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.
“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?