Earlier today, I implemented a functionality on swombat.com which will tweet out older posts from the Founder's Library every six hours. I wasn't sure whether people would consider it spam. But Duane Jackson suggested, very wisely, that I just try it and see if anyone complains.
I already tweet every new article on the blog, and no one (other than a few friends who were concerned that others might consider it spammy, though they themselves didn't mind it), not a single person has ever complained about it (I fully expect several complaints after this post, though!). Sometimes, this means several tweets within a short period, when I publish lots of articles at the same time. And yet everyone seems fine with it. So why was I much more concerned about tweeting older articles?
There is a fundamental problem with blogs, and with their chronological nature. Blogs fundamentally, naturally, inexorably devalue the content published on them as it ages. It's inherently harder to find older content, unless it's pushed forward in front of the reader. It's accepted that an article written a mere year ago is less worth reading than one written a few hours ago (note: both are excellent). This is both the strength and weakness of the blogging format.
It's a strength, because it makes blogs easier to consume for the technologically disabled (i.e. those without RSS readers). It's a strength, also, because it presents a standard, comfortable, well-known interface that people can get used to and consume all around the web.
But it's a terrible weakness, too, because this chronological devaluation is fundamentally wrong and inadequate, at least when it comes to topics other than news, current events, and bleeding edge technology.
The best content, the articles most worthy of your time, are not those written in the last five minutes. They are those that are still being read and appreciated years, decades, centuries or even millennia after their initial publication. There is great value in bringing fundamental ideas up to date, but that does not make the originals less worth reading.
This is true in any context that is not purely technology driven, which makes it true for most contexts (although perhaps not most contexts covered by blogs, which were originally created by technical people).
Those articles are the evergreens, the lasting pieces of wisdom that I try to collect on this site. Whether my choices turn out to be correct remains to be seen, but that's the goal.
Daring Swombat Ball
Swombat.com started out modelled after DaringFireball, which deals in the latest, bleeding edge geek news and analysis (although John has also inevitably produced his fair share of timeless content - which is hidden in the bowels of his site, never to be stumbled upon again by those not in the know). This model worked for me for a while, and it is a great model for adding new content, but it is simply not adequate for valuing that content properly and giving it it's lasting place.
So, going forward, I'm going to progressively morph swombat.com towards a model that values quality over timeliness. I will experiment with various approaches. To begin with, I'm going to make the front page present random articles from the Founder's Library, rather than the latest articles (latest articles will still be available in a sub-page, at least for a while). I'll try to find creative ways to give the best content on swombat.com the attention it deserves, no matter how old it might be.
Hopefully this might provide ideas for other bloggers too. Perhaps even John Gruber or other top bloggers might read this and extract some of those eternal pearls so that new readers might find them.
Forget about the real-time web. What we need is the real-value web.
Update: There's been some excellent discussion on the topic at Hacker News. Check it out.
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