Mike the Mad Biologist

I’m a big fan of Brad DeLong’s blog even when I don’t agree with him. But one of the things that’s bothered me is when he reprints posts in full. For bloggers, professional or amateur, links are currency. Reprinting the post in full means people won’t be inclined to click through to your site. When asked about this, DeLong had an interesting answer:

The answer is simple: Linkrot.

Go, say, to a webpage of mine from the first half of the 2000s at random… Let’s pick one: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2003_archives/001202.html.

See how many of the links I include lead to “404 not found.”

In this case, it is both of them. Both http://www.dynamist.com/scene/may20.html and http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/march0303.html are now dead.

Would you bet that the Washington Post will keep Ezra’s posts up and freely available in a decade? Or even five years?

If I want things I write to be readable in a decade, I need to quote extensively now.


So I went through some of my 2006 posts. Of the links that didn’t link to my blog, about twenty percent were dead. So DeLong has a point. On the other hand, I’ve always argued that the best way to gain more readers is to convince widely-read bloggers to give you good links, so I’m not sure what to make of DeLong’s policy.

I’m not in it for the money (in a really good month I cover my cell phone and internet connection, and maybe have a pizza thrown in). But for other bloggers, it really does matter. Hell, even if you’re an amateur, you still want traffic at your site.

Anyway, discuss.

Comments

  1. #1 Matthew Platte
    March 29, 2011

    Use technology! Let’s say you want to quote, oh, let’s pick on Driftglass this time.

    1. Go to the offending blog post[1] and

    2. use one of those nifty save-this-page-as-PDF tools that your web browser can provide.

    3. Add this cumbersome-to-view PDF (or jpeg, whatever) image to your own post and you’re halfway there.

    4. Quote and complain to your heart’s content, knowing that the full song is available, either at Driftglass’ pad or, if that has rotted away, via the PDF attachment to your blog post.

    [1] http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2011/03/libya-our-next-warmaybe.html

  2. #2 Jim Lund
    March 29, 2011

    It’s partly a technical problem and could be fixed by having the blog software save the text block and the link.

    Every few months, a link crawler could run and replace dead links with either a link to the saved text or a quote of the whole text block.

  3. #3 Chris Lindsay
    March 29, 2011

    I had heard that posting entire articles could risk lawsuit, as it goes beyond “fair use?” Maybe I’m getting my copyright/trademark/patent rules mixed up.

    For example, I’ll never use any part of an article from a source that’s owned by Media News (such as the Denver Post), because they file lawsuits against bloggers that quote from their articles.

  4. #4 Eric Lund
    March 29, 2011

    It’s a dilemma.

    BdL seems to operate, consciously or otherwise, on the assumption that some future scholar may want to read his work, whether three days from now or three centuries from now. Under the dead tree publishing paradigm, he can simply refer to his source and have a high degree of confidence that the source will be available should the scholar wish to track it down. But he has already observed that under the online paradigm there is no guarantee that the material he is referencing will still be accessible. This is part of what the people warning of a digital dark age are complaining about.

    Balanced against that is the fair use issue. Quoting an excerpt for noncommercial purposes is usually considered fair use. Quoting an entire article is generally not. BdL generally does provide the link to the primary source, which include links to other sources (these second-order links, at least under Typepad as Brad has it configured, generally do not carry over; Brad normally quotes that other source as well if he feels it is important enough to the argument). I can understand his reasons for doing so, but he is at minimum playing very close to the fair use line, quite aside from considerations about linking etiquette.

  5. #5 Helen Highwater
    March 29, 2011

    My practice is to use long excerpts (or complete articles) from big-time publications like the WaPost or Yahoo, or anything where I expect posts to evaporate shortly, and short excerpts with links when referencing blogs.

  6. #6 Carl Weetabix
    March 29, 2011

    Well, that’s interesting if nothing else because I wondered why he dumped great swaths of others’ posts in his own.

    That said, I often do click through, though not always (probably 70% I’m guessing).

    Personally I would happy to be quoted any way I could on Delong’s site, but I’m surprised why he’s not worried others might sue him – I mean he does go beyond “fair use” to some degree.

    I’m kind of ambivalent in the end. I don’t think it completely cannibalizes the target source and it probably gives them good PR (I’ve added many a site to my RSS feeds, including I think yours, because of Delong). Still, it *is* a lot of copying.

  7. #7 bknabe
    March 29, 2011

    A recent court decision said that in some cases posting the complete article is fair use. But I would wait a few years for appeals and other decisions using that one as precedent before considering it ‘law of the land’.

    The paper that houses my (volunteer) blog has changed blogging platforms three times since I started blogging there, so I don’t have some of my own blogs. Now I save everything myself, but in the beginning I kept it all on the newspapers site, thinking they would keep it forever.