(Okay, some cleverpants out there is going to say, No, it’s to yourself. Or to your inner voice. Or to your calling. Wonderful. For all of you, just replace “first duty” with “second duty” – or third, fourth, fifth or eleventh, depending on how clever you’re being.)

This weekend, in the run-up to publishing my newest cartoon on ReadWriteWeb – about Facebook and privacy (also posted on the N2S site) – I posted this tweet:

Today’s @rww cartoon is an homage to famous @newyorker Internet dogs cartoon… should be up soon!less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Which I figured would serve most of the people reading it well. They probably know that iconic cartoon as the “New Yorker Internet dogs cartoon”.

But as cartoonist Liza Donnelly pointed out,

RT @RobCottingham:Today’s@rww cartoon is an homage to famous@newyorker Internet dogs cartoon// btw, that cartoon was drawn by Peter Steiner.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

I cringed a little as I read that, realizing that I’d basically assigned credit for one of the defining cartoons of the networked era to the magazine that published it, and not to the cartoonist who conceived, wrote and drew it. Good on the New Yorker for recognizing a great cartoon – but it was Peter Steiner’s creation, not theirs.

Yet if I’d used his name instead of the New Yorker’s, I’m guessing a lot fewer people would have known what I was talking about. The best solution would be to use both, of course… but that’s not always possible on Twitter, where you’re aiming not only to come in under the 140-character limit, but leave room for your user name so people can retweet you, and a little extra in case they’d like to add their two cents.

So, in sum: I instinctively credited the publication, not the cartoonist, because I wanted to serve my readers. But I ran afoul of professional courtesy, respect for creators and, let’s be honest, the golden rule: I’d be miffed to see my cartoon become identified with the place that published it, and not with me.

Which may actually be what it ultimately comes down to: how would I like to be treated – or tweeted – in someone else’s place?

Any thoughts, blogiverse?

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