Written in Stone

Photo courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski

I wholeheartedly believe that everyone who intends to add reference material or information pertaining to current events worthy of reading online should have proper dates and times attached to those posts. I can’t count how many times I’ve referenced something online to find that there is no date nor time applied to the article. It’s bad enough that as a society we have pretty much accepted information without references. The Web has forced us all to also now accept not even knowing when something was written.

At first thought, this may seem insignificant.  After all, people providing information online are often doing it of their own free will or just because they have an interest in something.  And they would be right – one should be free to do as they choose.  Personal websites and blogs hold no responsibility in providing any information.  Well, neither do journalistic sources, but we’ve come to expect it from them because it’s the professional and right thing to do.  Then again, there are many of those ‘journalistic’ sites that report news that sometimes fail to provide times and dates as well.

Take for instance a search based on a particular setup procedure for WordPress.  (The CMS of this website.)  If I’m editing my website and decide to look up a procedure for completing a task, often times I have no idea when it was written.  If you use Google you are sometimes in luck, because listed with the link will be a date and time that the information was retrieved.  Most WordPress themes and other blogging interfaces automatically assign dates and times to posts. But we can’t always rely on that.  And what if you don’t use Google?  The article could have been written six years ago and just recently compiled and uploaded to the online source.  This is a problem.  Let’s say an article that I pull up explaining how to complete a procedure was posted six years ago? Do you have any idea how many times WordPress methods and coding has changed in six years?  Are they even using the same programming language now?  (Actually, I know that they are in this case, but they wouldn’t have to be!)

What about a news article?  If it’s a topic of big news there may be no less that fifty articles covering the subject – from the same source.  Google may pull up the most recent, but then again it may not.  How am I supposed to know which one to read first to follow the development?

I think that we all need to pay better attention to information that we make available online, and it’s important to time and date everything.  Remember, everything that you put online or write in an email is stored on some server and will be backed up and searchable indefinitely.  At least make sure that you time and date it properly.  Write it in stone – you can always update/redact information.  (Don’t make a habit of refuting your own work though.  That would be –  kinda like arguing with yourself – a LOT.)

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