The UK’s Guardian newspaper has been loudly trumpeting its Open Platform strategy for some time now. Allowing free access to the organisation’s news stories via an API is a characteristically open-minded and refreshing approach for the company at a time when many others are discussing, or indeed launching, paywalls to lock down their content.
Open Platform has led to interesting experiments from independent developers like Today’s Guardian and won praise from open web advocates and fans of cool, geeky stuff alike. The latest move under the Open Platform banner is a bit a mis-step though.
The Guardian’s News Feed plugin for WordPress is a reblogging tool. Once installed you can use it to embed full stories from the Guardian website into your own blog, adding your own commentary above it. Now reblogging isn’t new, sites like Tumblr and Posterous have popularised the concept of republishing parts of other people’s work while WordPress.com even has its own reblogging service. However, the way it’s executed here doesn’t sit well with me.
Reblogging tends to simply involve taking a snippet of a post and linking back to the original. Not here, The Guardian tool posts the entire article on your website, complete with ads.
While previous Guardian Open Platform endeavors have concentrated on allowing people to repurpose Guardian content in innovative ways, this seems to simply be simply about encouraging people to plaster Guardian articles all over the web. The Guardian certainly generates a lot of discussion-worthy stories, however the long-established way of dealing with them in a blog post is to simply link back to the original story.
Student journalist Daniel Bentley summed up the problem succinctly in a seriesoftweets this morning: “Simply reposting an entire Guardian article is bad practice, bad link economy, and it posts ads on my site. I think Open Platform is a great way to access data sets but I feel this is a misuse and will lead to a lazy precedent of reblogs. Just weird, pointless and promotes bad linking practice.”
What’s more, reblogging this way requires a ‘key’ from the Guardian to authorise your blog while should the original article be removed, it will be removed from your website too. In short, this makes referencing the Guardian a pointlessly long, difficult and convoluted experience. Most experienced bloggers are likely to ignore the tool and stick to a traditional and easy link back.
Open Platform was launched under the watch of Emily Bell, the Guardian’s director of digital content, who is shortly heading off to pastures new at Columbia University in New York. She’s led an open minded and progressive approach to digital news. Hopefully the company will continue down the same path after she leaves, and this reblogging tool doesn”t set a precedent of what’s to come.