Shelf Life of a Blog

Jenny Luca had an interesting post in her blog yesterday about “Bare URLs“.  We had a little interaction that started with her writing the content and me reading it, to a statement that ultimately resolved that if we had to use APA in a blog, it would be the death of blogging!

Her concern revolved around the all too familiar scenario that I suspect we all face when we go on the web and that’s the inclusion of a link in a web resource that has gone missing.  Either the site is down or moved or any of a myriad of reasons for it to be inaccessible can be frustrating.  So, what can be done about it?  She draws on the functionality of the Wikipedia as an example of how to create, edit, and refine resources.

In a scholarly publication, it’s tough to disagree with the premise.  As long as there have been essay requirements, there have been rules about how to quote your sources.  Quoting using APA or Chicago or Turabian styles has long been the bane of my writing.  It has always seemed like some final academic hurdle that is almost as daunting as creating the original content.

So, where does blogging fit in this?  How often do we hear people promoting the value of blogging – you know the rhetoric – it’s motivational; it allows students to use the technology they are comfortable with; collaborative projects have value; everyone is an author; it’s the new media and so on.

Are there standards for it?  Seldom do you write an entry that doesn’t link to somewhere else.  In fact, my first experience at a blogging workshop showed the audience how to create link text to web references for purposes of lending credibility to your post and adding link connections to help promote your blog.  But, we never showed any formal reference.  “It’s just a link.”  In one of our back and forths, Jenny asked if a dead link reduces the value of the post.

Interestingly, good protocol indicates that you make reference to any images that you might use under a Creative Commons licensing to respect the original producer’s right.  But, we seem to stop there.  What about link to other written content?  After all, I could make a blog entry for academic content that leads to a fictious URL and then claim “well, it was there when I wrote my entry”.

All of this made me wonder.  We ask for academic rigour and standards for all writing but do we expect the same thing for blogging?  From what I see, I would say that we don’t.  With traditional writing, there’s the hassle of quotations, etc.  With blogging, there’s the hassle of getting the technology to work and the reality is that the standards may be different.  How much hassle is one willing to assume?  So, it would seem to me that a blog needs to be considered more of an opinion piece that has a limited shelf life just like a bag of milk.  After the expiry date, it may be OK to use but you’ve been warned.

So, this simplistic solution was bouncing around in my mind until I blogged yesterday.  I knew that I wanted to make reference to a couple of entries that I had written a couple of years ago in this blog.  That little voice in the back of my head started talking – I wonder if they’re still there.  After all, other than backing up the blog periodically, entries are made for the moment and not necessarily for perpetuity.  Plus, I knew that I had included some external content as well.  I wonder if it’s still there.  Using all of the logic above, I guess I turned out to be pretty lucky.  The posts were still there and as valid today as they were when I first made them.  Whew!

Now, nobody in their right mind is going to quote my blog in any sort of academic relevance.  One of my claims to fame was being called “snooty” by the Christian Science Monitor.  I just checked and the original article is still there.  However, the link to me or to the other content was just used and not referenced.

It’s not like the process is terribly difficult.  Now that we have excellent resources like the Citation Machine, the creation of the link becomes a fill in the blank exercise.

But, is it one that we’re prepared to require in order to prove our references?  Probably not.  If you’re blogging with students, I’d really like to hear your thoughts.  How academic should blogging be?

Luca, J. (2010, October 31). Why bare urls are a problem [Web log message]. Retrieved from
Peterson, D. (2010, October 31). Happy hallowe’en [Web log message]. Retrieved from
Orr, J. (2008, October 4). Vp debate shatters tv ratings record [Web log message]. Retrieved from
Warlick, D. (n.d.). Landmarks son of citation machine. Retrieved from

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