RIP The Curator's Code

An idea whose time had come. And gone.

Folksonomy is all very well, but my own set of tags leaves a lot to be desired. I'm forever giving things a tag and thinking I'll remember it and then discovering that not only do I not remember the tag, but also that the tag applies only to a single item, neither of which is very helpful. So I resolved a while ago to try and clean things up.

I printed out a list of all my Pinboard tags that had a single tag, and have been going through them slowly to see whether they might better belong somewhere else. Slow going, memory jolting, fun in a perverse kind of way and, now, actually interesting.

I had an item tagged CuCo, because it was tagged #CuCo on Twitter, where I picked it up. And I could not think what it was about. Turns out it was a link to an article about the Curator's Code, which Maria Popova (of BrainPickings) had recently launched. Now I remembered, and I also remembered thinking at the time that there was very little chance it would catch on. I've always preferred just saying I found this from someone, or I am sharing this from someone.

In the course of refreshing my memory, I clicked on the link to the original manifesto for The Curator's Code. The core idea was to encourage people to attribute the wisdom, laffs etc. that they shared, rather than pass these gems off as their own. And this back in the golden days of 2012.

To be clear, Popova's suggestion to use ᔥ and ↬ was not intended to replace the old fashioned "via" and "HT" but to promote the idea of attribution. There was a bookmark too, for anyone who found the Unicode symbols too tricky, and the bookmark had a kind of meta-purpose of promoting the Code itself.

Note: The unicode symbols ᔥ and ↬ are simply shorthand for the familiar "via" and "HT," respectively. While you may still choose to use "via" and "HT" the old-fashioned way – the goal here is to attribute ethically, regardless of how you do it – there are two reasons we are proposing the unicode characters: One, they are a cleaner, more standardized way to attribute. Two, since the characters are wrapped in a hotlink to the Curator's Code site, they serve as messengers for the ethos of the code itself, as people encounter them across the web and click to find out what they represent.

What a shame, then, that the site no longer exists. The domain registration expired on 16 February 2018, although it could still be reached until 7 December 2018, according to The Internet Archive. And no further word on the matter from Maria Popova, (although if you are a museum curator in search of a code of ethics, you may be in luck).

Ah well. Implementations are born, implementations die. The underlying idea -- attribution, credit where credit is due -- lives on. At least, it does for me.

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