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Peeking At Code: Tynt Tool for Linktribution

cc licensed flickr photo shared by hangdog

Ah, there is nothing like the smell of serendipity in the morning…

One of my favorite things in looking at web sites is finding some secret or some method entangled in the HTML of the source code of the page. I love view source. I love the tags. Color me geek.

I was looking at this story on Wired Gadget Lab about a new Samsung ebook being shown at CES that offers potential for not only reading content, but also writing/annotating on it.

In doing my delicious tagging, I noticed the key descriptive sections are in two different parts of the page; so my method is to copy the second section to my clipboard (select, command C), then hilite the first section, hit the TAG button (I used the firefox extension). The tool inserts the hilited text i the description field, and then I paste in the second part.

But I noticed for the pasted section (trying it twice) that it keep appending at the bottom a link back to the story; e.g. text that was not copied from the page. Hmmm, is it picking it up from some hidden color text on the page? No.

So I just start copying different paragraphs from the body text of the wired page, paste it into my text edito, and no matter what section I copy, it appends:

Read More

Ahhh, the brain (and coffee) kicks in– they have some widget in the web page that detects when something is copied, and somehow adds to it. Sneaky! Time for Underdog, Command U (view source in Firefox).

I start scanning the source (ugh, it is 2010, do you think Firefox might actually make the view source window wrap the code?). The first surprising things is… woah, the site is run in WordPress! All the tell tale signs are there, plus the generator tag:

Woah, Wired, you better update your WordPress- current version is 2.9.1, do you need help with that?

Wow, they have a lot of javascript thingies in their <HEAD> but it does not take too long to find this:

And thus I am now looking at the Tynt Tracer web site. It seems more geared to people who want to know how much their lofty words are lifted from the web page:

Insight into the “copy and paste” phenomenon.

Your content is likely copied far more than you realize.

Depending on the site, up to 6% of page loads results in a user copying content. While this may not sound like much, think of it this way: on a site that has 20 million page views per month, content is copied over one million times during any given month. That’s a lot. How do we know this? Tynt’s patent pending Insight technology is currently running on hundreds of thousands of web sites and monitors billions of page loads per month.

Since the average content copied is between 200 and 300 words, even a site with only 100,000 page views would have up to 3 million words leave the site via copy each month (not to mention all the images!). That’s also a lot.

So what they offer is some javascript code you can add to the header of your blog or web site (you need a self-hosted site where you can edit the templates). It adds the capability to append to copied body text the link back to your original source, and also does some tracking of the copy activity.

What I also liked is there is an option to also append a creative commons license of your choice to the copied text.

I’m trying it out now on CogDogBlog, so if you copy any text from my pages, it will be appended on pasting with:

Read more at CogDogBlog:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Maybe it is annoying for the copier to get something they did not copy? Maybe it helps spread the linktribution meme?

Cool or not?

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Hey Alan, thanks for tracking us down! If you or your readers have any questions, please post and we will do our best to answer.


    Derek from Tynt

  2. I’m really interested to see how people react to this. I stumbled across Tynt last week through some investigation into ways to report content reuse of OERs. While their own positioning of it smells almost like DRM, as you say, the other way to look at it is spreading the linktribution meme. Just wondering how people will react to a script that causes something in addition to *what they actually selected and copied* to be put in their clipboard/pasted. I can see that ticking some folks off (maybe even myself included)

  3. I had the same thought Scott, which is why I am trying it here on the personal blog before using for any work related sites. Welcome to me dirty laboratory.

    I can see people wanting to use this for several reasons, like you suggest, it seems positioned so you can “track” where your stuff might be used or to know when/how often people are copying body text from your web page.

    However, I am cautious as it alters the expected behavior when you use your mouse and command C to copy text- it gives you something you did not copy.

    For my uses, I am usually copying text to insert (and edit, and link) into other web pages, so it is mixed- I get the URL which I can then re-edit. If I was copying a description of an article to send by email, it makes nice to provide the link as well.

    But I would bet a paycheck it will be a mixed bag of reactions, a nice add for some, an irritant to others, and a whole lot of people in the middle you will never know where they land.

    I’ll try it, and I am curious to see what is monitored, but probably wont keep it long term (plus its another call to a remote script).

  4. @scott and @alan – We want to make sure we are respectful of people’s privacy, so we don’t track personally identifiable information (as you can see in the dashboard when you log in). The attribution link itself can be turned on or off by the site owner in the settings. The way we encourage our publisher partners to think of this is not as a copyright tool, but as a way to help generate links back to your content and draw in new readers, in addition to understanding what your readers are finding most valuable in your content.

    Individual site owners can set an opt out link for anyone who would like Tynt to ‘go to sleep’ when they visit the site. (i.e. the opt out for the SF Gate is here:

    More info on how to not have Tynt monitor you is available in our FAQs here (we are working on a globla opt out but it isn’t ready yet):

  5. Thanks for the rapid response, Derek, and those examples. I just peeked at the dashboard, and what I like is it is a different measure than just counting page hits; the action of copying content seems to suggest a different metric.

    For me, I am more interested in having the attribution; my interests are setting more examples for people to credit their sources– and you could consider this on the education angle as a research tool for students (and academics) to add a citation.

    I’m intrigued to see what comes from using it, thanks!

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