (unless they provide an embed code). In other words, if you like one of the crazy pictures of my eye-cicles mid-winter for some bizarre reason, save it and upload to your site, but then link back to me. Make sense?

3. Differentiate … or Re-Blog

If you love something you saw, but cannot figure out how to do your own thing with it in a way that doesn’t raid the traffic from the original blog – just reblog. At a couple of other sites I’ve written for we call it ‘link love’ – you have friends who do something cool, so you just write a quickie post highlighting what they are doing and sending your readers their way. Most bloggers appreciate this and return the favor.

But if you choose to pursue the topic, made it your own! As an example, another one of my favorite blogs is Harold Shaw’s, because of the unique way he communicates in his posts – he comes at a number of running related things much like the rest of us, but then twists it through his view of the gear, the numbers, how it fits with everything else. Then he closes with the perspective that ‘The Reality is that … ‘ and looks at what he has talked about in context – whether it is about what shoes he likes, races he will run, weather conditions, aging or whatever. The topics are the same as many of us, but the style and storytelling is unique.

4. Create Hybrid Ideas

I tried doing ‘Five Things Friday’, but that wasn’t happening regularly enough for me. Then I saw people posting their running playlists – but since I don’t use music when I run that wasn’t for me. But then something occurred to me – I LOVE music and so the idea of doing a ‘Friday Playlist’ that was list-based and focused on a specific musical idea was born!

5. Space Things Out … Or Let them Die

Here is a thought – if you ARE going to use an idea from another site, and your perspective is close enough that no matter what you do there will be overlap with the original author, ask yourself … does this have to be posted NOW? If not, stick it in drafts and then look at it again in another couple of weeks. Maybe it will become a hybrid idea, maybe you will reblog, maybe you will have a fresh perspective … or maybe you should click the ‘Move to Trash’ link.


We all want to gain readers, especially loyal and active ones. We hope for engagement and those trying to make money want raw numbers. And for those bloggers in particular, doing things specifically to increase readership can be a attractive lure. But as bloggers it is our voice that is of value, our ideas and what we bring to our blogs and those we visit and comment on.

We can be positive voices by helping ourselves and others through proper linking and attribution, or we can be a negative force by stealing hits from others. Even if it is unintentional it is not a good thing – so try to be sure you give credit where it is due, make use of ideas but send others to the source, and be a good community member through honest sharing!

What ideas do YOU have on this?!?

Image source

12 thoughts on “Five Tips for Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

  1. I love this! I always try to give credit wherever I can and I love linking up with my favorite bloggers anyway so it ends up being a win/win all around!

    One thing I will say that I personally do not do nearly enough of and I really should, is that watermarking is SUCH a good idea. That way even if someone doesn’t give the credit, it’s obviously right there on the material. I actually had a photo that I took years back that was on Flickr stolen and used to make handbags in Japan. I didn’t even get a free bag. It was maddening.

    • I am terrible about watermarking – and I know it comes from so many years of it being video game screenshots or product pictures or other stuff I didn’t own anyway I got lazy. But it is a great point – and that is a terrible story about the bags, I hate when I hear about stuff like that! I mean, one cool handbag and all is forgiven, but not even that! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Great post! And, of course, since I consider us friends, I wouldn’t have cared even if you had “stolen” the idea (as long as you didn’t take my exact 7 links and my exact thoughts about them and use that for your post!! ha!), but I do appreciate the credit and your obvious desire for intellectual honesty. One toughie, which I run into surprisingly frequently – I often Google Image for random search terms, and when I come up with something I like, I click through to find the source in order to give the person credit. If THEY say the found it somewhere and attempt to link to the source, but the source is incorrect or it’s a broken link or whatever, what do you recommend? Sadly, I usually just end up linking to the place I found it from (even though it’s not the “original” source). I think this would get me legally cleared but I still don’t think it’s the “right” thing … but I’m often not willing to give up the picture :). Recommendations?

    • One of the examples on ‘me and my diy’ blog post has the author basically summarizing the other person’s work, (oops stopped before done) thereby leaving no reason to click-through. I think my post is much more an ‘inspired by’, but I appreciate your kind words!

      As for the second one, depending on what it is, I will either be lazy or not. If it is a generic picture and the initial link does nothing, I will just use it (which isn’t right of course). If the initial link works but no other source, I try to cite that. And so on – bottom line is that is that if it is not a created image, my effort level is low.

      But for something that was actually put together with a specific purpose, I tend to do more – often these have titles and enough descriptive things that if I hit a dead end I can Google/Yahoo/Bing/AltaVista/whatever search them. Specifically, that ’25 fruits and vegetables’ infographic was utilized on the site I noted, but not linked or referenced in any way. Finding the real source and using the embed code was simple – but that isn’t often the case. Had I not found the graphic, I would see nothing wrong with referencing where I found it.

      Make sense?

  3. Thank you for this timely post and the advice that you provide here and the huge shout-out/mention in the post. I really appreciate your compliment and will attempt to continue to differentiate my blog by being the old fart that I am ;-).

    This issue is one of the things that always irked me about some other so called bloggers (those who chose to not do the work and stand on the backs of others.

    We all have made mistakes, but we learn from them and don’t purposely repeat them. One thing that I have learned is to use my own photos, not the stock or supposedly free or creative commons licensed ones – sometimes they have been repurposed or stolen and even though you tried to do the right thing and cite the owner, you don’t know who really took the photo or wrote the work, (unless it is from a blog you know and follow). I almost always use my own photos, unless it is a friends or someone I know personally, then I really try to cite them and their work. Especially those who take pictures of me running and I want to use them in my blog – I try to ask permission first also.

    Good post – I know that it make me think and I hope that it makes others think as well.

    • Thanks for the re-blog! Love that statement “differentiate my blog by being the old fart that I am”!

      We definitely all make mistakes, and I think that while most stuff isn’t a big deal if you are a conscientuous blogger, it is always a good habit.

      True confession – I had to go back and do the sources for my ‘Take Care Tuesday’ post after this one ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I use my images or stuff from (with credit) 99% of the time with a few rare occasions (like with my thursday random post last week which had pics of Justin Bieber, Chicago Fire, etc)(although I would assume no one thought I took them). ๐Ÿ™‚ But I hear what you’re saying…using them without permission even once is technically “stealing.” Noted!

    • Tonya – when I look at your blog what I see is YOU. It comes through everywhere, and so even if you took a picture and it came out like crap (I am a terrible photographer so it happens to me ALL THE TIME) and then found the same basic angle on the local chamber of commerce site and used it … who really cares (yes, technically you should always give attribution).

      My point is that those are ‘little things’. Imagine that you spent a whole week putting together a huge infographic talking about making complete protein combinations of incomplete proteins or something cool like that … and then you see two linkbacks (nice) but then get an email saying that people have seen the infographic in a variety of places, and no one is giving you attribution, and people have even cropped out your logo and so on. You would likely feel less than pleased.

      Most of us are NOT those people, we care about the community and try to be the best people we can be … so when we make mistakes they are honest and we feel bad if we unintentionally hurt someone.

      Oh – and can I mention that when I just hit your site I was greeted by the gaping maw of your cat! Love that!

  5. All great points — and thanks for making them.

    My blog gets reblogged sometimes. I have mixed feelings about it. It’s flattering, of course, but as someone who writes for a living, it also feels a little weird to me — why not add something of your own?

    • Agree again – my personal approach is always ‘I read this great thing, you should read it … here are a few thoughts’. But then I just write for my own pleasure, not for a living – but as mentioned, based on my own personal experience I take IP issues very seriously.

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