Linkrot and Joy Reid

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Linkrot has been a major part of the Joy Reid story, though not many people have commented on that aspect. Shelley Powers brings up this aspect of the story:

Weblogs were less like the Washington Post and more like Facebook or Twitter of the time: a stream of conciousness, separated into timestamped chunks. Every once in a while we’d carefully research and write longer pieces (still called “long reads”, even today), but for the most part, we tossed up whatever sounded interesting and assumed that the reader had access to the context of the post, and who we were at the time, to fully understand what we were saying.

It irritates the hell out of me to see these casually published blurbs brought out over a decade later, separately and without context, by writers who, frankly, should know better. In probable fact, they most likely do know better but they don’t care: it generates attention. And it sure hits that ‘fair and balanced’ sweet spot.

Back in 1998, Phillip Greenspun had suggested that once something is online, it should remain online forever, because after all, keeping stuff online is super cheap, and so there should be no problem keeping things online. Much later, we all realized how flawed this reasoning was. Keeping stuff online is surprisingly expensive, not in terms of money, but in terms of personal organization over time. There are also privacy concerns such that the desire to keep things online forever now appears sinister, rather than utopian.

But Greenspun’s reasoning was still very widespread during the original blogosphere of 2000-2008. We all wrote back then thinking the context of our posts would be obvious, forever. We knew linkrot existed, but we thought it would be an exception, not the rule.

We were wrong. Links die surprisingly fast. If you read some of my posts from 2006, most of the things I link to are gone.

The context of those old posts are gone. That makes it more difficult to understand those old posts. That also means those old posts can be manipulated by your enemies are used against you. As Shelley Powers said, responsible journalists should not get drawn into that game.

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