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Management Update 27 - and a question of history ...

Site statistics

Published article count was 17 in January, from 25 in December. Published comments were 748 in January, from 1235 in December. As in previous years, January was our lowest traffic month for some time, with around 1200 visitors each weekday, and 18,000 unique visitors over the whole month.

We didn’t publish 33 abusive, content-free or incomprehensible comments in December: total comments intended for publication and not published: 33/781=4.2%.


Cash income in January was $55 in donations and the top-up payment of $53.98 from Google Adsense: total $108.98, versus expenditure of $13 for bank fees. Cash in the bank at end January was $2,139.78. January ad revenue was US$56, which together with last month's US$70 will get us a cash payment of around A$140 at the end of February.

A question of archives

A Webdiarist came to us in early January indicating that they no longer wanted their past submissions to Webdiary to be published, and asking that they be deleted from the archive. This would have involved removing several articles and the around 800 associated comments, plus another several hundred comments by the Webdiarist on other streams.

I pointed out that there were several problems with such a plan; some technical, but mostly principled. We have always said that "we don't remove comments after they are published, unless a strong case is made out that they are abusive or against editorial policy and should not have been published" (in Writing for Webdiary), and "I will let you know when archives have been changed except when changes do not alter their substance" (Margo, in Webdiary Ethics). It follows that Webdiarists should be aware that what they submit will be published and will remain published. To make the link with the old technology equivalent, you can't go back to the Herald and say "I wish I hadn't written that letter of mine you published, please withdraw all of last Thursday's papers". We will not set a precedent that Webdiarists can go back to alter or delete past submissions once published.

Technically, it is senseless to remove some of the comments from a stream, or to remove an article but leave the attached comments (alternatives proposed by the Webdiarist). In practice what is left is a disjointed mess, that also anyway would tend to include quotations and descriptions of the missing material - in fact particularly the controversial bits, given the nature of debate. Also, Webdiary material is fully archived, cached or quoted on a variety of sites outside our control.

So, the request was refused, after some considerable deliberation between the editors. Grateful for any views on this from the rest of you.

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Entirely Agree

I'm sure your stance is the correct one.

If the person has changed their mind I guess they could write a piece setting out why and what their current position is.

These are the perils of public discussion.  And I think they are unavoidable. 

Richard:  Evan, that's a Catch-22 if the person doesn't want to be published. 

I agree

The archives are our memory, without a memory, commenting in the present becomes pointless. Your stand is the correct one.

Good Google searches find everything

Trevor, if you can't find something using WD's search function, you could craft a neat advanced search in Google and it'll tend to turn up what you're looking for.

David R: though I'd be interested if there was a difference, since the site search function is run by Google ...

There's no difference

Right you are, David. I just did the experiment using an advanced search with (an "exact phrase" and "without the words" combo) and both turned up the exact same result.


Several hundred, eh? It wasn't me, then. 

There could be good reason for a request to delete published material, but the principle aside, wouldn't the matter of costs arise? And if you agreed to remove all material written by the person, on what grounds could a contract be established? That is, you may, at some considerable expense of time, successfully remove 799 from view but overlook one. Without knowing anything about the background to the request, there could be a concern that the 'rules of engagement' may not be understood in the same way by both parties. So, I agree that a concise refusal was the right course and further demands be regarded as harassment.

Are you sure the search function digs out everything? I have a suspicion that comments 'below the fold' are not found.

[added later] David R: deleting a userid deletes every blog entry and comment made by that person from the database, so it isn't time-consuming - but it is drastic!

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