Search and you will find … an old news story?

By always placing the most recent version of its articles at a static URL, Wikipedia concentrates the power of its inbound links on a particular topic to a single URL. A reader searching for information on Hurricane Katrina who clicks through to Wikipedia from Google gets Wikipedia’s latest information on the storm and recovery efforts (or lack thereof). They don’t get a months-old dispatch with no clear link to the latest news.

What if a news organization, employing professional journalists, wrote their news website like a wiki? I’m not taking about turning over the page to readers. I’m suggesting that — instead of distinct daily takes — news stories could be covered with encyclopedia-style articles that staffers would update with new information whenever available. How many more inbound links would such an approach get? —Robert NilesSearch and you will find … an old news story? (OJR)

This is an excellent introduction to an issue that’s bothered me for some time. At one point, The Onion used to publish its new articles in a root directory, and then move them to a new archive directory to make room for new stuff. Thus, if I linked to a story with the URL “news1.htm,” a week later that article would be replaced by some other news story with the same name, and the content that I wanted to send my readers to would be in a different location. I could get around that problem by linking directly to the archive location in the first place, but webmasters who didn’t understand why moving URLs is a bad idea also don’t understand why they should bother changing the way they do things. (I once tried to explain it to the editor of a newsletter, and got a snippy response, to the effect, “Why should we bother to do this work for you?” I stopped reading, and linking to, that publication.)

Blogs essentially publish the same material so that it is visible in multiple ways. You can see this entry at the top of my blog home page as soon as I publish it; you can see it categorized along with other entries with a simliar content, and you can see it as a stand-alone page at an URL that will not change. Other blogs also sort content by day, week and/or month.

I use Wikipedia whenever I come into a story late, and I’m looking for context.