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Do You Update Posts or Post Updates?

Do you update your posts when information changes or is new, or do you just post an update?

I think this is a question that needs to be thoroughly considered and explored. I, for one, am sick and tired of visiting a link for a WordPress Plugin, WordPress Theme, software program, or whatever only to either be told at the bottom of the post or later in the comments (if I read them) that this post information is old and that I will find updated information at a new location. CRAP! Time waster!

The issue of updating posts is not limited to developers of software, programs, utilities, WordPress Themes, WordPress Plugin, or other services, products or tools. It’s been over a month since the release of , and yesterday I remembered to update “WordPress Versions: How Many and What’s the Difference, one of the popular posts on this blog. It still talked about WordPress 1.5.2. Yikes! So I updated it so people can find current information rather than old news.

Would you have done that? Or simply posted a link to a new updated post? Or ignored it totally? Do you even care if people are reading out-of-date information on your blog?

Now that you know my opinion, let’s get to the specifics so you can form your own opinion on this matter.

Update or Post an Update? That is the question.

For you, the blogger, software developer, designer, or plugin artist, you work in real time. When you make changes and improvements to your tool, you want to shout it to the world. And you want to shout it NOW.

You write a new post that says “here it is and here are the changes”. That’s fine. I like announcements, but let’s look at how the time line works for users.

Users have a different sense of “time” that usually doesn’t match yours. We have a need so we go out searching. We stumble upon your great and useful tool and shout, “Yeah, I’ve found you!” We are the early discoverers, like Columbus, discovering new land that, while occupied, is still credited as a new discovery. It has been “found”. With this finding, we assume we are reading the latest news and information about your tool and eagerly pour over the text with the hope that it will cure our ills.

Unfortunately, the information we are reading may already be out of date. While our discovery is new, according to your time line, this is old news. Still, it is your responsibility to meet our needs, not yours, when it comes to providing documentation and information about your program or tool.

How you do it is what is up for debate. Here are your options.

Update the Original Post: Go to the original post and update all the information the user will need. Include the new version numbers, download links, and links to all supporting information. You can say it’s been updated or not, but if that is the main link found within your user documentation, then keep that page updated with the latest information.

Post an Announcement but Link to the Original and Back Again: If you choose not to update the original post, then post a link to the original post in the new announcement, and then include a link inside of the original post to the new information. Put it at the TOP not the bottom so we see it immediately.

Post an Announcement With a Link to the Original But Still Update the Original: A compromise between the two suggestions above is to post an announcement, include a link to the original, but also update the original post so that all the information, documentation, download links, and so on are contained in one place.

There is no reason users have to chase information around on your website to find documentation or information about your products or services, even if they are simple WordPress Plugins or Themes. If you have provided a link in the documentation directly to a specific post on your blog, then maintain that page and provide adequate and clearly defined links to other resources.

If the links in the documentation are to your main website and not to a specific page, make clearly identifiable links from your main page to these resources and keep your documentation up-to-date to help people find your wonderful tools. You created them so people can use them, help them find them so they can use them.

If you have written a post about a specific version, and it is getting a lot of page visits, then consider updating the information and/or providing a link to the new information. This helps people not only find the new information, but it tells them that you care enough to help them find the information they may be looking for.

What do you think about this? I’ve spent hours digging around through search engines, on-site searches and flipping through web pages to find a link, any link, that will get me more information about a Plugin, Theme, or software program. I adore these programs or I wouldn’t spent so much time trying to locate information about them.

Or I will write about them with great gusto, bragging about how wonderful they are and how they have changed my life, and then two weeks later start getting comments saying the link is no good or they can’t find the information on the website listed. I then start digging to try to find a better link or resource and am often stymied, too. How do you think I feel after having bragged about the tool only to have the developer hurt themselves by not providing adequate link information?

So which do you do? Would you update the post or just post an update?


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

11 Comments

  1. Posted March 1, 2006 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    I think it depends on how you communicate it.

    If you put a link to a post in your software documentation, then you should update the post.

    If you find that uncomfortable, then use a WordPress page (e.g. a subpage under a “projects” page for each of your projects) to describe the latest status, and use small posts linking to this page to announce updates of this page to your rss-reader audience.

    Or even niftier: create a category for the project or plugin you’re regularly posting updates to, and refer to the category url in every posting you make on the subject.

    What still other people do, is having a companion wiki to their blog: the wiki reflecting the current status of knowledge, the blog as a reflection of the history of that knowledge (this has happend, that’s my opinion, I’ve updated those pages on the wiki).

    BTW: if you write a post titled: “ultimate list of WordPress plugins” on March 1, 2006, people will forgive you if you it isn’t the ultimate list of WordPress plugins anymore on July 15th 2006. A blog posting is a snapshot. They might be a bit more critical if you had put this ultimate list on a page, since then you pretend the information to be timeless.

  2. Posted March 1, 2006 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Very relevant question, this post has triggered me to think about the problem how to keep my information on my blog up to date. As a matter of fact I’m afraid it’s almost impossible. Just like old newspapers our information could be out of date. How do you track all your postings from the past, especially when your postings contain a lot of links.

  3. Posted March 1, 2006 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Good question, Marc.

    When preparing an article or post, I think about whether or not I’ve written about it before. I like the feature of “Related Posts”, since it helps the reader connect to more information on your blog that may be relevant. If it’s important to find out if I’ve written about the subject before, a quick search will let me know.

    This isn’t about every single post you’ve written, but the important ones like your software or WordPress Themes or Plugins, things that people will come looking for specifically. I also include my most popular posts, knowing that people are landing on these posts for a reason, and it helps them to get the most accurate information, which makes me look really good. ;-)

    If you don’t have such needs, then once it is out there, let it go. It’s up to you.

    This blog is not a diary or time-based opinionated babble. It serves as a resource for WordPress users and bloggers. Therefore, I think of it more like a wiki. I want the information people find to be relevant to their needs as much as I can.

    I also have to earn a living so it can take me some time to update things here as work takes priority over fun. ;-)

  4. HR
    Posted March 2, 2006 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, great post as always. I, too, agree that many of the gems you’ve authored are a great resource to the WordPress blogging community.

    I have pondered the question of updates myself because I find them to be so cumbersome and time-consuming. If a blogger uses their WordPress installation solely for diary or news/politics/personal editorial purposes, then I think WordPress has all the tools necessary. The problem comes in when a blogger provides a tangible resource such as a guideline, how to, software review (i.e. WP plugins), or a post that consolidates a bunch of resources around the web into a sort of “academic review” article that we run into problems. In essence, crossing the line from a diary to more of a wiki or CMS using WP is problematic.

    For now, I’ve resorted to putting updates to stories as postscript and providing a link to the next new post on the topic in older posts. However, this can turn into a logistical nightmare for the blogger and an annoyance for the reader. It’s troublesome for the blogger because every time a new related story comes out, we have a choice: either go back and update all old entries to reflect the location of the newest entry or force users through click-after-click of hunting through a maze for stories. Both options are not considered to be great solutions by me.

    In light of this I have come up with a few ideas.

    1. Currently there is no widely available solution (that I know of) at this time that will tag updates to posts as sort of mini-entries that people can follow. The idea is that when there is an update to a post, the WP editor would have an option titled “Update to:” and a box where the blogger can choose the story. Then, when the original post is clicked, WP grads the update entry and attaches to the bottom of the single-post view. The other great thing about this solution is the blogger can be given the option to display Updates on the main page via the WP loop. The other option to display updates would be a little sidebar list showing “Latest updates to old entries.”

    2. Another idea I had focuses on my issue with “Related Posts” (RP) plugins for WP. Most of what RP shows are a few entries based on keywords in the post itself. It usually doesn’t give a chronological listing of posts that may be more relevant to the user coming in from a search engine. If bloggers learned to use tags correctly, maybe someone could hack together a “Related Posts by Tag/Time” plugin that finds the newest posts sharing the same tag(s) and building a small list.

    Blogging is something I do on the side for fun. As it stands, providing a meaningful resource with updates to users can be difficult without the added ability to manage updates. Hopefully some clever WP programmer will be able to solve the problems for those of us who are hindered by our lack of programming abilities.

    For now, I think the manual solutions you provide are the best bet until we can get some added functionality to WP. So do I update posts and post updates? Both. :-)

  5. Posted March 3, 2006 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    The date is an important element of a post. I’m all for maintaining an uptodate blog, but as far as going back and changing all outdated posts? No dice.

    Of course, your blog is much more subject oriented than mine, so it makes sense that you want the material you’ve posted to be as close to a reference as possible for WPers.

  6. Posted March 17, 2006 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    I have a little WP site with scripts and WordPress plugins which I am often updating. I was actually wondering this same thing (post updates or update posts) a moment ago, and I came upon this page.

    Right now I update my posts – adding the new info, updating the changelog, etc. So my links always point to the up-to-date information. I think I am just secretly worried that a user will find an older version of a plugin, try it out, and never know the joys of my latest version! *grin*

    As a previous poster mentioned, my page is not really a standard blog, but more of a collection of articles and resources, so I think it is fine to update the posts. I just do not see what good it would be to have 10+ posts on a single script, and constantly be updating them all to point back around in circles to the correct one. *shrug*

    One question I have been debating though is whether or not to update the timestamp on a post when I update the script.

  7. Posted March 17, 2006 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, the timestamp issue is a good one. If you have a prominent post meta data section or post date with a lot of emphasis on “This post was published on this date”, and you are using the full version of WordPress, you might want to consider using a WordPress Plugin that either changes or adds a second date for “date post modified”. I’ve used Nick Momrik’s Last Modified WordPress Plugin for over a year and love it. It allows me to list not only the original post date, but the date the post was last updated or modified. That might work.

    You can also remove date references from your posts. A lot of the writing I do is timeless. I don’t care if the reader found it in 1996 or 2006, it will is valid for the most part. When I switched main site to WordPress, I didn’t have dates on my posts, so I just made a lot of them up, partly from notes and guess work. I had to make decisions in my WordPress Theme about how I wanted to showcase the dates and if they were really important or not. I decided they weren’t, so I eliminated the original post date and listed the date updated or modified and buried the information in the post data section at the bottom of my posts.

    Very good point. If you have scripts and programs that offer timely updates, I recommend that you put an obvious Updated: April 21, 2005 date information at the top of your post so people will know they are reading timely information, and change it accordingly when you update the post. And give some thought as to how you handle dates in your web page design.

  8. Posted March 18, 2006 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Removing the dates sounds very interesting. I think it would work quite nicely for my situation. Definitly something to think about. For my scripts and things that are updated, I have the dates in the changelog of course, but I may stick it up top as well.

    Thanks for your thoughts.. some nice ideas there :)

  9. palurie
    Posted May 24, 2007 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle!

    what about when one inserts backdated posts, and they appear in the chronological correct order, but the Categories & archives pages don’t reflect their existence?

    A search of the site DOES give the term listedin one of the posts, but nowhere else!

    Thanks
    Peter

  10. Posted May 24, 2007 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    You publish a new post with a date, say, three months ago, but the post is new? And it’s not listed in the archives or categories? Hmmm? I’ve done that before and had no problem. That sounds like a job for the WordPress Support Forums as you may have more going on. It could be anything from a corrupted version of WordPress you are using (something didn’t upload right and now you are finding it), a Plugin, or your database tables could be screwed up. Or you might not have put the post in the category. Did you double check that? I’ve done that. Feel so dumb! But it happens. ;-)

    Check with the Support Forum and give them all the information you can like version number and if you are using any site map or archives Plugins. This is a strange one.

  11. Posted September 9, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,
    Can you suggest a currently supported plugin that would apply a timestamp to the top of a post/page indicating when it was last updated?


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