Blog posts vs. web pages

2010-01-25 03:31:50 UTC

Steve Smith says “Stop Blogging”:

I mean it. All of you people are writing fantastic, useful articles about code, methods, and technologies, but you’re putting them in blog posts — a date-based format that encourages us to leave things as they were, historically.

This got me to thinking about the difference between two of the tutorials I’ve published.

The pointers tutorial is a single web page. There’s a date stamp, but it’s way down at the bottom. The ASL series is nine blog posts.

In the three years since the previous version of the pointers tutorial, dozens of people emailed me to tell me about its major errors.

In the two years since I published the last of the ASL series (ignoring approximately a week afterward), nobody has told me of an inaccuracy in any of the posts.

There are a number of possible explanations for the ASL series receiving fewer (that is, no) corrections:

  • That its audience is narrower: Anyone who programs C has to deal with pointers. Only a very few Mac OS X programmers will ever touch ASL.
  • That it is less visible: One of these is linked from my home page and plenty of CS course reading lists (exhibits A, B, C, and D), and was linked for a while from the Wikipedia article on the C programming language; the other is practically unknown to anyone who wasn’t subscribed to my blog at the time.
  • That I’m just that good. (Ha!)
  • That ASL hasn’t changed at all since Leopard. (Ha!)

Smith writes from the perspective of the author and publisher, who must maintain a web page; he says that the author and publisher finds no (or not much of) such obligation for a blog post. I think the difference in my supply of corrections hints at a reader side to this, although, as shown above, my two examples are hardly comparable.

I have been meaning to move the ASL tutorial into a pointers-style web page at some point, although I don’t know when. I may start receiving corrections then, which means I’ll have to spend time to fix them. The flip side to that is that if I leave it as blog posts, I’ll have that time for other things, but the posts will be consigned to periodically-increasing inaccuracy.

I expect to think more about Smith’s suggestion.

There’s also the merit of the word “blog”, which is wearing thin for me.

3 Responses to “Blog posts vs. web pages”

  1. ssp Says:

    I agree with the sentiment. Yet, the ‘argument’ isn’t quite convincing to me. There’s nothing that keeps you from editing and improving blog posts. _If_ there is a problem it’s that search engines seem to prefer the ‘new’ and that the whole ‘feed’ scene does as well, which may mean that changes to ‘historic’ material are lost.

    On the other hand the great thing about blogging software, as you will be well aware, is that it’s _easy_. You click new entry, you type, you click post, you’re done. Setting up a specific web page may require a lot more work and mean that you won’t make the effort as a consequence.

    Perhaps it’d be enough if blogging software could provide a way of specially ‘staging’ certain posts, by giving them special URLs and using a different design. I suspect you can actually achieve just that with standard blogging software (say by using categories) I haven’t tried doing it because I thought a blog post is just ‘good enough’. If the search engines are too stupid to find it _they_ should improve…

  2. Justin Williams Says:

    I’ve thought about this in passing as well as my blog musings have gone from being more long-form, and less time sensitive. The problem I find with date-based posts is that if I find a blog post that dates back to 2007 or earlier, I immediately dismiss it from the start. I may still read it, but I feel the content is already dated just by looking at its URL.

    So instead of having a tutorial on NSGradient at /2008/05/12/nsgradient_tutorial/ it would instead be at /article/nsgradient_tutorial/, which seems more future proof.

    Having said that, it’s not something that has bugged me enough to update my URL scheme and deal with the hassle of redirecting content.

  3. Peter Hosey Says:

    Justin Williams:

    … if I find a blog post that dates back to 2007 or earlier, I immediately dismiss it from the start. I may still read it, but I feel the content is already dated just by looking at its URL.

    Yup. This is related to (possibly the cause of) what I mentioned in relation to the ASL posts: They’re old, so people expect inaccuracy, so people don’t report them.

    So instead of having a tutorial on NSGradient at /2008/05/12/nsgradient_tutorial/ it would instead be at /article/nsgradient_tutorial/, which seems more future proof.

    I’ve wanted to do that since the beginning of this journal (“blog”), but didn’t because there could be duplicate permalinks. Nowadays, WordPress enforces that all stubs must be unique, so I can do that. I’d just have to make sure to redirect existing links.

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