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August 29, 2006

Blogs as history

Stephen Baker

Dave Taylor wonders whether bloggers should keep updating their old posts as stories change. His concern: that Web-searchers will come across old blog posts that proved to be incorrect and take them as gospel. I say that bloggers don't need to do that anymore than newspapers do. The value of an old newspaper story is that it gives us a view of how events were being seen that day.

Neville Chamberlain comes back from Munich and promises peace in our time. We read that clip for perspective from October of 1938. We don't need some addendum informing us that the Hitler turned out to be a cheating, murderous liar. Same goes for day-to-day coverage of the Iraq war, or even the JonBenet case. I think bloggers are too busy covering today to go back and fix a thousand yesterdays. Exceptions? I'd say that if a post contained incorrect info that turned out to be unfair to someone, it should be changed. Any other cases?

11:58 AM

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Posted by: Bltdstr at August 29, 2006 12:54 PM

I concur... if there's information that turns out to be blatantly false or libelous, that should probably be noted, but otherwise I don't go back and change history. I trust my readers are smart enough to look at the date of a post and treat it just as they would an old newspaper article.

Posted by: Aaron B. Hockley at August 29, 2006 01:10 PM

My answer: no and yes. I like the post as moment-in-time. However, it would be good to have wiki-like functions on blogs and good tagging and taxonomy so that each post can be viewed in context of all other stories related to the topic.

Posted by: Rex Hammock at August 29, 2006 01:11 PM

Fifty or so years down the road, if someone is looking to my blog seeking information on the history of journalism or public relations, he/she is a poor researcher.

Blogs, discussion boards, etc., are not meant to serve as records of factual history. History -- as in commentary and possible thoughts of the day -- yes, but not for the textbooks or *anything* similar.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Driehorst at August 29, 2006 01:13 PM

Blogs are tools, not sacred cows. My blog is my lifetime digital memory and I do update my old old posts, I just add the appropriate tag to point out the new things. I just hate the fact that some self-appointed "pundits" teach us how we should tell our stories.

Posted by: Dimitar Vesselinov at August 29, 2006 04:33 PM

Newspapers and blogs update stories daily and hourly as new developments warrant. That's why good papers and blogs never try to "write the book" on any topic in one story or series.

The history of the Medicare prescription drug act of 2003 continues to be updated on blogs and in papers as it is implemented and tested. So there's generally no need to update old stories, although I often suggest readers search on my blog for my posts on topics that I follow closely such as ethics, HSA and various financial topics.

Posted by: Donald E. L. Johnson at August 30, 2006 12:37 AM

if it contains stuff that's almost certain to become outdated in a few years, it should be updated.

jakob nielsen's articles on current trends get updated: you find stuff added in 2006 for articles written in like 1997. he winds up doing a lot of work you don't see.

Posted by: Warren Henning at August 30, 2006 03:24 AM

I suppose to some extent it depends on the blog's focus. My posts mostly focus on business best practices and innovative thinking in the work place. If we learn later that thinking regarding an earlier post has changed substantially we should, I think, either add to the earlier post or create an updated one. In most instances, however, I think updating posts is not necessary nor is it helpful.

Posted by: Lewis Green at August 30, 2006 09:49 AM

I agree with those, like you, who say that the past is the past and the present is the present. I don't feel the need to go back and revise. The only exception is where I've screwed up - then I'll go back and make a correction. Other than that I link back to older posts in current ones so as to provide context.

Posted by: Chris Thilk at August 30, 2006 03:04 PM

Where did the idea come from that a blog post was sacred and must never be altered, revised, or touched in any way?

This is a Blog Superstition, and now I think I'll compile a list of such sillinesses. Will make a good post. And I may change the post later.

Blogs are not history books or holy scriptures. I edit my posts all the time: typos, clarifications, added images, deletions, additions, whatever. Not systematically, but only when I feel like the post is needing it.

I don't blog much about time sensitive items or news stories. My posts are more philosophical, technical, etc. I don't change posts to reflect new products or anything.

But if I read a post, especially a recent post, and I regret a harsh word (imagine that!) or an unwise remark, or something that a hurried reader might misinterpret, I edit.

I use "EDIT UPDATE: [text]" usually in red type to stand out.

I know personal trivia bloggers who feel like it would be a crime against history and humanity to change or delete a blog post. This is pure narcissism and grandiose exaggeration, delusions of self importance.

"That's what I felt at the time, so that's what I wrote in my blog"...zzzzz. Boring. Who cares?

I know a case where someone wrote about neighbor children entering their home, going into their bedroom, and frolicking on their bed, looking for a cat.

This is not right. In this day and time, that's asking for trouble: if the children say you molested them, or even if they simply tell their parents about rolling around on the adult's bed, there could be panic and serious trouble.

So I said, delete that dumb post. They refuse. They think that would suck, and just make them look guilty.

So it's a touchy subject, but I don't know how a silly thing like a personal drivel blog post acquired its elevated, untouchable status.

I would not change the main message of a post, but I often polish, refine, tweak it.

I did that to "CEO Blogs: Polish Them Up Please", then months later a CEO of a billion dollar Canadian corporation quoted the whole thing and linked back to me.

So I'm glad I did change the post by improving the writing of it.

Posted by: Steven E. Streight aka Vaspers the Grate (as in abrasive, in a nice way) at August 30, 2006 05:15 PM

Stephen,

I don't like the idea of updating blog entries as much as reviewing them. On my blog, I spend a lot of space sharing investment ideas with my readers. In order to provide some sense of accountability, I try each weekend to go back about a year and review past discussions. This allows me as well as assists my readers in determining the usefulness of my blog posts.

Bob

Posted by: Robert Freedland at September 4, 2006 10:54 PM

Its like "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie first published on 1937 but its just as useful today as it was when it was first published. Dale Carnegie had insight and understanding of human nature that will never be outdated.

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