Revisions

When I began blogging, I understood that I was also taking responsibility for maintaining and preserving an archive. But I didn’t understand the complexity of that work. I imagined it would be necessary only to write posts, respect the stable url created when they were published, and keep the site itself running.

I believed that in part because I felt my blog would not attract much attention or be particularly important. But to my surprise, I have attracted at enough attention to be linked to and commented on by some extremely smart people. That means I’m now responsible not only for preserving my own writing, but also for preserving the writing of others whose work I respect.

It also means that if I decide I want to make changes to any of my posts, I run the risk of altering the record of past conversations preserved here.

These are both things that have bugged me for a while, and they make me regret my decision to use WordPress. Of course there’s a good chance I could never have gotten this blog running in the first place without WordPress. But it is a woefully inadequate archival tool — in particular, it provides no way to transparently and publicly record previous versions of a page. That has become an especially frustrating problem given a recent post, which contains a lot of dated information. I’d like to update it, but the changes are significant enough that I don’t feel comfortable doing so without preserving a record of the previous version.

That’s what this section of the blog is for. Under the “Revisions” menu above, I’m going to start preserving earlier versions of posts that I modify significantly. There’s only one in that category right now, but I expect more in the future.

Eventually I will migrate to Jekyll or some other static site generator, using github as version control, which I think ensures maximum accountability. I’ll maintain a static archive of older posts and comments using one of the many static site plugins available for WordPress.

The problems I describe here are difficult to solve, and all the solutions I propose here rely on me to be trustworthy, and not to quietly modify and improve the embarrassing posts of yesteryear. I think I am extremely trustworthy, but part of the reason I think that is that I don’t trust myself. So I’m making this statement now as a sort of contract with you (whoever you are): I promise to do my best to maintain material connected to this blog in the most transparent way possible, and not to modify anything that has been openly published and publicized without preserving a record of the original. If you see something that you think has changed, please alert me and draw attention to it publicly.