Explaining Substantive Edits: Good Idea (Rewriting Blog History, Part 2)

Yesterday’s post, Rewriting blog history: Bad idea, sparked some interesting discussion in its comments thread and in other weblogs (by Dave Taylor, Tom Simpson, and Kent Newsome).

I realized through this conversation that I hadn’t expressed my thoughts clearly enough, so here’s a second go at it.

From my perspective, it’s perfectly fine to change your mind and revise, retract, or clarify your statements, whether on a blog or elsewhere. In fact, I’m writing this post for exactly that purpose.

I also think it’s a good idea to revisit postings to fix typos, tighten up sentences, etc. — and if those nit-fixes don’t substantially alter your meaning, no need to point them out.

That said, in my experience it is indeed almost always a bad move to delete statements or postings without acknowledgment or explanation. I’m not talking about minor edits — I’m talking about trying to make content “disappear” and then acting like it never existed.

That strategy is almost certain to backfire — causing a bigger fuss than a simple explanation would have done, and possibly damaging your reputation or credibility in the process.

In short, ethical conduct online means owning up to what you publish — even if you have to remove it. And there may well be good reasons to remove it (legal, factual, ethical, social, and so on).

Here’s a fairly recent example from my own experience…

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Rewriting blog history: Bad idea

(UPDATE AUG. 2: This post sparked intriguing followup and conversation by Dave Taylor, Tom Simpson, and Kent Newsome. I realize I needed to clarify something about the point I’m making here, which I did in this followup posting.)

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 its original location. (Note: I fixed a typo in that sentence. Thanks for spotting it, Dave Taylor.)

Here’s why that’s so…

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Links for my URMA talk

On Wednesday, May 17, I’ll be giving a talk at the annual conference of the University Reseach Magazine Association (URMA). They seem like a fun group of media professionals. (Seriously — their conference agenda even features the Creature from the Black Lagoon!)

The topic of my talk is: Invasion of the bloggin’ pods: The new media – ready or not, they’re here! (So whatta we do with ‘em?)

I already warned URMA: I don’t do lectures, so the people attending this session had better be ready to get involved.

Here are some links I plan to mention in my session…

(Read the full article at The Right Conversation…)

Corante\’s Comment Spam Problem

I often read the weblogs offered by Corante, because they mostly choose excellent, thoughtful writers representing a broad range of expertise. They’re rather nicely designed blogs too, with decent usability and readabilty. Obviously some people over at Corante know a few things about doing blogs well.

Why, then, is comment spam such a pervasive problem on Corante blogs? That’s like making a nice dinner and then just dumping it directly on the table in front of your guests, without a plate – an unnecessary and disturbing mess.

Here’s what I mean…

(Read the full article at The Right Conversation…)

Are \”target audiences\” a problem?

Wow, I’m gratified that my recent Right Conversation post on strategic commenting attracted so much attention – including praise from the famous Apple-maven-turned-venture-capitalist Guy Kawaski!

I’ve been slamming on several client projects lately, but right now I’m going to take a few minutes to address some of the points raised in the rich comment thread that article spawned.

On May 2, Jeffrey Treem of Edelman PR spoke up to disagree with my use of the “target audience” concept. Here’s what he said…

(Read the full article at The Right Conversation…)

Hunting the elusive usable bliki: Translation, please?

Just a quick note: I’ve written before about one of my personal “Holy Grails” of the internet: a really usable bliki.

Today the German weblog Examensblog published what appears to be an excellent overview of the current state of the quest to develop a superior bliki tool.

I say “appears” because the article is in German. Sadly, like most Amercians, I only read English (to my great embarrassment). I did a quick-and-dirty Babelfish automated translation, which was enough to tell me that this is an article I really, really want to read.

So I would dearly love to see this article translated into English – or at least summarized in English.

If any German-fluent Contentious readers want to take a stab at this, I’d be very grateful!

…OK, so what’s a bliki?…

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Trailblazing Your Blog, Backward and Forward

One of the reasons blogs can be so engaging is that they evolve and interact through time. We get to see how things change. In that sense, many blog postings can be considered snapshots of a world, event, or issue in progress.

However, each posting also stands on its own, residing at a unique and permanent web address (URL). When looking at a single, static posting, it can be difficult to follow the tendrils that stretch forward and back in time to other postings in that blog. Which postings were the precursor to this one, and which were the follow-up?

One way to make it easier for people to engage with your weblog over time is to make sure you blaze a trail for postings that bear a direct sequential relationship. And I can attest from my many hiking expeditions, a well-blazed trail can be easily followed in either direction.

Here’s how you can do it, in your blog…

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Egg on my face about Alexa stats

UPDATE MARCH 13: Well, it happens to every blogger sometime. Yesterday, when I posted this article (originally titled “Alexa’s ‘reach’ stats: More like ‘stretch'”) I got something pretty significant wrong. I was misinterpreting what the Alexa graphs actually communicate. Mea culpa, and apologies to Alexa and my readers. If you read the article below, don’t miss the comments thread, where a couple of my readers kindly clarified my error. Well, fortunately I view mistakes as an important part of learning. 🙂

Here is the original article…

Over the past few months I’ve seen articles, postings, and discussions concerning various aspects of online media tout site statistics offered by Alexa.

I’ve gotta tell you: I think something’s really wacky with Alexa’s stats – especially their “reach” benchmark.

Check this out. Here’s the Alexa “daily reach” results for Contentious over the past few months:

Alexa stats: Contentious daily reach as of March 12, 2006

OK, so according to Alexa, this humble little weblog you’re reading right now has recently had a “daily reach” as high as 58% of web users!!!

That’s flattering, but let’s get real. I see my server logs. There is no way I am reaching that many people. I do well with traffic to this blog, but Alexa’s figure is in the realm of utter fantasy. And it’s not even my fantasy!

So if you see people citing or touting Alexa statistics, here are some things to bear in mind…

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Monday: BBC Radio covers women in podcasting

On Monday, March 13, the BBC Radio 4 program Women’s Hour will be covering the topic of women in podcasting. It’ll be a panel discussion, with audio clips from various shows hosted or co-hosted by women.

Here’s the Women’s Hour web site. They archive their shows in streaming format. After this episode is archived online, I’ll post a link.

If you’re interested in this topic…

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Blog Bubble Bursting? Get a Grip

“The blogosphere is falling! The blogosphere is falling!” Well, so says Daniel Gross in Slate’s “Twilight of the Blogs” – the latest in a flurry of mainstream media articles about how the business potential of weblogs is allegedly imploding.

Actually, the above was a paraphrase. Here’s what Gross actually said:

“As a cultural phenomenon, blogs are in their gangly adolescence. Every day, thousands of people around the world launch their blogs on LiveJournal or the Iranian equivalent. But as businesses, blogs may have peaked. There are troubling signs – akin to the 1999 warnings about the Internet bubble – that suggest blogs have just hit their top.”

This is only true if one considers the primary – and sole – business potential of blogs hinged on direct monetization strategies such as ads, subscriptions, and sponsorships. OK, I’d expect such a shortsighted view from someone who works within the mainstream media structure, which derives its revenue mainly from ads.

But here’s the bigger picture of blogs and business value…

(Read the full article at The Right Conversation…)