Attribution vs Credit

“Computers cannot give credit” — Automated systems can be designed to automatically create attribution for remixed works, but in a study of participants in a large remix community, the value of automatic attribution was much less than the credit given manually by humans.

People crave getting credit for their own creative work and get upset when they see derivatives of it used by others without giving credit to the authors. A research study of youth in the Scratch community (html) experimented with adding automatic attribution when works were remixed; however the users reactions were that automatic attribution were much less authentic than ones created individually by users.

Credit vs attribution in scratch interface
Credit vs attribution in scratch interface

Scratch (website) is an open online tool developed at MIT designed to give children creative experiences creating small games and interactive tools that also teaches them principles of computer programming via a graphical interface. (Wikipedia).

As of November 2015, there are over 11,000,000 projects shared on the Scratch site– it’s design explicitly embeds the idea of remix in that everything posted there is open to be remixed by another user. This is also adopted more recently in the approach of Mozilla’s WebMaker tools (mozilla)

Remixing in Scratch is not only technically possible, it is something that the administrators of the website encourage and try to foster as a way for people to learn from others and collaborate. On every project page, the Scratch website displays a hyperlink with the text “Some rights reserved” that points to a child-friendly interpretation of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license under which all Scratch projects are licensed.1 Even the name Scratch is a reference to hip hop DJs’ practice of mixing records. A large portion of all projects shared on the Scratch website (28%) are remixes of other projects.

That said, remixing is not universally unproblematic in Scratch. Previous quantitative analysis of the the Scratch community showed that Scratch participants react both positively and negatively to the remixing of their projects and found that of those users who viewed a remix of their project, about one-fifth left positive comments while the same proportion of users accused the remixer of plagiarism. This ambivalent reaction to remixing is echoed, and given additional texture, in the comments and complaints left by users on the Scratch website and sent to Scratch administrators.

The study involved interviewing Scratch community members about their reactions to seeing derivatives of their own works with both automatic attribution and individual credit either given as credits inside a remixed Scratch project or in the notes attached to an item’s web page in Scratch.

But in trying to help users by attributing automatically, Scratch’s designers misunderstood the way that attribution as a social mechanism worked for Scratch’s users. Our fundamental insight is that while both attribution and credit may be important, they are distinct concepts and that credit is, socially, worth more. A system can attribute the work of a user but credit, which is seen as much more important by users and which has a greater effect on user behavior, cannot be done automatically. Computers can attribute. Crediting, however, takes a human.

Computers can’t Give Credit: How Automatic Attribution Falls Short in an Online Remixing Community Andres Monroy-Hernandez, Benjamin Mako Hill, Jazmin Gonzalez-Rivero, and danah boyd 2011 (abstract) (PDF)

Attribution vs Credit

Fifty Dollar Guitar

While many successful musicians create and perform with high end instruments, blues legend JJ Cale preferred playing a cheap guitar he gutted and hacked with components.


According to the Harmony Guitar Database, the original model was a Harmony H162.

As described in a post by Jesse Arthur in his early years, short on money, Cale faced a situation when his $50 Harmony acoustic guitar was damaged badly on a plane.

Being a practical man, J.J. took this as an opportunity to change everything he ever wanted to about the guitar. By the time he was done, he’d turned his old acoustic guitar into a cut-away electric with five pick-ups, seven knobs, countless wires, buttons and switches, four outputs, and a big red light. Pretty much everything except a hamster running around inside of a little wheel… He never bothered putting the back of the guitar on again so he’d have easy access for repairs and adjusting the action by means of a couple coins he had wedged into the thing. While it may not have been his intention, J.J. saw to it that if anyone wanted to copy his sound they were gonna have a heck of a time trying!

Hear how Cale describes his relationship to this guitar

The headstock of the original Harmony was featured on the cover of Cale’s Troubadour album.

"Cover - troubadour" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -
“Cover – troubadour” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –


J.J. Cale’s Fifty Dollar Guitar – American Standard Time (link)

J.J. Cale web site (link)

Fifty Dollar Guitar

First Web Server

There is a patient zero for this information space of the web, when Tim Berners-Lee  developed his idea on a NeXT Cube workstation it was at one time, the entire web.

Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Among the artifacts seen in the photo (set up for a 2005 conference) is a copy of the original proposal for the idea of the web the Berners-Lee wrote in March 1989 as well as the open book- Enquire Within upon Everything“, a Victorian book of general information that he read as a child.

Each paragraph in this book had a specific “address” and a large index in the back served as a means of exploring a wide range of knowledge, essentially an early form of a hypertext encyclopedia.

Like a house, every paragraph in “Enquire Within” has it’s number– and the Index is the Directory which will explain what Facts, Hints, and Instructions inhabit that Number.

Berners-Lee describes his fascination with this book as a “suggestion of magic, a portal to the world of information.”

One of his first informational organizational projects at CERN (which did not pan out) was called by Berners-Lee “Enquire Within”


Wikimedia Commons Image (link)

First Web Server