Link Attribution, the Early Blogosphere and the Arts & Letters Daily

Fascinating discussion of the evolution (and violation) of the emerging blogosphere convention for citing links, in the late 90s. A few years ago, I was exploring what happened to the canonical first blogs, a short list of frequently updated web pages that  Jesse James Garret identified as weblogs, and I mentioned in passing that I was surprised not to see Arts & Letters Daily on those early lists. In an article published last week, I find my puzzlement over Arts & Letters Daily referenced, and the backstory of A&L Daily carefully and painstakingly explained. The story involves Jorn Barger, who observed the possibilities of the new linking behavior he had noticed online, and coined the term “weblog” to record the links of interest that he found while surfing the web.

Shortly after its launch on 28 September 1998,[11] Barger came across Arts & Letters Daily and, crediting Progressive Review for the find, exulted over a “rich academic weblog,”[31]
thus appropriating Dutton’s site to the cause of the nascent
blogosphere. Barger’s peers shared the enthusiasm: Raphael Carter of Honeyguide Weblog, crediting Barger for the discovery, commended the new site as an “outstanding new Web log,”[32] and Michal Wallace of Manifestation, equally crediting Barger for the discovery, praised the high quality of Arts & Letters Daily’s links, noting that the site had an “interesting look as far as meta-journals/weblogs go.”[33] After a while, Laurel Krahn of Windowseat Weblog also credited a link from Dutton’s site,[34] and by the end of the year 1998, Barger, Wallace, Carter and Krahn had borrowed more than a dozen links from Dutton’s site,[35] all of which were painstakingly credited to their origin on Dutton’s site, as the norm of link attribution demanded.

Despite the enthusiastic reception that Arts & Letters Daily
found among the bloggers, relations between Barger and Dutton got
strained almost instantly over Dutton’s refusal to reciprocate and
observe the link attribution norm, as Barger found that the Arts & Letters Daily had featured links from Robot Wisdom Weblog
without crediting the weblog as a source. Barger wanted Dutton to play
by the rules of the nascent blogosphere, and protested against Arts & Letters Daily’s violation of the link attribution norm, at first in a private message to Dutton on 19 October 1998[19] and then in a post on Robot Wisdom a week later, accusing Dutton of “borrowing links, and not even acknowledging requests for shared credit.”[36]

Rudolf Ammann,

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