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The Problem of Dates on Blogs

Lately I’ve been pondering a the issue of dates on blogs.

While I see the usefulness of dates on posts (they help give context to a post) I wonder if they sometimes do more harm than good.

A Confession

The reason I say this is that I’ve come to realize that I’m something of a ‘date snob’ when it comes to reading other people’s blogs. I suspect I’m not alone because the world we live in (and particularly the medium we’re writing in) is quite obsessed with ‘freshness’.

If I’m searching Google on a topic and come across a post that someone’s written on their blog I tend to look at when it was written. If the date is some months (or years) back I tend to rate it as less relevant as a post that might have been written in the past week or two – I don’t do it consciously but have caught myself doing it.

When I think logically about this I don’t see the sense in it because I know on one level that a lot of my own older content is still highly relevant – but for some reason I’ve come to see fresh content as equalling better content (sad I know). The result is that I’m probably less likely to read old posts thoroughly less likely to link to them (for some stupid fear of seeming to be out of date).

Am I alone as a date snob?

I suspect I’m not.

‘Solutions’

I’m not sure what the solution for this is – however have experimented with a couple of ideas including decreasing the visibility of dates on posts (I used to have my dates hidden away at the bottom of posts here at ProBlogger) and even taking dates off posts altogether (something I’ve done from the start at my latest blog).

This latest experiment with leaving dates off posts altogether has actually worked out quite well for me at DPS. I’ve noticed that a lot more of my older posts consistently are getting linked to by other blogs over time. I suspect it works well there mainly because that site is very much focused upon ‘how to’ or ‘tips’ type posts which are not time specific. A news related blog would probably not be able to get away with it as their posts need to be put into the context of time.

Of course I’ve heard a few other bloggers say that not having dates on my site means it’s not a blog – but I that’s another debate….

Questions for Discussion

I don’t have the answer to this ‘problem’ yet but thought I’d put it out there and see what others think.

Are we too obsessed with freshness as bloggers? Are you a date snob too? Have you tried any ways to combat this problem? Is a blog without dates not a blog?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Greg says:

    I’d say that usefulness of dates highly depends on the topic of the blog. For example, if I’m looking for ideas on how to program something in ColdFusion or another language, I want to make sure I find solutions that work for the current version of the language. In that case, if I see posts with solutions from 2004, I can be pretty confident that they won’t work the same right now.

    However, for topics that have longer lifelines, the date means very little. The information is likely as relevant today as it was then.

  2. Ian Anderson says:

    I totally agree that people will see fresher posts as the more relevant. We have been taught in school that newer research materials are more relevant for writing our papers. That carries over to our personal research.

    I’m a date snob and I have no problem with it. Although obviously I wouldn’t want the dates on my posts to hurt my traffic. I’ve been thinking of taking them off as well.

    A blog does not have to have dates to be a blog. That is ridiculous. And if some people want to see it not as a blog, who cares? It really doesn’t matter in the big picture.

  3. I’ve noticed that a lot of my older blog posts tend to be picked up by search engines a lot, but they never get commented on now.

    I can certainly see your point.

  4. I think this is a valid point, but on the chance (quite likely) that a firmware on a camera for (DFS) or a new development in a certain area could leave you sounding like a fool, dates could act as a disclaimer as well on posts, though relevant, may become outdated soon. If you remove the date formatting, you may find you must go back and revise those posts with a comment or rewrite followed by a few links back in a new post just to let people know that it’s been updated otherwise you lose content value over time.

  5. Kimber says:

    Quality of information is key for me.

    I like to link a lot on my marketing blog (’cause there’s nothing new under the marketing sun). One of the ways I do that is search on the specific topic and then link to the “best” post. I couldn’t care less whether that information is one hour old, one day old, one year old, or one decade old.

    Only if I’m searching on current events, do I care about the date.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately as well. I even wrote a post last week on how to extend the shelf life of a blog post. Of course that was *last week* so who knows if anyone will read it again!

    When a blog doesn’t have dates I’m less inclined to take a look because I don’t know if it’s being updated or not. I want to participate on blogs that are being updated frequently; because it’s about having a conversation not just reading 1 thing and leaving. So I want to comment, email the author, engage others. If there are no dates it can be harder to do that; because we don’t know if the blog is dead or alive.

    But, blog posts that are even a few days old, especially on less popular blogs, can almost utterly disappear because people are so focused on new content, whether it’s a news blog (where it makes sense) or a “how-to” blog or advice blog where the date of the content might be less relevant.

    I think people need to find ways of inter-linking blog posts better – which was the crux of my blog post on the subject. Doing that diminishes the importance of the dates. If I read something current, and see a link to something from a month ago, I know that (a) you’re current and active, and (b) you’ve talked more about the subject that I’m interested in. Which is a winning combination.

  7. Ajay D'Souza says:

    I guess that totally depends on what kind of blog you are running…

    Not having a date on a blog that has tips is a good idea.

    Though, this has inspired me to take out the date on my movie review blog.

  8. Jim Logan says:

    I’ve thought of this same thing many times over the past year. I am a date snob.

    I first thought of this because I noticed I discount books that aren’t written the current year. I found myself checking the copyright dates of books and making mental notes that books written a few years ago are less valuable than books written within the past year. There are many disciplines where this could be true, technology for example, but in my area of expertise (sales and marketing) much information is timeless.

    Related to blogging, a post I write today about lead generation is likely to be just as valuable 3+ years from now as it is today. The sad fact is someone who trips over that post is the future may very well not read it because they noticed it’s “old.”

    I like the idea of turning off dates on posts. It won’t work for everyone, but likely will work for me.

    Great food for thought!

  9. Jennifer says:

    Very interesting. I must admit that sometimes I want to comment on a post, but if it’s from months ago, I figure the discussion’s over somehow. I think the habit comes from reading forums, where it’s all about what people are talking about right now, but on blogs the discussion is more asynchronous.

  10. Whitney says:

    For all the reasons already listed here, dates on postings are necessary tools on news blogs and technology blogs. Things change too often, and the date is a important part of establishing context.

    Ben’s suggestion of bloggers needing to do a better job of inter-linking to old posts is a valuable one — and one I hope readers don’t miss. Dates, and links to old articles, are a good way to thread together facts for readers (and to establish credibility with them about how closely you’re following a subject) — whether you’re seaming together posts about the Bush administration’s comments regarding the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict or the tech community’s attempts to help users clean out the Sony Rootkit trojan.

    Interlinking is also a good way to revive perfectly useful older posts. Over at the Occupational Adventure blog, Curt Rosengren does a great job of linking back to and reviving old posts on his own blog, as well as finding golden nuggets (both old and new) on other peoples’ sites and linking to them. He has the advantage of working in an arena where the article topics are often timeless…and he leverages it to the fullest extent.

  11. Tom says:

    I’m not a date snob, but I find it aggravating when people (whether it’s a personal blog ora newspaper site) discuss some issue and throw in terms like “soon” and “we expect that in six months” and so on and so forth, and then have no date. In general, I have a bias against crediting blogs that don’t have dates.

    For some topics, it doesn’t really matter. CopyBlogger who guested here tends to write about general principles that will be as correct in five years as they are today, so I don’t really care. Darren writes about a fair bit of breaking news. I don’t really pay attention to the date, but if I’m going through the archives and come across a post that says “there’s still time to ….” then I really need to have a date for that to be meaningful at all.

    Here’s one other thing. People are also interested in longevity. Has this guy been around long enough to have a clue? Which suddenly makes me realize that perhaps a good way to launch a blog is to write 104 posts and then back date them so it looks like you’ve been posting once per week for 2 years… unless someone is curious enough to check the whois info on the domain. I bet that’s a lot more credible than 104 totally “fresh” posts.

  12. Sean Fraser says:

    I’ll disagree. I believe that dates on articles are important. Especially, on tutorials. I – Personally – hate finding an article/tutorial with an intriguing title only to find that the information contained in the article is out-dated by several years.

    Articles shelf-life seems to be about two weeks for readers adding comments; all blogs I read have this.

    My suggestion. Write articles and/or tutorials with dates. When pertinent information has changed – three months, six months or one year later – write a new article with new information and reason(s) for writing the new article. Cite (i.e., link to) the old article for an historical perspective.

    That method shows you have “history” with your subject so you must be authoritative. You generate traffic to that old article; you’ve got additional linkage to that old article.

  13. brem says:

    I rarely look at the dates…

  14. Brian Lipton says:

    I completely agree with you. Dates are a disadvantage. EXCEPT. Having the ’2006′ in the links have helped me with some Search Engines because some people type things in search engines like: blog help 2006.

    Cheers,

    Brian

  15. Maricar says:

    Good point, Darren.
    There’s probably not a right or wrong way about this. It depends on the blog, and the purpose of the blog. I have a blog (www.papergoodness.com) where I talk about new papercraft products. For this, it’s important to have a date to know what’s new when. For blogs that I read, I like being able to see the dates, mostly.

    On a related note, what about the time on a post? Now, there, I’m more “snobbish”. Don’t see the point really in seeing the exact hour and minute a post was written.

  16. For my own blogs – The most important thing for me to do first when I select a template .. is to remove the TIME STAMP of the posting if it’s there. People don’t have to know that I actually posted an article in the middle of the night or in the middle of the work day or during suppertime or while I was on the toilet.

    It has nothing to do with snobbishness .. but more embarrassment to have the world see all the weird times that I am posting and surfing the internet – I’m not a problogger and have a day job, but spend as much time online as you guys do :p

  17. Hsien Lei says:

    I’m a date snob in a different way. If I don’t see a date, I often move on because I have no way of assessing the context and relevance of a particular post or statement.

    It is imperative that science and health blogs have dates on them because developments advance so rapidly. Removing the dates seems almost like deception and a way of tricking readers.

  18. Ray Dotson says:

    I’m probably in the camp of the date snobs. A recently dated blog entry tells you the owner is actively maintaining the site at the very least. I also agree that the more recent information does tend to be the most relevant.

    I do quite often find older postings on other blogs to be extremely useful as long as the information isn’t outdated. However, I don’t see a whole lot of activity on the older postings on my own blog after a couple of weeks. I’m still pretty small time, though…

  19. bernard says:

    Interesting post, I was thinking about this a few days ago as well… I am to start a new blog with guest writers (known musicians, producers etc) who contribute and the aim of the blog is being timeless so I have taken the decision to ommit the dates. The fact that the blog will be part of a bigger news site will be interesting in order to see how people will react on these… I see that older news posts rarely get comments posted after a few weeks.

  20. pcunix says:

    Funny, because I never used to date my posts and just started doing so a few days ago :-)

  21. prlinkbiz says:

    Hey! My partner in crime over at NLL commented here today too! lol (Hi K!)
    It’s funny timing for the topic because one of my clients wants the dates off her blog, and I don’t think for her blog it really matters. I personally like dates. I guess I’m a date freak. lol

  22. Tim Bennett says:

    When this blog came through on my RSS reader it reminded me I had an unfinished blog post that I promptly completed and punlished.

    http://www.drquincy.com/personal/blog/permalink/isitablogorisitanarticle/

    I touch on the using the dates on blogs to work with timesless articles.

  23. Michele says:

    It depends on the topic.
    Configuring postfix or apache hasn’t changed that much in the last couple of years :)

  24. The Patri0t says:

    I think a Blog without dates is not so good. I was using this theme recently which did not show, I don’t know why, the date on which article was published. I searched around and found a new cool way of showing date. Used it. I got sad at the fact that the tutorial was written a year ago and that Blog only had 3 entries. Nothing after those!

    So where was I. I think showing date is very important. You have hidden the dates from main entries but they come in the address bar once article is clicked. It really does not matter to me. An article 3 years ago, if good is worth more than the useless one posted a day ago.

    :-)

  25. With a little strategic coding, you could make dates disappear when folks come from search engines. Might be useful, but might also not be….

  26. Darren makes good points about how bloggers percieve newer content as “better”. These reasons are why I removed dates from my blog entries two years ago. I don’t use dates in my urls either. I’ve been pleased with the results.

  27. I almost always check for the date. I hate older things.

  28. bulut says:

    I’ve a music blog,so dates are very important for me because i write about old and new records at same time so how can they know while I’m posting about a 80s album it’s new.

    But i think that i’m going to size the dates to small.Because they make bad appearance at top of my posts.

  29. Mike says:

    Darren, I love the new blog. For me it looks more like a regular website than a blog, that is being run on WP. Unless you are providing some kind of timeline like what blogs were originally created to be made as, aka “online diaries” I really don’t think it is necessary to provide dates. The distinction between blogs and websites has really started to blur recently.

  30. I’m a date snob… and i didn’t even know it.

    Thanks for making me realise what i have always done subconciously!

  31. Rico says:

    I agree with everyone here (listing will make this comment unnecessarily long, so sorry) who’ve said that dates are important. When the first blogs reach 10 years old, dates will help future readers put the posts, as you said Darren, into context.

    I’ve always believed that the best information can be timeless; what works before can work today. Like Copyblogger’s post on Aristotle (http://www.copyblogger.com/blogging-tips/). We should also take a long-term view here. By providing dates, our ancestors will have a better record of how human thought has developed over the years. Something like that. :)

  32. I combat date snobs in two ways: I have a weekly post titled “This week on jkOnTheRun” that just has post titles from the week, I use only the ones with the most comments submitted. Then, once a year I do a similar post that lists the 10 or 15 top posts of all time complete with a brief summary of the post. I find that even frequent visitors appreciate these posts and they always restimulate commentary. It works for me, anyway.

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