What’s a hat tip?

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A hat tip is an online gesture of respect and appreciation for someone who has contributed to a business or attracted attention. It originated from the nonverbal greeting of tipping one’s hat. It is commonly used in the blogging community as a way to credit and thank readers for finding something. Failure to acknowledge the source of information is frowned upon, and hat tips build a sense of community among users.

A hat tip is an acknowledgment to someone who has contributed to an online business. It is considered proper netiquette to offer a hat tip to someone who has attracted someone else’s attention, helped in setting up a website, and so on. It is given as a gesture of respect and appreciation, and is to be expected in many contexts. Even major media outlets such as newspapers and traditional TV shows occasionally give tips to their web users.

The origins of this gesture date back to the time when the hat was worn. When men saw each other, they were expected to tip their hats – or lift their hats – as a nonverbal greeting. The hat tip was a form of polite greeting that later entered the parlance, with people saying “I tip your hat” or mentioning that “a hat tip is due to…” when wishing to give someone credit or make a respectful gesture when a real hat wasn’t available.

Online, people seem to have started using “hat tip,” sometimes written simply as HT oh/t, in the early 2000s. A HT often comes in the context of giving credit for finding something. For example, if a reader draws a blogger’s attention to an article or event of interest, the blogger might write it down and say “tip your hat to reader X” as a gesture of thanks and appreciation. An HT can also include a link to the reader’s site or profile, which means it has promotional value as well.

Failure to acknowledge the source of a link or piece of information is not necessarily wrong, but it is frowned upon in some circles. People understand that the Internet is a very large place and it is not possible to keep up with everything on it, so even when information is publicly available for free, people may not be able to find it. If someone draws someone’s attention to something, tipping them with a hat is a polite way of thanking them. Hat suggestions also tend to build more of a community spirit, with site users feeling more connected and personally involved when they see one of their fellow users credited for finding something.

Community members are often happy to see themselves mentioned in suggestions. It lets them know that admins are paying attention to ideas submitted by users, and in some cases, it can demonstrate that admins are keeping up with the websites of at least some of their users. Tipping is especially common in the blogging community, where linking and networking are used as tools to build a blogging audience.

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