Yes, I want my writing to be dated!
I just finished migrating both this blog and my programming blog from Octopress 2 to Hugo. During this process, I made sure to preserve my old URLs as well as Disqus, because nothing is as distressing to me, as a reader, as moved or broken links when I’m looking for old blog posts.
That said, there’s always the possibility of changing the “real” URLs and
just using an alias with a URL redirect for the sake of old URL
schemes. One possibility was to remove dates from my URLs, e.g.,
change something like
Gemmell, among many others, has argued for permalinks that do not
include the clutter of embedded dates.
However, I made the decision years ago, when I had the choice, to keep the embedded dates, and I still stand by my decision today. Here’s why.
Are embedded dates actually bad user-interface design?
I’m not sure long date-embedded permalinks are really so bad visually:
- Nobody goes around having to manually type in these links anyway.
- I believe that in the long run, people actually do care about the date, and having it in the URL makes it that much easier to know the date.
- Redundancy can be a good thing, if it exposes useful information that in theory one could determine more indirectly.
The bigger philosophical issues
However, the main reason I deliberately choose to expose the date of a post is that I disagree with Matt Gemmell’s statement that one should prefer to boost one’s article’s “standing” by giving the impression that one is making a “definitive goddamned opinion” on a topic, some kind of timeless statement.
I understand that there are people who would be swayed by this psychological trick, and I totally confess that sometimes when I do a Web search and up pops a link to a four-year-old post, I wonder whether to read something else instead that might be more “relevant”.
But as a reader who seeks genuinely useful information, no matter how recent or old, I overcome my initial twinge at encountering an “old” article, and check it out for its own merits. And often, I find that it is just fine. For example, there are some fantastic Haskell blogs filled with information still useful today. For example:
- Any of Dan Piponi’s articles are great, e.g., a random 2009 article
monoids and their uses,
with an ungainly URL of
- Any of Gabriel Gonzalez’s articles are great, e.g., a 2012 article
with the URL
Furthermore, the dating is actually useful because once you see another article by the same author with a different date, you know which one came first and can retrace the history of the author’s thinking just throw the URL. In fact, I track my own history through the fact that on my file system, my posts are in alphabetical order according to date.
The reality and humanity of transience
Finally, the main fact I want to emphasize when I write is precisely that I am not giving my definitive opinion about anything.
I have no “forever” opinions about any topic!
I change my mind as I continue to grow and learn, and I want my writing to reflect that, and in a way such that a reader can easily track what changed and when. I do not write to give an illusion that I am writing eternal truths. I do not write in order to be an authority on a topic, but to share a snapshot of what I understand at a particular moment in my life. When I change my mind, I do often go back and add a dated update section linking to a new article.
I have retained dated permalinks for my migrated blogs, despite some voices that argue otherwise, because of the extra information they provide.
Do you agree that dated permalinks are worth the ugliness or not? Is this your opinion as an author, a reader, a critic, or a search engine user?comments powered by Disqus