Among the effects of Paul Graham’s famous remark, “The Web is turning writing into a conversation,” is that people are beginning to understand the ways in which “content,” such as blog posts, are a first-class manifestation of information. This is fundamentally important: since “information is the detachment of a resource from capital already detached from land,” as McKenzie Wark theorizes in A Hacker Manifesto, the value inherent in blog posts has little to do with their association with a particular blog, but rather the ideas they inspire in any given reader. In other words, where you read a blog post is not as important as the author’s ability to transfer their ideas to you.

One of the prerequisites necessary to transfer ideas from one individual to another is exposure; if you never read this blog post, there is no possibility that the idea I’m writing about will make it into your mind. As a result, I’m frequently flattered by requests from group blogging initiatives to join them. However, I am also perpetually confused by these requests.

My response to such requests is always the same: “My blog is expressly CC BY-NC-ND licensed, and offers full-text RSS feeds; if you ever see something you want to cross-post to your non-commercial blog, don’t ask me, just cross-post it, even in full, without alteration, and include a link back to the original post on my blog.” Cross-posting my content in this way is not just the Internet equivalent of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” your cross-post also functions as a distributed backup copy and even a censorship circumvention node for me.

So, for the love of good and worthwhile ideas, do not hesitate to copy my content and republish it elsewhere. In fact, as long as you are careful not to decontextualize it and you include proper attribution, I’d far prefer you cross-posted my writing than asked me to write something similar from scratch. In the former, you’re rewarding my ideas (you are not stealing), and in the latter, you’re forcing me to reinvent wheels.

If the tables were turned, which would you prefer to be asked?


(I originally authored this piece on May 25, 2011 over on one of my other blogs.)