Dave Winer & Mark Pilgrim recently had a dust-up over the propriety of changing the words in a blog once it's been posted to the web. Mark accused Dave of changing the wording (and meaning) of what he wrote on DaveNet post-posting. Mark set up a bot to periodically take a peak at Dave's blog and post a before & after whenever changes were made. Dave thought this underhanded and a copyright violation to boot. Vowing to get Mark, when Dave handed out his new business cards to some people, he would say "See what it says there? Harvard LAW School. We've got a lot of lawyers on our side."

The Dave & Mark Show is over for now, but the issue remains. Trend-setter Rebecca Blood thinks it dishonorable to recall what you've published, aside from fixing typos. Her logic is that you don't know who's already read the initial version. She says bloggers should treat errors the way the press does: Don't change the original; post a retraction.

By and large, I do not agree. I think of my blog in several different ways. I use it to voice my opinons, as I'm doing now.

I also use the blog as a reference source. It's a content management system. Some of my pages, e.g. How People Learn or Glossary, are collections of five years or more of links and content. Naturally, I prune the dead links. And if I change my mind, I may rewrite a section entirely.

Do I need to highlight new or changed material?

No. That gets into "How old is old?"

My eLearning Jump Page has more than a hundred links. My original links page pre-dates every link on the same page. Does it make any sense to highlight the entire page as having changed?

So be forewarned: I may change this posting tomorrow or five minutes from now or a year hence. Few things are permanent in the digital age.

Posted by Jay Cross at July 27, 2003 01:17 PM | TrackBack

Its an interesting topic!

My opinion is that you cannot change blog postings - apart from typos. Often I feel tempted to add a link or otherwise update a posting, however, I would rather follow the newspaper tradition, and add a new entry.

In cases of outright mistakes or regrets - that can happen - I think, contrary to Rebecca Blood, that its all right to completely delete a posting. You cannot, as a free blogger, be forced to maintain a posting if you yourself disagree with it. To that end, I have experienced that (not in a blog posting, but a plain HTML page) the use of one particular word, could be "S E X", has attracted unwanted search engine hits. Should I have renounce on that posting, I might have had to double the number of times that particular word appeared and thus doubled the number of unwanted visitors. I think in that case you better delete the entry.

In the past I guess, that in some cases I have even changed the meaning of a posting. Following this debate I would, in the future, think twice.

I very much consider my own blogs reference sources, like a CMS: its knowledge made explicit, public and searchable - for others and myself.

As for your "blog", Jay, I would not consider the pages in question, e.g. "How people Learn" or "Glossary" a blog posting. I consider such pages, whatever their technical format (that one may now comment on them, etc), plain HTML pages of a good site ;-) Keep them, update them, change for the better - do whatever is suitable. In regard of the discussion on blogging, I do not see the problem.

Best, Jesper

Posted by: Jesper Hundebøl at August 12, 2003 11:11 PM

"What is truth?"

Should a blog entry have the same words on the screen no matter when it's viewed? That would be "reliable," that is, replicable.

But what if I've changed my mind or found a better way to express myself? A revised blog entry would represent my current feeling better than the original, would it not?

If I read a post on someone's blog, I expect it to reflect how they feel now. I don't assume they've changed their mind since they wrote it several days ago. Unless I'm an attorney or forensic accountant to whom timing is of paramount importance, a revised blog entry is closer to current reality than the initial one.

Ted Nelson had a solution for this: track each and every change. His byzantine solutions never made it off the drawing board: It's not worth the hassle.

My blog will be like my resume, honest but changing to reflect the current spin. There's more than one way to tell a story.

When I read other people's words, I prefer an edited version to the discombobulated raw notes.

Maybe I'll start posting a revision date when I make major changes.

Posted by: Jay Cross at August 16, 2003 10:11 PM

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