Tag Archives: blogging

On Backdating Blog Posts

Most social networks don’t give you the ability to backdate your posts. That’s good, because it provides a trail that you can point to, saying “Yes, I did in fact post this before it became common knowledge/was plagiarized/etc.” But other publishing platforms do. It’s helpful for things like transferring an archive from another site — though it seems a little weird (and vaguely dishonest) to backdate a new post.

That said, I do backdate posts on this blog from time to time, generally when:

  • The post is imported from another site (Instagram, LiveJournal, a comment somewhere, a Twitter thread, etc.), and I keep the original posting date. Basically it’s a smaller scale version of transferring an archive. Sometimes I’ll make a note, sometimes I won’t.
  • I’m splitting an old post into two or more smaller posts, in which case I’ll usually keep the date but adjust one of the times.
  • I’ve got an old draft that I never got around to posting, it’s no longer relevant today, but I’d like to make it available in its original context. In that case I’ll add a note that it was backdated.

There’s also the accidental backdating that sometimes happens when I create a draft in the mobile app and it decides to keep the upload date as the posting date. I try to fix these as soon as I notice. But that’s not really the same thing!

Link Sharing and Source Trails

I read a lot of articles in one of two ways:

  1. Open a bunch of tabs and then read them one at a time
  2. Save a bunch of interesting-looking stories to Pocket and then read them one at a time

So by the time I’ve decided to share a link to the story on Facebook Twitter, Mastodon, etc., I’ve often forgotten where I saw it to begin with.

If it’s a site I follow regularly, or I found it through a search, or if it was recommended by Pocket, no big deal, but if someone else shared the link and I saw it, I feel like I ought to give a little credit.

Now, the share/retweet buttons do automate this trail…but only if you do it immediately on Facebook or Twitter, because they have a nasty tendency to update your timeline when you come back, making it difficult to find the post you clicked on.

(It took me 30 minutes to find this tweet, since I couldn’t remember who had written it, only who on my list had retweeted it.)

This encourages you to share articles before you read them, no doubt contributing to the problem of people sharing stuff that turns out to be total BS, sending it halfway around the world before the truth can get its proverbial pants on.

I’m not sure how much people care about the trail these days. Citing the original source? absolutely. Posting someone else’s idea as yours? Hell yeah, just search for “stolen tweets.”

But the intermediary? Whether you follow the person you retweeted, or you follow someone who follows someone who follows someone who retweeted them, it looks the same to the rest of the world. Back when reposts and linkblogging were done manually, it was a BIG DEAL. I remember people getting upset that big-name bloggers would share links to things that smaller bloggers had already shared without crediting them. (Admittedly, I don’t remember whether it was a common complaint or just a few people.)

On the other hand, if you’re studying the spread of ideas, opinions, information or misinformation, it’s invaluable. And if you’re trying to hide a propaganda operation, you might want to disguise the trail…

But social media users do care about share counts and like counts. Original posters want the validation. Viewers see high counts as social proof that other people find the post valuable. And the platforms themselves use it as a signal to prioritize display in the newsfeed algorithm du jour. So there’s a strong incentive to get people (or bots) to use those share, reblog, retweet buttons.

So when it comes down to it, the normal use case preserves that link trail (even if you only see the oldest and newest links in that chain)…and I’m just an outlier when it comes to the way I use social media.

Deciding Where to Post Online

Things I think about when choosing where to post something original, once I’ve decided to post it.

  1. Audience. Who’s going to be interested in this? Family? Friends? Fans or hobbyists or people in my industry or some other shared-interest group? People looking for troubleshooting help? Do I just want to say something for the record?
  2. Permissions. Who do I want to allow to see this? Am I OK with it being seen by the general public, or do I want to lock it down to specific people?
  3. Type of Media. Long article, short comment, photo, video, link to something interesting? Not much point in linkblogging here these days, while Twitter and Facebook are better suited. A long post is easier to compose and easier to read as an article than as a Twitter thread (though Tweetstorms do have their place). Photos are more likely to be seen on a dedicated photo site than here, but if there’s a story to it, a blog post might work better.
  4. Polish. I’ll sometimes post something off-the-cuff on Twitter or Facebook, then refine or expand it later. Or I’ll post a photo on Instagram in the moment, then when I have time, do a cleaner edit or album on Flickr, or write a story around it here.
  5. Connections. Is it related to something else I’ve already posted? This is why I keep posting funny signs, examples of holiday creep, and convention reports here.
  6. Permanence. Do I want to be able to find it again easily? If so, I’ll probably go with a blog or Flickr (yes, Flickr), because searching for stuff on Twitter or Instagram or even Facebook is such a pain.

So yeah, that’s why I still post some things here, why I only post other things on Twitter, why I post different things to Flickr and Instagram, why I sometimes cross-post, re-post, and re-edit. Am I overthinking it? Maybe, but it’s not like I go through a full checklist every time – this is less a recipe and more trying to write down what I’ve been doing anyway.

Why am I still blogging? (And why about this stuff?)

This blog has been around 15 years. Social media has mostly moved on, to silos like Facebook and Twitter. People don’t follow random personal blogs. Topic-focused sites are what people actually read, and even that mainly following links from silos.

Meanwhile there are so many major things going on that make the things I post about here — comics, fandom, photos of things I found interesting, random tech thoughts — seem trivial.

So why keep a blog going? And why write about trivialities, and not big things like the battles over civil rights, healthcare, environmental protections, war?

As for the first: Some of it is stubbornness. And some of it is wanting to keep part of my writing/photo presence somewhere “permanent” (to the extent that anything online is).

As for the second: I’ve never really liked talking news and politics online. I rarely feel like I can add anything that hasn’t already been said (probably better) by someone else. Also, online conversation has gotten way too toxic. On the other hand, while the little things may be trivial, they add up. They add up to your life. It feels like I might actually have something to say that’s not already been said a thousand times by people more familiar with the issue than I am.

Plus it’s a way to assert some normality in a world that feels decidedly abnormal.

I’m not likely to come up with anything super-profound on the most important topics, but I can make short statements, and I can amplify other voices. And I’m trying to come to grips with the fact that that’s important. I’ve been reading a lot more and posting a lot less over the past year or so, but even if I can’t say anything profound, I shouldn’t stay silent.

So I’ve been microblogging, and linking, and reposting — all things that are better suited for a service that’s built around those use cases. When I have something longer to say, I do try to pull it in here, because a blog post is better than a Twitter thread… But I think more people probably see my retweets than my blog posts, anyway.

What makes online posts feel “permanent?”

Facebook is testing a feature to hide new posts from your timeline so they don’t feel so permanent. Of course they’re still searchable until you actually delete them, so they’re still permanent in that sense.

What’s odd: Facebook posts don’t feel permanent to begin with, even though they effectively stick around forever.

Thinking about it, two things make an internet post feel permanent to me:

  1. Can I count on it sticking around?
  2. Can I count on finding it again?

Facebook, despite a lot of improvements over the years, is a mess. The newsfeed algorithm means you can’t just keep scrolling back. The timeline view isn’t reliably complete. Search is kind of a crap shoot. Don’t get me started on trying to find a particular old post on Twitter!

And that’s dealing with sites I can expect to stay online over time. A post on a forum, or a comment on someone else’s blog, or any social network could easily vanish in someone’s server crash or business shutdown.

If I can’t count on being able to find what I post a few years down the line, it feels like it’s temporary, even if it isn’t.

This is one reason that my Flickr portfolio feels more permanent than my Instagram photos: I can find them without resorting to third-party apps. If I want to find a particular photo on Instagram, I have to page down through my profile until I find it. On Flickr, I can find a 10-year-old photo of a fountain in seconds by searching for “fountain” and expanding the “Your photos” section of the results.

Then again, running my own site is only reliable as long as I can afford it. If something happens to me, and I can’t pay for hosting anymore, what then? I figure I’d simplify things down to where I could get a basic, super-cheap hosting plan. Make the blogs read-only so they can be served statically from a shared server or S3 bucket, or move them to WordPress.com, or just be willing to let them crash under load. But what if I’m incapacitated and can’t convert it? Or just plain not there anymore? If I really want to keep my corner of the web up “permanently,” I’m going to have to make a plan ahead of time.

Otherwise my carefully preserved photos, articles, and extended musings will be toast…leaving behind as context only broken links and all my supposedly (but not really) ephemeral offhand remarks on Twitter and Facebook.