Bryan Lawrence : Impermanent Links and Icebergs

Bryan Lawrence

... personal wiki, blog and notes

Impermanent Links and Icebergs

The wonderful think about the Net is that you can link to things. What's not so wonderful is when the link disappears. Even less wonderful is when the content at the link target changes after you made your link. A couple of weeks ago I linked to NASA article about iceberg/glacier collisions. At the time of writing, the article predicted a collision. As I type this, if you follow the link, it describes the iceberg going aground on a shoal a couple of miles short of the glacier. Who knows what it will describe when you follow the link ...

To be fair to NASA, under "related links" they do provide what I suppose was the original article. However, in general I think this is the wrong way around. If you are going to call something an article, then you should not change it ... except in ways that preserve an information audit trail with a clear concept of time's arrow (in this case the older file is called ice_berg_ram2, compared with the newer ice_berg_ram.html). Far better, to leave the link as it is, and have an "updates link" added to the page ... i.e. to have what would I suppose be a manual trackback ... and have a new article there. The NASA behaviour compares poorly with the blogging concept of permalink. With a defined concept of a permalink, one can have a site like mine: a mixture of permanent things (ok, I admit to fixing gross errors of spelling and grammar), and things that change (e.g. the personal wiki pages and/or external links). It should be obvious to the casual reader which is which and that's fine. What's not fine is to have something which appears permanent ... i.e. an article ... and have it changing ...

Back to the iceberg. It looks like it's gone into reverse, and may be cracking up a bit ... not nearly as exciting a grand crash as seemed likely before, but the images from the NASA site are still a great advertisement for earth observation.

Categories: environment curation

This page last modified Tuesday 01 February, 2005
DISCLAIMER: This is a personal blog. Nothing written here reflects an official opinion of my employer or any funding agency.