I’m not suggesting I have any more right than anyone else to make the rules. But I don’t think this is as cut-and-dried as Jerry makes it seem.
It seems to me there are several things about weblogs that lend themselves to a sense of permanence. If one materially edits the substance of a weblog post, it destroys that sense of permanence, and in the end I think diminishes the power of the “blogosphere” (such as it is).
Permalinks are citations, pure and simple. The very purpose of a permalink (a “permanent link”) is to direct a reader to the words said by someone else. If a permalink doesn’t direct you to the words as the blogger read them, it only leads to confusion.
Weblogs are not websites. Permalinks and the chronological nature of posts distinguish weblog entries from web pages. Both of these characteristics explicitly encourage dialogue — I write something, Ernie links to it and adds his own comments. Jerry links to both of us, and adds his own thoughts disagreeing with us. I add to the conversation, and so it goes.
Without either the chronological ordering of posts or the ability to pinpoint link to what Ernie and Jerry said and when, our ability to have a conversation goes away.
What I don’t understand is how a conversation can happen if what was said is in question and open to interpretation.
And this gets to the heart of the matter, I think. If the purpose of a blog is to provide a public service (as Jerry says is his purpose), then I think this issue is largely moot. But if the purpose of the blog is to participate in an ongoing discussion, I just don’t see how post-publication editing fosters that at all.
With the development of technology like trackback, I tihnk this only becomes more important. Trackbacks are themselves timestamped — which indicate when I linked to someone. The construction of posts, coupled with links and tied together with trackback pings all indicate a flow of conversation. If any of those underlying posts materially change, then it becomes nearly impossible for a reader to reconstruct the conversation or follow its points.
Now I’m not arguing that posts can’t be edited, or shouldn’t be edited. But I do believe that I owe my readers an explicit acknowledgement of any changes I make. People who read this site through a news aggregator are quite likely to get my post within the first thirty to sixty minutes of the post being online; people who read the site in a browser might not see it for 24 or more hours. If I make changes during that gap, it’s quite likely that the conversation that stems from my original post will branch — with two people reacting to what they think is the same post but could have significant differences.
I think the most I could hope for is an acknolwedgement of what a person’s policy is. To that end, I think Dave’s statement is exactly right. While there’s been considerable consternation among some about Dave’s edits of his own posts, they don’t bother me at all: I know he does it, and that allows me to put it into context. I’m on notice that he reserves the right to change whatever he wants. (As a result of the thinking I’ve given this, I’ll be creating a similar policy and will post it tomorrow. )
Let’s see where this conversation goes. Thanks for listening.