Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Editing a Published Post

I've got a very light homework load (I'm wary, because usually my professors like dump work on me to do over spring break), so I decided that I might as well blog. The only problem is, I don't have much that I can and want to review. And since I had a lovely weekend reading and re-reading articles others have posted on the process of blogging, I've been thinking about that subject quite a bit myself. Thus, you get yet another editorial, this time focusing on a subject slightly less known than spoilers but argued about no less passionately: editing published posts.

Girge doesn't actually have anything to do with this post, I just like him and he has a pretty face.



Okay, so first some background. For those of you who aren't bloggers and don't really have any idea what I'm talking about, there's this handy little "Edit Post" option accessible from pretty much everywhere. This let's you go back to the drawing board, so to speak, to revise, add to, update, or delete content from your posts. This is a really handy feature for news or rumor blogs especially, because it allows them to update a post with new information, without having to make a whole new post. There are those, however, that argue this feature shouldn't be used because it allows writers to change the meaning and purpose of their post. Let's say a writer made an argument in a post, then got a comment that destroyed one of his supports. They might then say, "Oh dang, I got owned. I need to change my argument." Then they proceed to use the edit feature and change their argument around so it is no longer made useless by that counter argument.

The same strike force that kills Russian ultranationalists also hunts down those who post spoilers and, more recently, those who edit excessively.
     A lot of people have problems with this kind of thing. Why? Well, two reasons, really. The first is that the author changed the content of the post. Imagine reading a book that had a whole bunch of research in it. You spent time and energy reading the book, and you may have even gotten a little involved in it. Now imagine the author of that book changing the research in it for some reason. Your time, energy, and personal involvement have just been disregarded by the author. You might even misconstrue (or correctly assume, but this is less likely) this as trivialization of your efforts. In any event, you probably wouldn't be too happy with the author, right? This is how changing the content creates problems for people; it suggests, whether or not the author actually intended to, a rather uncaring or even poor view of the readers in the author's eyes.
     The second reason is that it means two readers will be seeing different things. The first reader, the one who saw the unedited story, will have one view of the post. Going back to the first example, they saw the original argument. The second reader, however, will have a different view. They saw the edited, revised argument, and now have different thoughts on the author's argument, and beyond that the post itself and the author's capabilities. Perhaps a better example would be if someone posted an original poem on their blog. Poems are extremely condensed writing forms; every word matters. Suppose the author changed around a few words in the poem. The poem's meaning would then be drastically changed. Then different readers would get significantly different things out of the poem. The problem is that this is not because of different viewpoints, but because of different viewing material. If two people have disagreeing views on the author's points, that disagreement may arise from the author editing the points, and not from the two people actually disagreeing with each other.

     There are those that promote editing, however. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that, obviously, editing allows you to fix grammar and sentence structure. I am a writing tutor, so it should come as no surprise to you that I find good & proper grammar attractive in an article. I will sometimes post a comment on another site, find out that I misspelled a word, and I'll be depressed about it for days because I can't fix it. This also applies very much to me because I have very iffy internet settings, so I often write my posts in a bit of a hurry in an attempt to get them done before my own personal online cataclysm (i.e. losing a post) happens. And when you write in a hurry, chances are your grammar suffers. Another reason people like editing is that it sort of takes the pressure off. (Some) people don't feel like they have to labor over a post for hours upon hours to make sure it's absolutely perfect in every way and will never need revisions. Yet another reason people may appreciate the edit feature is that they view posts sort of like writing papers for school. You start with a draft, get some feedback, and make revisions. Using the argument example, the author views the destruction of their argument as feedback, and changes the post to make it better with revision suggestions under their belt.

Some people view the edit feature as a peaceful garden paradise which makes blogging easier all around.
     So there, that's the background, and now we can finally get to what I think (which I know you've all been waiting for with baited breath). I think that editing should be used, in moderation. I think most people will agree with me that making minor grammar changes (caps here, punctuation mark here, correcting incorrect tense usage there, fixing misspelled words here, etc.) is "okay." Such editing usually only serves to make posts better and easier to read, and it's not really like two readers will get significantly different views of something because of a few grammar corrections. Even changing a few sentences around to make the paragraph, section, etc. sound better is usually considered a minor and pretty easily acceptable offense. Where things get blurry is when you feel the need to change your argument (and indeed, every review, in the modern sense of the word, is an argument, at least as far as the writing is concerned). Is it alright to add things to your original post? I answer to this personally is no, not generally. If there is something major that I feel I must add, then I might consider adding it to the post, but I'd be nearly as likely to simply make it into a separate post. For example, if I were to do the episode-by-episode breakdown I said I might do with El Cazador De La Bruja, then I would make that into a separate post. Like with spoilers, I believe this is made more acceptable by denoting when you make updates (with strikethroughs, for example), but it's still a little questionable. For example, I edited this post a week after I published it, to add in that example about the poems. Now that I've denoted that I made the update, I feel a little better about making it. However, what about those readers who saw it in the first week after it was published? They didn't see the example about the poem, so maybe they thought that it only (or mostly) applied to the argument situation I described in my example. They may have a different view on the subject, or at least my post. And that's why I still consider it "questionable." (By the way, yes, I was planning on editing the post beforehand, so that I could do what I did.)

So, in which case do you think using the edit feature is acceptable? Do you think it should be reserved only for minor grammar adjustments, and unused otherwise? Should we be willing to view it like an essay, and revise & change things as much as we feel it necessary? Or should we never edit what we've written, leaving as it was when it was first posted for the greatest "purity" (or whatever other reason)?

16 comments:

  1. To tell the truth I've never thought of going back to change my text completely- only for grammar/spelling mistakes. If I want to add an argument that's where the comment section is utilized in maximum. So I haven't thought of others doing so... Tough question. I guess, that one that comes back to see an answer to a comment will notice and then if this misbehavior gets leaked out then the blogger is screwed...

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    1. I pretty much agree. I think most people, like I said, reserve editing for minor grammar & spelling errors like yourself. I do *occasionally* do a little more editing, like changing around a couple of sentences, but I prefer to avoid making any changes more major than that.

      The same is true for me; I've always wondered what others think precisely because I have such a hard time figuring out what others think is acceptable.

      Thanks for commenting! You have no idea how great seeing four comments at once was for me after a stressful day.

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  2. Editing is okay for grammatical errors and the like, but not for changing a statement that is invalid. I mostly use editing for "bone-headed" mistakes with regards to spelling and syntax error - yet I tend to think somewhat deeply before writing a post. Never would I use it to change a statement I made just to justify it. Personally, that is just a poor showing of character and does not make the persons creditability look any better. Well, what is left of it after all the taunting and what not the person is subjugated to is done.

    There is no question as humans we say/do some...er...unsound things at time and even more unsound to justify them. However, before doing anything editing or otherwise, it might be wise to think a little more. Before I hit "publish" on a post I make sure everything I said can be soundly justified and not ridiculously absurd. It is just asking for trouble if I do not.

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    1. I agree. If I'm going to make any substantial changes to a post, I think I'd rather just make a new post, or if that's not possible, at least leaving the original there with a strikeout and saying that I updated it. I fortunately have yet to do this, and I believe I've been saved a number of times from having to make major edits merely by reviewing (or overviewing) my posts at least once before I publish them (internet providing). And I also find the thought of editing an unsound argument to "fix" it rather unethical (in fact, this post's original title was "The Ethics of Editing a Published Post").

      As always, thanks for commenting and sharing your opinion!

      P.S. I'm really curious (and I may edit my post later ;) to ask this at the end) to know what you and everyone else thinks of "middle ground" editing - that is, changing around paragraph structure and sentences to make it sound better/stronger, but keeping the ideas and overall content the same. Is it the ideas that count, or the strength of the argument (going back to that first example)?

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  3. I admit that I'm quite critical and meticulous with my own work. I edit my work if I see grammatical and spelling errors. Even though many days already passed by and new posts are already out, I still go over and re-read my old ones and edit them if I have to.

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    1. I'm the same way. I'm constantly going back and re-reading posts. Not only does it help me catch grammar problems, but it also lets me re-evaluate what I've done.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  4. I'm on board with everyone on this. Strictly technical repairs (such as falty spelling and poor grammar and syntax broken) are perfectly acceptable in any situation, because these are the correction of errors--that is, accidents.

    If you're talking to someone while reading a book, and you inadvertently slip some of the words you're reading into your conversation--e.g., "Sure, I'll have mushrooms, and I poisoned the king with some breadsticks, as well"--the result is typically nonsense (and mirth). Rarely will anyone think you meant what you said or begrudge clarification. Likewise, if you refer to someone by the wrong name, title, or sex, it's barely a faux pas (in a lay setting, at least).

    If your words as written did not reflect your intent, the words should be changed. It's polite, but not necessary, to notate such changes in order to avoid reader confusion.

    On the other hand, if you said exactly what you meant, then going back and changing it is *not* making corrections. It's editing outright--and if the changes are not clearly notated, it's lying outright. (All of the below discusses editing, not making technical corrections, as there's little more for me to say about that.)

    Why lying? Because once made public, a work is assumed to remain in the state in which it was made public unless notated differently. If you change it, you implicitly claim that it was always in its modified state: that you changed nothing.

    A publicly-visible post is not an e-mail or the spoken word. It can be changed, and this is cool. However, if anyone reads it (and you must assume someone will), it's dishonest to change it without notating the change.

    That's my take on the ethics, basically. As for whether it's a good idea... Basically, no, but let's distinguish between adding/updating content, modifying the content, and removing some or all of the content.

    If you posted material that was harmful, offensive, illegal, or just unwise to post online (like your home address right before you go on vacation), get rid of it. Make a note that you removed it and explain why. Otherwise, modifying or removing content isn't a good idea, mainly because tastes vary and honor matters.

    Tastes vary. Creators often receive backlash for releasing new-and-improved versions of old works; some fans liked the original better, some enjoyed watching them grow as a creator and this spoils the effect, and some want the creator to make new stuff instead of dwelling on their old stuff. Purely from a content-as-content perspective, the more stuff you have on your blog, the more likely it is that removing any of it will annoy or alienate someone.

    Honor matters. If you said something really stupid and somebody pointed it out, don't hide it. Update the post or write a new one; explain your new perspective; leave the mistake present for all to see. This is the path of honor, and it earns respect. In particular, acknowledging your mistake and the person who revealed it to you usually earns their respect, and if you legitimately want your follies pointed out to you (and if you're on the Internet, I hope so), your readers are more inclined to do so if you demonstrate willingness to listen.

    As for updates, if the post doesn't mention that it may be updated, those who saw it beforehand may never check on it again. Even if it does give warning, there's a good chance nobody will notice when it is updated, since posts are rarely listed by most recent modification. Unless you're fixing an omission (which would count as a modification) updates are almost always harmless. They just risk going unnoticed.

    It's wiser to write a new post linking to the old for reference, then update the old post with a link to the new one. In most cases, this ensures that readers can easily spot updates to the subject and navigate through them. If you must change the original post, notate the change--as always--and append to the original post if at all possible.

    -Chris T

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    1. This is an extremely good guide, I think I might have to reference this the next time I do some editing. There's a lot of really good advice in your breakdown here which I think a lot of writers can benefit from.

      There's some interesting timing on this comment, since I very recently deleted a few of my older posts. They were merely brief update posts, with a couple of exceptions; all "low-profile," few readers, no one really cared about them. They had been bugging me for a while, since they were genuinely badly written pieces of carnage, and I wanted them off my blog since they were filling it with content substandard even to me. This being the case, I'm interested what you think of this (I feel I should mention this is tangential to the topic at hand): is it all right to simply *delete* content, particularly things that aren't "full content" (e.g. update posts as opposed to reviews)? Or should blogs stay as something of an obelisk, set in stone, existing with good and bad? I'm interested in your opinions on that.

      (I suppose it's something of the same question, but on a more macro scale. Actually, that and two other questions. The first is, would it count as a modification in this case, or as full editing? The second is, if it were editing. . .would "fixing" it, trying to improve the end product's image, really be all that bad? In this case, at least, it just all seems so gray, given how the posts were something of "temporary messages," there to say what a message box on the sidebar would be to small for, in the first place. Anyway, I think I might already have my answer, but I'm curious as to your opinions.)

      As for whether or not I should have made those posts in the first place, which would have prevented this problem from occurring at all. . .that's a whole other matter.

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    2. Hey Sato-san. Thanks for the praise. Nifty new design, by the way.

      Excellent questions; glad you asked. I'm going to answer out of order, since it makes a neater progression on my end.


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      2. Would removing brief update posts count as a modification or as full editing?

      I don't understand the question. >.> I tried to categorize changes in three ways: addition (updating), edition (modifying), deletion (removing). Of course, not understanding the question is no reason not to answer it, so here's my best shot.

      First, let me explain what I think you meant. You suggest that there's a type of content that isn't meant to remain archived for later reference. Mostly, this amounts to personal or site updates:


      "Moving into new place, don't have much spare time; new post Thursday."

      "Hard to get Internet access since the invasion. Still alive, if anyone's out there. Will post more reviews when I find a streaming site with intact servers gotta run, alien death ray"

      "Sorry for lack of posts lately. Busy writing script for QB fandub. We're reworking the dialogue to fit a Sherlock Holmes-esque narrative. Creepy how well it works. Should be done in three weeks."


      I would call this type of content "filler" or "placeholder", since it isn't intended content--it's there to hold a place for where content would've been or to explain its absence. (I also accept the term CLUP for a completely pointless update post. It's a brokronym, but I like it better than CPUP.)

      Now, if there's no content other than the explanation that there is no content, it's a waste of time for anyone who comes along afterward and therefore probably hadn't been wondering why you mysteriously vanished around the time that QB fandub began production. Most people won't even notice that two posts are months apart if they started reading after the second one. Before I make the claim that it's always acceptable to delete these posts, however, consider two scenarios...


      1) A certain seven-days-a-week webcomic announced a move to six days a week: no content on Saturdays. Blank strips were posted instead. Discussion sprang up around this; soon, characters were wandering onto the blank strips to seek the elusive No Content. This became a months-long side plot, culminating in the revelation that the No Content had been right before their eyes, waiting to show itself until they had left.


      2) Years ago, I started reading Edgar Allan Poe's posthumous blog*. The content was okay, but my true interest was learning about the author. A large portion of my insight into him came not from content, but from autocommentary: from brief remarks and announcements, posts in which he morosely (or tersely) admitted that he was stuck, distracted, or excited. I liked reading through the archives, watching him grow and change over the years.

      Then Poe went back and deleted the CLUPs! His explanation: the blog was meant to be a stage for his work, not a window into his private thoughts, so he'd adjusted the curtains accordingly. I felt completely alienated. I had wanted to get to know him, and he had rejected the effort. I stopped reading, disinterested in the content now that it was disconnected from the author.


      The first moral is fairly obvious, and I said it before in another way: tastes vary. Some fans (or creators) may actually like the CLUPs enough to want more of them. Maybe they remember their anniversary was the same day as that post about the death ray, so they look for that post when they need to remember their anniversary. Maybe they like having things to read on your site that aren't big investments of time and energy.

      Maybe--this being the second moral--CLUPs remind fans that the author cares enough to interact with them other than via content. Many fans care about the authors whose work they read because they feel connected to creators whose figurative voice they've listened to for months or years, complaints and all.

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    3. Here's the thing about writing what you think or how you feel: when you make your viewpoint known, others can look at you through it.

      There's nothing wrong with that unless you must maintain absolute mystique (g'luck with that), but you need to understand that fans are fans because they connect with something in the work. In a story, this is usually the characters, but in a review, editorial, or announcement? It's the author, or at least the online persona the author presents. The most trivial updates can be sparkling gems in the eyes of readers who like the author. Pretty small gems, but gems nonetheless.

      What does this mean with regard to your original question? Well, assuming (guessing, really) that you were asking if CLUPs count as content or if they can be removed without concern: you don't know what is or isn't content to the readers. This leads into your first question...

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    4. ----
      1. Is it all right to simply delete content, especially CLUPs or outdated announcements?

      Announcements are a special case: if an announcement is made concerning the site as a whole or its pursuant purpose, it should remain up so readers going through the archives won't be confused by incongruities before and after. This is simply polite.

      As for whether it's all right to delete CLUPs, this is where an interesting dichotomy comes into play... I could phrase it a few different ways, but let's call it power versus responsibility, because everybody loves comics* (or everybody knows the reference*, at least).

      The dichotomy is the authority (er, power) of the creator over his work versus the responsibility of the creator to his audience. It has something to do with creator intent, but that's another post (been looking forward to commenting on that one since I first saw it).

      I've acknowledged the existence of CLUPs and explained why it might be good to keep them and bad to remove them, but what about CLUPs that make you (the creator) wince when you see them?

      Why shouldn't you have the right to remove something you simply don't want on your site any longer? If readers care about the creator as well as the work, surely they'd be on the creator's side if you wanted to remove terrible work? Or, in other words (and to tie in the last question so I can answer them simultaneously)...


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      3. Would fixing up the blog by removing CLUPs (to improve the end product's image) really be all that bad?

      Here goes.

      You absolutely have the right to control the content of your blog. Nobody will ever try to tell you that you have to manage it a certain way*. It's not morally wrong to delete every crap post and replace it with a better, cooler, second-edition post. The question of whether it's okay to do so concerns etiquette (acceptableness) and wisdom (sensibleness). Answering it should also explain if and why it would be bad.

      So, you have power over your blog, no question about that, but what is the extent of your responsibility to your audience?

      The answer: your responsibility to your audience is your decision, but make sure you make it before it unmakes you. Possibilities run the gamut (and occasionally the gauntlet).


      Personal, accidental
      Poe's personal blog in the scenario above was intended to be a professional blog. His audience felt betrayed when he changed the archives because for them it was, well, personal. A personal blog is (typically) more like a story; removing past posts is like cutting pieces out of history.

      Professional, accidental
      Conversely, a blog that's intended to be personal won't attract interest if the creator refuses to accept that responsibility. A creator who attempts to run a personal blog without personal investment has nothing to offer the audience.

      Personal, intentional
      Take any blog wherein the author does a lot of writing and reflecting. Most review blogs qualify, though a review blog that goes out of its way to remain distant (or "objective," though that, too, is a comment for another day) would be professional. In these, content may attract the audience, but the audience only grows attached due the personal investment of the creator.

      Professional, intentional
      Cake Wrecks is a humor blog that posts pictures of cakes. The occasional announcements are personal, but the content and autocommentary are rarely more personal than "look, cakes." If half the posts--the less popular half--vanished overnight, it would barely matter; the audience wouldn't much miss them because they weren't emotionally attached. The site is solely for amusement.


      Broad categories, I know, but they should illustrate the point well enough for me to provide a definitive answer to your questions now:

      The problem lies not in making changes (unmarked changes are actually good*), but in going against the audience's expectations.

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    5. Fixing up a blog to improve its image is great if it's a product, intended mainly to showcase some particular type of content. However, personal blogs are usually more like histories of the creator's interaction with the audience through the site. In the same way that making unmarked changes (dishonestly) tells readers that the content was originally posted in its current form, removing old posts (dishonestly) tells readers that you never really made that post. This isn't a problem for new readers--it's existing readers that may feel betrayed.

      But wait: why does the audience expect this? Because when the creator invests himself in his work, the audience can tell, and they reciprocate. Following a blog for a long time is a big investment of time, energy, and attention (which is basically the intersection of time and energy, but anyway). Removing old posts is telling the readers that the blog isn't about "us," but about what "I" am willing to show "you." It damages that connection and cheapens their investment.

      Yes, this even applies to CLUPs. That's because the audience of a personal blog doesn't see it as a stage with a show being projected onto it from behind the creator's concealing curtain; they see it as a stage with the performer present in person, right up front. With this kind of perspective, honor matters all the more.


      What about your site? Well, I would call it a personal blog, no question. This is the first reason why:

      "While this is primarily a way for me to review things, it is a personal blog, so other stuff will inevitably worm its way in here."

      So there's content, but the content is presented by a person. In addition, there may be content that is solely personal in nature. Thus, personal blog. The second reason is the content of the blog. Most people write with a personality if they don't try not to, so it's little surprise that on a personal blog, your writing clearly demonstrates a personality behind it. That's all that's needed: the existence of a creator personality qualifies a blog as at least somewhat personal.


      ----
      Now... That's my take on all that. A little rushed, a little repetitive. Not sure if I understood your questions correctly; please confirm, or clarify if I did not.

      Should blogs stay as an obelisk, set in stone, with good and bad? I think that personal blogs should. Otherwise, you cheapen the involvement of those who were with you while it was rising. Blogs that exist only to present content are another story; my previous comments apply to them, but the creator's responsibility to the audience is vastly diminished. As with (most) published works, the audience is more attached to the content than the creator, so removing unpopular items is no real sin.

      I have a question for you, though. (A request, anyway.) If you're currently actively following one or more blogs, pick a couple of your favorites, preferably ones you've been following for a while. After a brief glance at your blogroll (don't worry, I'll give a longer glance later) I suspect that you have chosen the seven of diamonds and--oops, wrong trick. Ahem. I suspect that you have chosen at least one blog in which you have a significant--not overwhelming, just significant--emotional investment, and that blog has a significant element of personality in its writing.

      Now imagine that the authors of those blogs went back and removed two or three posts apiece (ideally, posts you got to read when they were posted).

      That's my request, and the accompanying question is: how would you feel about that? Are there any posts so minor that it wouldn't bother you? Or perhaps it wouldn't bother you at all, even for major posts with a great deal of content? What if it was a post you'd commented on?

      Aside from being a different person, you've far less blogospherience than I*, so you may have a very different reaction. I'm quite curious.

      -Chris T


      *Blatant lies.

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    6. As for my question, I was trying to take your example with a single post, and relate it to a blog as a whole (so, in the same way that changing a sentence around might be modifying or editing, what would deleting a post (changing blog content) count as?). I think you answered it along the way, though.

      I should have known I would somehow pidgeonhole myself with that first post. . .anyway, this discussion is very interesting, as it ties into a post I've been trying to write for a while. . .I should really get on finishing that.

      To answer your question (and I tried this with a number of blogs), yeah, it wouldn't bother me. Actually, let me clarify that. It depends on the post. For instance, there have been two cases where I commented on a post (that is, two comments across two blogs), and those posts were deleted, along with my comment. (For reference, this was during the aniblog tourney, and the posts were concerning said tourney.) I can't say I really minded. In both cases, I could understand why the bloggers took the posts down, though perhaps only because I have a similar mindset. I was especially sympathetic to one of them, who didn't have the time to publish many posts. Similarly, if they were to delete other posts, I could also accept it; I know said posts were probably bugging them, and since there are a number of posts on every blog I visit that I'm not really interested in reading (or have already read and still remember quite well), there's always some content which if cut still wouldn't leave me feeling slighted. That said, there are a far larger number of posts out there that I would be very sad indeed to lose, since I like going back and re-reading them, and more importantly because I want to share them with others.

      There's another way to look at this, too. You say that each post (and comment) represents an interaction with the audience. I agree. That's actually a great way of putting it, really. When a blogger deletes a previously published post, they are effectively deleting that dialogue (I feel that's an appropriate synonym). But what if you look at it this way; the author views that post, that interaction, as inferior. Deleting it, then, means that the blogger cares enough about their readers, and enough about the way that they conduct themselves, that they want to give only the best (or at least, not negative) interaction to them. That was the case with at least one of those deleted posts. The author felt that the post was stupid (a poor interaction), and didn't want to leave it festering. In the case of the other blogger, there were few interactions, so a bad one stuck out all the more. Just another way of looking at it.

      That said, I think you've got the better approach here, Chris. Certainly, even though I didn't/wouldn't mind certain posts being deleted, I wouldn't feel at all *positive* about those removals. I think part of the reason I picked up the mindset I did is through Twitter; I essentially use it as a bulletin board for my thoughts, and if I decide a thought I made is either useless or not worth remembering, I remove that bulletin (i.e. I delete the Tweet). As I'm realizing now, however, that's not the kind of approach to take with a blog (and I was beginning to do just that, something I hope I stopped soon enough). I agree, a blog *is* an obelisk. Once something have been carved, you can't just remove it like a note from a bulletin board. A carving, even a bad one, shouldn't just be scratched off. At the very least, this discussion has helped me get a different (and I think better) perspective on my posts. So thanks for that. I'm glad I asked for your opinion.

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    7. You're quite welcome, John, and thanks for your attention, consideration, and reply.

      If you're concerned about being pigeonholed by your first post, why not go back and change it? ;) After all, if you recognize that your intent has changed, you should let your audience know, and announcement posts are easy to miss in archives. (However, in my judgment, you have--purposely or not--fulfilled your original, written intent.)


      You propose that a (personal) blogger who deletes an inferior interaction may be improving the quality of the overall dialogue. While this may apply to later readers, it is not the case for anyone who read the post before it was removed. For these, the overall dialogue is not improved, but censored; the interaction is not refined, but selectively denied. As my choice of words suggests, this is a matter of honesty--even if the blogger does not realize it.

      On the other hand, what if the blogger replaces a terrible post with something like:

      "Deleted on account of sobriety. Future readers: be grateful this was not inflicted on you. Past readers: please accept my apologies. I will never again post excerpts from a QB/MLP:FiM fanfic, especially not in the context of a Skyrim review. Will post better Skyrim review later."

      In this case, it's not dishonest at all. Yes, it's impolite, yes, it cheapens the (old) audience's time, but those points aside, why would it bother someone for a worse-than-worthless post to disappear?

      Well--those points still aside--I can think of no legitimate reason it would bother anyone. It bothers *me* because I place a high price on history: I never throw away letters, erase e-mails, remove text messages, or clear chat logs. The differences between digital communication and personal communication are extensive and worthy of their own discussion, so for now, it suffices to mention that part of the reason for my mindset is probably my strong, subjective bias in favor of retaining permanent records.


      I consider Twitter a different story. The implicit creator-audience contract is different: the creator has absolute control with no responsibility to an audience with no expectations. It's simply a public journal. I could be mistaken; I haven't looked into it much, since I find it distasteful--but that's another story.


      Our different perspectives are an interesting study, I think.

      As a blogger--the subject of attention--you're concerned about appearance and quality. You want to honor reader attention, wasting as little as possible, by ensuring that the content on your site is of the highest caliber.

      As a reader, I want my attention honored. While I'm not happy to waste time by reading through an inferior post, I'm offended if it's removed. It turns my slight waste into a complete waste, and it suggests that the blogger is more concerned about future readers than current ones. Conversely, if a blogger attends to existing posts by improving them (notating changes, as always) or replying to comments (as here), that assures me that the blogger respects my attention, making it time well-invested.

      It also encourages me to invest more attention (as here), since I'm confident that the blogger will respect it (as here).

      -Chris T

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  5. This is a ridiculous exercise solely for amusement. (I got carried away.)

    Let us entertain an exaggerated hypothetical situation which contains examples of dishonesty, as well as inappropriate and appropriate addition, edition, and deletion of content:

    1. I publish an empt blog post on October 16, 2012.

    2. On October 16, 2013, aliens invade the earth.

    3. Somewhere in the wreckage, I find Internet access. I edit my empty post: "So aliens will be invading in 366 days. Gear up."
    (Bad addition.)

    4. A few days later, I edit it again: "EDIT - Oops, 365 days. Forgot the extra day was in Feb."
    (Good edition.)

    5. On October 16, 2014, the aliens are handily defeated when humanity, struggling to cope, accidentally discovers that the aliens are deathly allergic to black comedy.

    6. I edit the post: "Btw, dark humor will kill them. Wells, at least they won't get left out in the *common* cold. Eh? Get it? Wells? Cold? Aliens? Get it?"
    (Bad addition.)

    7. After a few days, good taste prevails, and I edit it again: "EDIT - Removed gag about Wells' World of War, crap joke anyway."
    (Good edition.)

    8. Due to my mistake in typing the title of The War of the Worlds and subsequent minor swear, my blog soon receives nearly DOZENS of views from people looking for World of Warcraft parody material. (Plus two views from searches for World War I-era gag removal instructions.)

    9. Society recognizes my foreknowledge; I become Internet famous. A month later, I remove the EDIT lines from my post to hide my imperfect beginnings.
    (Bad deletion.)

    10. In December, I am killed by a lynch mob due to my obvious foreknowledge of the invasion and the fact that my only attempt to warn the public was a single post on a last-rate blog with no other content.

    11. The post in its final version is submitted to the Internet Museum for memorialization:

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012
    So aliens will be invading in 365 days. Gear up.
    Btw, dark humor will kill them.
    Posted by Chris T at 11:00 AM

    However, the Internet Museum already has a plaque engraved with the post as recorded in real-time by an Internet historian:

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012
    So aliens will be invading in 365 days. Gear up.
    EDIT - Oops, 365 days. Forgot the extra day was in Feb.
    Btw, dark humor will kill them.
    EDIT - Removed gag about Wells' World of War, crap joke anyway.
    Posted by Chris T at 11:00 AM

    12. Comparing the two, forensic Internetologists deduce that I removed the lines that revealed that previous changes had been made. My credibility is completely shot; the Internet Museum melts the plaque down for scrap.

    13. In light of the revelation that the Internet Prophet was a liar, the mood at the lynch mob trial changes dramatically. They're not the mob that lynched the person who foresaw the alien invasion (but did nothing to prevent it); now, they're just the mob that lynched the liar who thought it would be fun to pretend to have foreseen the alien invasion (but done nothing to prevent it). The jury acquits.

    14. My personal and business records were destroyed during the invasion; the state can't find my relatives, but they have no trouble finding my blog. With nothing else to go on and my burial pending, they contact my blog host to see if they can at least get some epitaph fodder.

    15. My blog host checks on my site. Looking over the comments section, they notice intense, threat-laden debate regarding whether Chris T was intended to be read "Christy" or "Chris, T." (Oddly, nobody cares about whether or not I really knew about the invasion in advance.) They delete the post and shut down the site.
    (Good deletion.)

    16. The blog host reviews my account history. Soon, they find the first post I wrote and send its contents to the state.

    17. My first post in its entirety is used as my epitaph:

    Chris T
    ? - December 30, 2014
    Tuesday, October 16, 2012
    Posted by Chris T at 11:00 AM

    Thus, I achieve the revisionist's worst nightmare: my empty post is literally set in stone.

    -Chris T

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    Replies
    1. HAHAHAHAHA! Gold star for best commenter, I love you Chris!

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