Do you reread your old posts? I do. I don’t do it with any plan or forethought, but curiosity leads me to do it all the time. I’ll see in my stats that somebody clicked on some old post and I won’t remember what it was about. Or I’ll get curious about what I said about something. So I go back and read it. Or, as noted in a recent post, I’ll discover via my stat browsing that a link is broken, and in the course of fixing it, will end up reading the post.
Seeing a post with fresh eyes, after not reading it for a number of months or years can be revealing. It’s almost like reading someone else’s writing. Inevitably I find mistakes. Misspellings, grammatical errors, accidental omissions, sentences so poorly cast that even I, the author, can’t figure out what I meant. I correct the little things. Nothing major. After all, some famous author might have quoted me and linked to the post, and I don’t want to make him or her look wrong or foolish. (Hey, don’t laugh; it could happen.) Besides, I just think it’s good practice to not go around breaking links or changing history, so to speak.
Sometimes I’ll discover an image is missing. I don’t know why they disappear or where they go, but I dig them up again and fix everything. I’ve yet to discover a missing one that I didn’t still have on file somewhere. Other times I’ll discover a broken link. Not because I systematically check all the links, but because a particular link sounds like something interesting that I want to see again. Too often, especially on older posts, the linked-to post or article will be gone. I understand that people delete blogs, or that sites archive or delete old stories. But if it’s something I really wanted to save, it bothers me. I could have just copied the entire story into my post, but that would be copyright infringement. So I link to the item and perhaps include a brief quote. But if the item disappears, the meat of my post may gone; the whole point of the post may be gone. (I’ve told myself many times to write as though the links didn’t exist; write so the post can stand alone if the linked-to item disappears.)
For example, in a post on atheism, I included a quote and a link to the source as a way to credit the author but also to authenticate my source and provide the rest of an interesting discussion. The item I linked to is now gone. For all my readers know, I made up the whole thing. I came across another, very brief post that consisted of little more than “Hey, look at this fascinating article on the history of desktop publishing” and a link. Turns out the fascinating article is no longer available so the post is useless and my access an article I really wanted to save is gone. There have been many such occurrences and they leave me frustrated and disheartened. I suppose my only option is to copy articles for my own files and personal reference. It won’t do my readers any good, but at least I’d still have that desktop publishing article.
Sometimes I’ll see things in my old posts that ought to have links but don’t. So I’ll add them. Links are good for SEO but more importantly, they are a convenience to my readers. If I wanted to know more about that thing I mentioned, so might they. And more than once I’ve discovered some time after publishing that a link I thought I’d put in isn’t there. They can get broken or deleted in the course of subsequent editing and rewriting.
One of the things I discover most often is videos that have been taken down. Usually it’s because of a copyright dispute or violation, and although I understand that, it’s frustrating. It’s particularly distressing if I had something specific to say about the video. A controversial dance video (down for a long time but now available again), for example, or a particularly tasteless commercial. Without the videos, my remarks are meaningless. Maybe in the future I should grab some relevant screenshots in case a video is later taken down. Vodpod videos are a particular problem. Lockerz took over Vodpod a few years ago and now those videos don’t seem to work anymore. In many cases I can’t remember what was in the original video so I’ve no hope of replacing it.
As another example of a video that was taken down, I was going to cite one from the Beatles. But in going back to get a link for this post, I discovered the video was back up again. I probably never would have known if I hadn’t been looking at old posts.
Old habits die hard, it seems. And an old editor just can’t help rereading and editing, especially when it’s her own stuff. One more read with fresh eyes never hurts.
… and of course there’s always one more misteak to find.