Under New Management

Under Construction

The ubiquitous figure with a shovel full of…

I snicker at the sight of a web page with a big “Under Construction” banner or the ubiquitous figure with a shovel. Of course the site is under construction. If a web page isn’t growing and changing, it’s a historical artifact and not a Living Web page.
I’m working at bringing my blog up to speed, after a year of benign neglect. While I’ve kept the software up-to-date, the postings have been infrequent, the template is showing its age, and the information has a good case of Internet bit-rot. I installed the Broken Link Checker plugin to assist with cleaning up the blog posts that point to nowhere, or worse, wrong-ware, and it’s a pretty Cool Tool. It plowed through a lot of posts and ferreted out missing (404) links, bad server responses, missing servers, redirects and more, and provided statistics that let me appreciate the scope of the work to do: in round numbers, there are 5000 links in 3000 posts, and 1000 of them are broken. Wow.
The Broken Link Checker lets you sort and triage the links: filter a set by urls, search-and-replace using regular expressions, update with the Web Archive link (it searches for it automatically, if you select ‘Update Link’). I found several of my favorite bloggers moved or re-mapped their blogs over the past decade (no surprise, there really), but didn’t leave redirects in place, so all my links to David Weinberger’s Hyperorg or Doc Searl’s blogs or Robert X. Cringely’s material on PBS.org ended in broken links. With the Broken Link Checker, I was able to pull up a list of all the broken links for one site, then work through the list while trolling the site in another window, and cutting-and-pasting updated links.
It wasn’t just the individual bloggers, though. Many (most?) of the media sites I cite —— ZDNet, Washington Post, etc. —— have also reworked their content URLs, leaving the blog orphaned.
There’s lots of one-off, one-hit wonders, too: the usual cool stuff that took the web by storm for 36 hours and then vanished back into the noise. Pretty much anyone I cited at their company’s “Who Are We” page has moved on and gotten a new job, or the company’s been absorbed by BigNamelessAmalgamates, Inc. The link is broken, but the history remains. Broken Link Checker has some nice options to remove the broken link while leaving the anchor text in place, with strike-through style showing there’s a change, and a title visible on mouse-over that shows the orphaned link. This seems like an ideal tool to curate old material.
There’s also a lesson to be learned in what’s useful blogging. A number of posts that were closer to bookmarks of “Look what Bob’s doing over there! Awesome!” are far less awesome, now that Bob’s site is long gone, and can’t even be found in the Wayback Machine. That’s a post with a value of zero or perhaps even null. So, in the future, we (that’s you and I, dear reader) should resolve to make our posts a little more useful should they be standing alone on a reinvented Internet in another ten years.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.