Preface: I am sharing a learning out loud kind of posting with you today as another iteration of The Talking Story (occasional) Sunday Paper. This is a much longer post than usual, but if the subject matter interests you it won’t seem that long at all – perfect for a Sunday with your coffee :)
I am learning several publishing lessons in the administrative type work I am embroiled in right now, and so I thought I would share them for those of you who also blog or want to do other web-related publishing (RosaSay.com has a good overview of all of mine). Some journaling introspection will likely creep into this too.
If you are not interested in the insiders’ view of web publishing, and mostly read Talking Story for my values, management and leadership writing, feel free to skip this one. You can also hop over to Ho‘ohana Aloha (my Tumblr) and do the Sunday reading skim-over of finds I’ve taken note of there this past week.
If you are a blogger or web publisher and are thinking “Oh good, I may like this one —I kinda know what she has been going through…” I will warn you: Reading this may drive you crazy. Continue at your own risk, and only if you believe that ignorance is not bliss. This is also NOT a detail log of what happens when you switch from TypePad to WordPress, sorry. (Hey Jesse, maybe you should write that one!) I have to move forward and have other priorities, as will soon become clear.
Task at hand (that is, at keyboard)
I have an awful lot of work to do with updating links now that I have made this platform switch to WordPress for Talking Story. So, 1. BIG lesson learned folks: Having a dedicated domain (like SayLeadershipCoaching.com for example) versus a /extension to a domain (like TS used to be, at www.SayLeadershipCoaching.com/talking story) makes a world of difference with when you can use broken link apps to help you electronically, and when you can’t.
Thus I am starting with this note to also say I am sorry — I know that you will encounter broken links until all is sorted out. I do have an alert which lets me know when that happens, and so that is how I am lining up my To Fix List; by priority of frequency.
So from here on, let’s forget about the amount of work to be done for the moment, and focus on all the good stuff I am discovering in the process!
Prospecting for gold
I have wanted to purge my publishing archives for a very long time now: Five years of blogging has given me well over 5,000 posts scattered throughout the web, with 1,155 of them here on Talking Story. Thing is, you procrastinate with it a lot: Readers expect new writing and so you do that instead, and archives fall in that category called “out of sight is out of mind.” However knowing there are broken links happening with greater frequency suddenly shifts your sights again.
I didn’t think about this as much when we just converted Joyful Jubilant Learning to WordPress, for there we were able to use technical broken link fixes to do all the work for us. In contrast, Talking Story is teaching me the great value that can be gained when you do work manually. Is it “the hard way?” Yes. Is it “the long way?” Yes, and unfortunately frustrating for others too, however the value is truly exponential. Broken links are becoming blessings in disguise.
There is the obvious: You find a lot you had forgotten about, just sitting in your archives.
3. You get both post and product re-purposing ideas like crazy! I am not going into this one very much — not in this post, and not in practice for my project-at-hand would get too crazy big and I would lose focus. However you can bet I AM capturing all ideas as they come up, parking them and tracing them for later or first/best opportunity.
Let’s move on to this: On the web, older articles are not “just sitting.” You forget that there are other people still reading it, and for the very first time, but in what you consider to be ancient history framing. You also forget that there is no stats-reporting program in existence which will log every page view seen for you: Whatever stats you do see is maybe two-thirds of what is really happening (and that’s a generous maybe).
4. Old links give first impressions. Are they the first impressions you want people to have of you? My priorities are shifting much more dramatically than I expected them to: All of a sudden, I am not that concerned with publishing fresh content. What I really want is to bring all content to best integrity.
Matter of fact: Whatever is not written has become the true “out of sight, out of mind.”
“Link Love.” Maybe not.
This was my dawning realization as the manual link-fixer I now am, as briefly as I can explain it:
When a blogger links a reader to an article in their own archives (or anywhere else for that matter), we do so for added context. The link is saying, “here is more about what I just said” or “here is the back-story you missed before, and I think it is well worth reading.”
Or at least that’s what those links are supposed to do.
Before this comprehensive work, I was far too careless about time-sensitivity. We rely on the titles of our postings to trigger our memories, and we tend to romanticize them as time goes by. We fondly remember the old comments or the rush of traffic back then, and we assume a new reader will like it because an old reader did, but that isn’t always the case. Context does shift over time, and the future being as uncertain as it will always be, that shifting context is hard to predict.
If we take the time to read the article again —as new readers ourselves, new in that we have updated personal context too— we may never link back there at all. Maybe not ever again!
5. When you fix broken links, you also discover unbroken ones you wish had broken a long time ago.
I have had to be brutally honest with myself about something: I am not always linking back for you as my reader. I do it for my own convenience, and for different reasons. I, Rosa Say, had become a link litterer, guilty of throwing too many readers to the information-overload wolves. I have inserted far too many links in my postings, and I am now cutting back. I had good intentions, feeling I was doing a lot of the navigation work for readers, but I crossed over that line where too much of a good thing gets you in trouble. I was pretty proud of my high number of page views, but I now understand some ways in which I should not have been proud of them. I ignored the warning signal they can be.
6. Working with your archives gets you to link (and write) with better focus and deliberate intention. Sometimes links are reference points, sometimes they are for a definite C2A (call to action). As bloggers we need to craft them and plot them better: We do not read our own postings the way that readers do, and must constantly ask ourselves, who is my audience for this particular piece? Sometimes, writing for ourselves is perfectly okay, and readers enjoy coming along for the ride. Just be sure you choose deliberate awareness over blind, haphazard, or downright sloppy happenstance.
Since Talking Story.org was launched just ten days ago, I have newly published eight articles. I have edited and re-published dozens more, some looking nearly brand new. I have totally deleted others, happy to have them be broken links forevermore.
I have also learned to insert joy, journaling explorations and some fresh geeky-girl learning into the entire process. Otherwise it is too much work, and I wouldn’t even bother. If I am to do all of this, I am going for the gusto.
We’re not done.
It’s not just the links. Words and language change too
I warned you that this could drive you crazy. Links aren’t even the half of what you will want to work on. I also said we would focus on the good stuff though, and this brings me to the next point.
7. When you work with your archives, you start to think more proactively about the publishing you do. You think about the completeness of your processes. You realize that you have considered hitting that “publish” command to mean you are done, and it doesn’t mean that at all. It only means “publish so others can see this too.”
If you were to newly consider everything I have talked about up to now, and not take the easy way out, not thinking “I’m not as picky as you are Rosa, I’ll live with it,” (come on now, stick with me) how would you change your publishing process?
Remember: Ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is the power of renewed energy.
You will probably do what I have done: Tweak your publishing process, or add to it. I realized that mine was not nearly complete enough. It could have added significant, self-sustaining life to my publishing foundations. I now have a brand new process for what I do after I publish a post for the first time, and before it begins to slip too far into the archives.
I have set up a very simple trace system which is nothing more than a new rule I live by as a publisher. Every single time I publish a new post, I go back to re-read and newly edit the post which has now slipped 5-back on my list. I find I can now edit it pretty ruthlessly, because it is already old and needs no “fresh post context” anymore: What it does need, is my “archive integrity context” and those are now two entirely different things.
GEEKY TECH TIP: If you have multiple sites like me, you know this is not a simple matter of looking 5-back down your posting dashboard. I am newly using my Tumblr for this purpose, being sure I aggregate everything I publish there. You may use another app instead: The trick is use one with a bookmarklet and/or auto-feed to do the aggregation work for you.
CONVERSATIONAL TIP: One thing I do adore about the new TalkingStory.org is the comment conversation subscription readers can select if they choose to be notified about post updates. Therefore, if I significantly edit an old posting, I can also add a brief new comment that mentions what I did, and only those who had subscribed to the conversation will get that alert.
My goodness, do we really need older archives at all?
At this point, I may have you thinking that you want to keep new readers out of your archives altogether, and focused on the new stuff instead. Not a blanket decision for me, though there are certain old posts I will shake my head at and sigh over. Fortunately, I also started to get back that sense of awe we now take for granted — and shouldn’t: When they have the amazing vastness of the internet to choose from, people all around the world are still arriving in MY archives. Wow.
That happy prospect of a fresh arrival got me to think I could do much better than impulsive, ruthless deletions. There came my next discovery: 8. You can have fun, and talk to people directly with simple, one-link landing pages. I have seized the opportunity I have with simply updating an old link landing page this way:
I am sorry, the article you are looking for has been retired.
It did a great job for me, and for others at one time, and now it has happily stepped aside.
It has been retired so that fresher writing can take its place with dazzling you, or collaborating with you, and sharing in that great feeling of being able to help someone.
I invite you to visit the new and better stuff on TalkingStory.org.
Talk to me in the comment boxes you find there,
and meet others in the Ho‘ohana Community.
If you still long for your original search, I will be happy to help you.
I was going to cancel my old TypePad account when I was completely done with my WordPress conversion, but now I think I will keep it. I am constantly thinking of the redirects I can do little by little over time instead of rushing this, and that annual TypePad fee is starting to seem like quite the advertising bargain for the search spider goodness it continues to give me — and our Ho‘ohana Community goodness I am so passionate about sharing.
Archive explorations can go forward too, not just backwards
As you can tell, I now have a complete paradigm shift with archives. I used to think of them purely as history and documentation of a past time line. Now I think of archives as connective anchor points which trigger more learning, and that learning can be found in several different directions.
9. There is no rule saying you can’t put a new link or new content in an old article, and in fact, that is probably the best edit you can do for it!
I have become a more practiced published writer over the last five years, and fact is my new stuff is way, way better than the old stuff. I am sure that yours is too. In the spirit of Talking Story, I just know in my heart mind and soul that we have a ton of interesting conversations we can still have. Whether we have them in an older posting or a new one shouldn’t matter: The posts are just catalysts, and we are the activators.
Gold you can prospect in the archives:
I have opened comments up on my older articles here so I can test this theory, and we shall see what other results of my 10 Publishing Lessons for Summertime 2009 will come to the forefront.
This has gotten much longer than I originally anticipated it would, so let’s wrap up with this:
If you don’t work on your archives, no one will.
Before you even begin to think, “That’s okay,” NO, it’s not okay. We bloggers need to stick together in continually raising the bar on how we write and with our reputation as noble publishers. We don’t publish our writing intending to create blog post graveyards.
Here is a link I want you to please take when you are done reading this posting:
We who blog must be Alaka‘i [the Hawaiian value of leadership] and lead the way with publishing integrity on the web by merit of our great example.
More important than that, is how much you will be amazed by the brand new ideas which are triggered for you once you commit to this archive-cleaning project with me, so please do. Tackle your own archives. Start today. Here is number 10 with the biggest reason of all:
10. Publishing integrity will awaken your creative capacity. One of the first big issues my broken-link project spun off into creatively solving was how badly I needed to completely revamp my blog categories here on TalkingStory.org. It was something I could not say no to any longer, and I am handling it concurrently, slowly but surely. And then Providence interceded: In working with my blog categories, I suddenly saw some business model clarity that had stubbornly eluded me for quite some time. Thinking about the repercussions this clarity will have throughout Say Leadership Coaching and Ho‘ohana Publishing is incredibly exciting and energizing for me.
Trust me on this one: I set about writing only on the highlights for you. If you start to work on your archives — content, links, comments, all of it — you will never get writers’ block again.
I learn from you all the time, and it is something I want to keep doing.
Your turn to write now, and my turn to listen and learn.
Art/Photo Credit Postscript: “Prospector” by ToOliver2 on Flickr.
Longtime readers may be thinking, “Where have I seen this drawing before?” and I used it on this MWAC article: Are you a Conversation Killer without realizing you are? Three Tips to help.