Web Citations are Broken, Here’s a Fix

Today I’m happy to announce I finally got around to releasing the MovableCite code on GitHub.  MovableCite began as offering a simple javascript plugin for writers, bloggers, and journalists who quote websites but want to make sure their citations stay up-to-date, even when the remote site changes, adds, or updates facts or fixes mispellings.

However, the bigger implication is to allow remote websites to correct themselves if they’ve accidentally been quoted citing facts that are inaccurate or that have been updated upon further investigation.  Think of it like an easy, unobtrusive, way to create read/write < blockquotes >.

My original blogpost from earlier this year frames the problem in more detail:

One of the ideas I’ve been mulling about recently is how to solve the problem of updates to articles after they’ve already been quoted and reposted by other websites or blogs. You find my entry to the MoJo Challenge here.

This problem affects the news industry in a big way as journalists, bloggers, and other media groups can end up inadvertently propagating outdated information.  So the idea with the MovableCite project is to create an easy, open way for one website to communicate to another, to check for updates to specific portions of text that may have been quoted.  

Here’s a list of some of the projects that offer page change notification as a service: changedetection.com, changedetect.com, femtoo.com, followthatpage.com, websnitcher.com,  watchthatpage.com, feed43.com, and one from Google.

However, as far as I know, this specific problem remains unsolved.  The existing solutions mentioned above require the user to monitor alerts or notifications that will make them aware of changes.  However that means a human has to monitor, understand and then make the required changes and humans don’t scale very well. None of these will make the changes for them, and using RSS or XML doesn’t work for people who are quoting specific portions of a text body.

MovableCite was developed with my friend Ahmed Maawy in Kenya and we’re looking forward to seeing how it evolves as an open source project.  If you are a journalist or blogger who is using Movable Cite, join us on our Google Group.