November 3, 2003

Dead wood

Jeffrey Zeldman once famously said, “99.9% of all websites are obsolete.” He was talking about the underlying markup either being built with tag soup methods or just not validating. But in a different spin on the phrase we have this article, which talks about all the websites out there that have long been abandoned and doomed to be “deadwood”.

Keeping a website fresh can be a constant struggle. I know I have battled with it on this site, trying to keep a running tally in my head of which sections are unfinished and which ones have a finished design but ongoing content, meaning they need constant attention to stay relevant. This weblog, for example. If I write something every day, then there will be people who check it often, looking for something new. But if I let it slide for a few days, as I have been doing now that the baby’s here, visitors might get tired of seeing the same post day after day and check back less often. So I’ve got to keep it going. I know of a weblog that goes completely dark from time to time. All the archives are deleted, even the latest post is erased, and the site sits empty for a time. Then, as quickly as she stopped, she starts back up again with the writing like nothing happened. I can only imagine how many readers she loses during those dark periods. Only the truly devoted, like me, stick around to see when she’ll come back.

Another one of my own sites that I have to stay on the ball with is my Ormsby House gallery. This one also has dates plastered all over the place, which are there not only to give the material a sense of context, but also to keep my lazy butt honest. If I start to fall too far behind, the site takes on a stale quality and visitors start to wonder how devoted I really am to the project. They can see I haven’t written anything in two months; what happened? So I’ve got a sense of duty to keep going. I feel like I owe it to everyone. I mean, if I expect people to give me a few minutes of their time and read my site, shouldn’t I be willing to dedicate a few minutes of my time keeping it fresh?

But getting back to the original article, it mostly talks about sites that have been abandoned for years. It talks about the powerul force of neglect, where someone starts a site with high hopes and then real life or other projects get in the way, and the unfinished hulk just sits there, mocking the author for all time. I have those, too. And, like so many of the people in the article, I have vowed to return to those sites, “one day”, and finish them, or at least flesh them out a little more and add something new. But giving to the Internet, rather than just taking, can be a draining endeavour, and when real life suddenly gets a lot more complicated, sometimes the Web is one of those things that has to take a back seat.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

Comments (3)

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  1. Ade Rixon says:

    I think the most demotivating force for web sites, after Real Life, is lack of feedback. Everyone dreams about getting linked by a big site like Slashdot and becoming one of the top opinion-formers (like the Blog Elite(tm)) but, after a year or so of obscurity, you wake up and wonder why you're still plugging away in the great mass of unheard voices. Even great writing – even writing that's as great as you think it is – is no guarantee of getting noticed; my impression is that it often comes down to a lucky break like suddenly catching the zeitgeist and being found by a Googling journo with a deadline.

    The main way I can justify my blog to myself is as a personal archive (with the occasional tidbit for visitors) and because I know the technical solutions I sometimes document can be found by others with the same problems via Google (hence, a social purpose). The original magazine-style site was abandoned pretty much as soon as I became engaged and slumped into domesticity. Without an evident audience, you need a pretty strong streak of self-interest and personal satisfaction to keep going. Otherwise, reading books is more rewarding and frees you of the desire to be noticed doing it.

    (Incidentally Scott, I've been a loyal reader since you were listed as a Blog of Note, so you can take a few days off and spend time with the kid if you like. 🙂

    Posted November 4, 2003 @ 4:13 am
  2. mrjerz says:

    I agree about the feedback. It seems like I go to sites and people there are commenting like they know each other. I guess that could be true, but chances are it's not. They just happen to all be loyal readers of sites where the content is interesting and warrants commenting. I haven't figured that out yet. I would like nothing more than for every post to be interesting enough to comment on, but they aren't. I keep doing it for the same reason. I want to look back in a few years and read about things I was doing today.

    That said, this site is slick. I like the design a lot, and it's smooth look make it damn easy to read. Keep it up.

    Posted November 4, 2003 @ 1:07 pm
  3. MatchASM says:

    Yupz, the attention is a central blogging issue. Also, I agree with Ade. Go on vacation for a month or so, and we'll still be here. 🙂

    Posted November 4, 2003 @ 1:36 pm

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