Wargaming Tradecraft: Citing Your References

Citing Your References

Ever come across a photo on a blog and think "Wow, that's awesome!" but have no idea who made it, or where to look for more of it's greatness? Do you assume the blog's author is the creator? Have you ever seen your own art displayed somewhere and think "Gee, I wish they at least linked to me." What about breaking news? How many sites do you see that say "I read this over at [insert current pop news site]." or simply "via [news site]"?

That's right, not many.

Citing references isn't just a common courtesy - it's how you avoid all sorts of ugly accusations like "plagiarist" or simply "thief". I know I've missed some here and there, but for the most part, I make a point of giving artists and websites credit for their work. It really takes no time at all to add a reference somewhere in your articles, and I'm going to look at a few ways to do so. These won't be "official" ways, which probably vary from country to country; just simple methods to make it clear you didn't create something that's not yours and ensure people get credit for their work as well as cover your own butt. Technically, often legally, you should be asking permission before posting anyone else's content. (which again is different from country to country, art vs news, etc, but still at a minimum a courtesy) This is especially true if you're profiting from the use of this other person's content, which in many cases will include simple banner ads. (If someone really wants to make a case against you - "simple banner ads" have been the downfall of many a torrent site because no matter what side of the P2P debate you're on, paid advertising allows the argument "They're profiting from our content.")

If I came across this photo on a website, (one I'm particularly proud of, no photoshopping besides a vertical inversion) I would expect to see someone giving me credit for it. If someone was making money by using my image without permission, I'd have more problems with it.

In Google Blogger, the image handle that appears when you cursor over an image has a link near the right side "Add caption".
This will throw your image in a table, with a line below it where you can write something about the image.

image from Nplusplus
That's what I consider the bare minimum for citation.
You should actually take it a step further and link back to the original place you found the content.

image from: http://nplusplus.deviantart.com/gallery/7470463#/d1qjs8p
image from Nplusplus
Obviously, to save space, it's cleaner to just create a link.

When referencing content that exists on a website, you're generally supposed to add the date you found the information, due to the ever changing nature of the internet. (This is usually just when citing a research source though, so those interested know how up to date your data is.)

If your blog platform doesn't have an "Add caption" option, you're not technically skilled enough to create the table and caption area yourself or it's just not reasonable due to formatting, you can still cite your content - maybe in bracket's ( ) [ ] or italics.

You could place the reference in-line with your article's text, near where the image is.

For example, pretend that right now I'm talking about something in regards to that image - maybe about how this is the same lake from the first Canadian $20 bill, how I climbed some of those mountains, pointing out the glacier in the top or how I took that sitting in a canoe. [image on the left by Nplusplus] Then we just go on talking about other stuff. Blah, blah, blah, lantz, blah, blah.

If you don't want citations ruining the flow of your article, you could place all citations for all images/content at the end of your article. If you do this, you should probably include a description of each that you're sourcing.

[Art above from other sources: Reflection photo by Nplusplus]
[Art above from other sources: "Reflection_by_NPlusPlus.jpg" by Nplusplus]

Taking this a step further, if you use an image from someone that's a picture of someone else's work, you should cite both artists. In the following photo, if you simply said "from Nplusplus" and linked to the page you found it on, it would imply I was also the sculptor.

Foule Illuminée sculpted by Raymond Mason
photo by Nplusplus
Instead, place all relevant information with the citation. You might even have a case where you cite the photographer of a model wearing a costume made by someone(s) else... which sometimes isn't easy, especially if you're taking pictures at some sort of convention. If you decide to post content for which you don't have all the information, at least make it clear that it's not your own work - maybe "Photo by me, model unknown."

Text citations should be handled the same way, be it a quote or a reference to an existing webpage. Both should be encased in "quotations" and often formatting is used to make them stand out from your work, such as using italics, changing the font size, using another font type or

"giving them their own paragraph,"
"which is sometimes indented to stand out more."
At a minimum, the author, speaker, writer or website should be mentioned, with a link to the web page if applicable. Proper citation (for research, projects, assignments, or sounding like you actually know what you're talking about and want to be taken seriously) usually expects to have Author, Book Title, Publisher, Year and sometimes even a page number cited. (This extended information will usually be on a separate Works Cited page, while just author and possibly page number is left with where you use the quote)

You should also avoid editing quotes, though many editors will to add context, replacing words with descriptions in [square brackets] - for example, if a book was written about hobby websites, a chapter a site, the direct quote might be something like "That place is helpful for a lot of people." - but if that sentence was from a chapter on my site, it's missing the context and is a little confusing. It would probably get edited to read "[Wargaming Tradecraft] is helpful for a lot of people."

This also applies if you're regurgitating news that you've read somewhere - If you read on a website that Games Workshop's announced a hot new item, and want to let your own readers know about it, you should link to the website where you first read about it. (Not sourcing implies you found this out on your own)

[updateColonel Shofer and Kirby both point out that another way to reference images is to simply link the image to the original source. You can insert the image and point to where it sits on the other person's server "IMG SRC = "http://www.notyourserver.com/image.jpg" " or reupload the image to your site and then place an "A" tag around it and link to either the original image or page. The down side to just inserting the image as a link is if the person whose site it's hosted on removes or changes the image, your site is also changed; uploading the image to your server first has the benefit that your content remains the same.

Dethtron also has a valid point that depending on the laws where you're from, you can use publicly displayed images to certain extents. This includes modifying or displaying them without permission. Usually you still can't profit without permission though.

[Update] Asking Permission / Paying for References

Just adding this to give another perspective to people on the topic of going a step beyond just citing references. A journalist and photographer recently got some media coverage over some views they shared regarding citations without permission. Long story short, so you don't have to click the link:

The wife of the creator of Angry Birds wore a dress styled like the red Angry Bird.
Photographer takes pictures at a formal event.
Many prestigious media outlets then use his pictures, without permission, to write their own stories. Only one offered to pay, but backed out when they found the cost. Others asked permission after being caught, but still no offered of compensation. (Until lawyers got involved)
"From aggregates such as Huff Post / Mashable  etc. you sort of expect nothing...
...But for crying our loud: LA Times? Pulizer Prizes and all…"
"Matti has three kids and his images bring the bread and butter to the table. "
It's true... the big button topic these days being the downloading of music and movies... whether you dis/agree on them at a personal level, you have to at least realize that artists deserve something for their work. Why not treat photographers the same? Their equipment costs money, as does their travel, food, credentials, time, etc.

Now, I'm not actually this zealous about citing, and I'm not going to pay someone $200 to use a photo of a woman in an Angry Birds dress on my blog. But I'm not making a business on reporting up to the minute breaking news. I'm not even a business, nor am I profiting from this site. Images I grab have typically been around for a while, aren't in high demand and have been made available online. I cite my references and I don't edit out signatures and watermarks. Again, I just wanted to tag this on to this article to give another perspective on the whole using other peoples works thing.

Of course, y'know what I don't see? Anybody citing who made that dress. As long as we're going to nit-pick about giving credit where it's due, lets not leave anybody out.


  1. oh man, I don't think I've cited a single photo on dick move. I just use way too many photos and can barely squeeze in the time needed to write articles right now. does that make me a bad person?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. sorry, clipped link



  4. @Dethtron: Kinda, but that's already implied by your blog title ;) But at least it's not implied they're your creations.

    @CS: My response there :)

  5. "But at least it's not implied they're your creations."

    One time I used MS paint to superimpose a werewolf over a culver's restaurant for the blog....that was wort of my creation. but it was technically used to make a piece of art (collage), so that's that's fair use, right....

  6. Nah, that'll be your grammar. :D

    I think web professionalism is something you can develop as you go. Dave's article is great as it builds awareness.

    Awareness is a prerequisite for improvement.

  7. I generally link the photos back to their original source through the pictures themselves. I find it's one of the easiest ways whilst still providing reference.

  8. @"Weird" Al "Dethtron" Yankovic: I'm not as concerned over the legals of it, so much as seeing people getting credit for their work.

    @Shofer and Kirby: Good points, both, I've updated the end of the article.

  9. @Dethtron: actually, it's also a good point, which I've also updated.

  10. Nice article.
    I've actually seen pics of my minis on other sites, asked to get some credit and still the Author dis not post something up.

    Disappointing really.
    Ron, From the Warp


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