Should you ever edit or delete blog entries?

Over at her always-interesting blog Contentious, my friend and colleague Amy Gahran published a very interesting article this morning while watching the sophomoric behavior of various BlogHer conference attendees: Rewriting blog history: Bad idea.
She notes:
“I’ve seen this happen many times: Someone posts something in haste to a weblog. He later regrets it, recognizes an error or embarrassment, or is criticized for it – and then deletes the post in equal haste, hoping that erases the event and no one noticed.
“While that may seem like a safe strategy (as long as you delete the post quickly, before it gets indexed by search engines), it’s actually a very bad idea. In my experience, it’s wisest to assume that anything you post online will live forever, regardless of whether you delete it from it’s original location.”
[ironic that she’s written “it’s original location” when it should be “its original location”. Will Amy fix that typo, or does that violate her basic premise that blog postings should be left intact?]

I read her article with great interest and concluded that her main point is that you shouldn’t edit blog postings once they’re online, but I find that I just don’t agree with her.
To be explicit, I agree completely with her “think twice before posting” recommendation, I don’t think I agree with never editing or changing your blog entries without explaining what you’ve changed.
The trivial case is fixing spelling, typos, bad URL links, grammatical lapses, and other stuff. Those should always be fixed and corrected, in my opinion, to make reading your content easier and more enjoyable and, oh yeah, to ensure you’re communicating more effectively too.
First example off the top of my head: if you post on behalf of a company and inadvertently release forward thinking or other SEC-violating content, well, yeah, you better get rid of that ASAP, as best you can. That it’s in archives and caches is rather unfortunate, but that’s the infrastructure of the Internet and we all have to live within its constraints, just as “recalling” a book because it contains libelous content doesn’t eradicate all copies of the book forevermore.
While we’re on this theme, what about if you come home from school and are just furious at another kid, so you post something about how you hate “J.J.” and would love to see him run over by a bus. Then you cool off and realize how dumb that was. Amy seems to suggest you leave it and post a follow-up message, but I suggest that the posting be deleted as soon as possible and hope that you learn not to post such content in the future.
On the bigger question of revising blog entries, my suggested compromise, since I don’t want to be too [ahem!] contentious, would be to delete or alter the content you want to change, then add an update note that doesn’t directly reference the old, inappropriate content, but does acknowledge that the entry has been changed subsequent to its original publication.
I suggest something like “Update: I realize that some of what I wrote originally was unnecessarily catty, and have update it to better reflect my thoughts and feelings.”
Having said all of that, I’ll admit that I do pop back into blog entries and edit, update, or revise the content, not always with a disclaimer.
To me, the key question is whether you change the fundamental message much more than the wording, spelling, grammar, or even what sites you choose to include as links. If I post that “X is true” and later realize it’s not, then revising the post to say “I thought X was true, but it’s not, as explained [here]” makes a lot more sense to me than posting a followup article.
As bloggers, we have freedoms and capabilities that are far beyond print journalism and publications. It doesn’t make sense for us to avoid utilizing them because of some sense of obligation to the historical archive.
What do you think?

10 comments on “Should you ever edit or delete blog entries?

  1. I am fascinated by this and aligned topics. The blogosphere is in its infancy so I believe its culture and modes of operating will evolve — and will not be one-size-fits-all. I am looking forward to watching this evolution and am curious when people have already decided the “rules” so early in the game. Wonder why we can’t let it be more fluid for now?

  2. I think it’s perfectly fine to fix typos…such as correcting to the actual URL,
    I also think it’s perfectly appropriate to add updates if you get more information.
    I would prefer people use the strike-thru vs. deleting when correcting something.
    And I think plain old deleting of posts just isn’t useful, because it’s only a false sense of security anyway!
    But the main thing is: if you’re going to go in and edit content in any kind of meaningful way, even if you choose not to use strikethru tags and just change stuff, I think a disclaimer is called for and should be issued.

  3. Ok, now that I’ve had a chance to read your post, you’ve made some good points.
    In a nutshell, my point is that if you remove all or part of a posting with the hope of pretending it never happened, you’re begging for someone to call you on it and thus causing an even bigger flap.
    You wrote: “if you post on behalf of a company and inadvertently release forward thinking or other SEC-violating content, well, yeah, you better get rid of that ASAP, as best you can.”
    Yep, I agree — but personally if I made a mistake like that I wouldn’t pretend it never happened. I’d just say something to the effect of “I’ve revised this post to remove some information I shouldn’t have published.”
    Also, I’m not saying you should necessarily leave libelous or hurtful comments online if you regret them. Go ahead and remove them if you want. Apologizing publicly would be a good idea too. But trying to act like it never happened is, IMHO, asking for more trouble.
    So I think we’re basically on the same page here: If you’re making a substantive edit, at the very least acknowledge the change and the rationale. Right?
    – Amy Gahran

  4. An interesting discussion — which boils down to think before you hit… and then keep thinking as you edit… Thanks for the exchange and answers to questions to too held about the blog.

  5. Interesting topic. I don’t hesitate to edit my posts in order to correct typos or grammatical wonkiness. I agree though, that if there’s a substantive change, it should be explained.

  6. Question about Business Blogging.
    I am about to open a new business (hopefully) and was told that blogging can really help – not only with website rankings but for more interest. So, my question comes to this.
    If you do a business blog, should you ever delete or edit a customers bad entry about the business? If so, under what circumstances? If no, what if you could tell he was from a competitor and just trashing your business?
    Second question, when should you open a business blog? Immediately when your business opens or after some time? Any suggestions here?

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