Blog Archive Best Practices

   I finally figured out an excellent system of archiving my blog posts in a seamless way! The Original Green blog has over 220 posts, making it tedious to work with all them in the same folder… tons of scrolling past what I don’t want to get to the one I want to link to, for example. And because I’m starting to blog a lot of Walk Appeal material as I’m working on the book in earnest, it’s a big deal now.

    I googled “blog archive best practices” and didn’t get anything useful other than suggestions for the look of the archive. I then posted a similar question to Facebook on a couple occasions and got helpful responses from Kaid Benfield, Andy Malone, John Massengale, and Hazel Borys. From their excellent input, I was able to piece together the following:

Andy linked to a blog which included a page where every post is listed by title. That would be enormously helpful to me, allowing me to hunt for my own posts for linking later. There are two basic types of blog posts: timely posts, and evergreen posts. Timely posts are those based on current events. Evergreen posts are those based on principles, and which may be useful for years. Most of my posts are evergreen, because I’m more interested in lasting principles than things that are temporary. Some of my posts might only have a few hundred readers after a week, but to my surprise, they may have several thousand a few years later. Because evergreen posts don’t have an expiration date, I regularly link to them years later.

Unfortunately, Sandvox (my Mac-based web platform) has a hard limit of just over 200 on the number of items that can be shown on a “titles & summaries” object, which is the element used most often for blogs. You can display entire posts, parts of posts, just post names, etc. 200 works and 300 doesn’t… I didn’t experiment with all the points in between. That meant that Andy’s idea wouldn’t work for me either right now or some time in the near future. But I discovered that I could put multiple titles & summary objects on one page, making it possible to essentially do a blog for each year, since there’s no chance I’ll ever blog over 200 times in a year. So I can replicate the page Andy linked to. Very useful. Here it is.

But there are two problems with this approach: First, moving all the 2008 posts to a new blog named “2008″ (or whatever) means that each post will have a new URL. That will break all existing links to the page and delete all Facebook comments, which are tied to the old URL. It will also reset the page counter to zero. The second problem is that if I display just the most current year in my main blog window, early in the year it will look like the blog is almost empty.

Something Hazel said in her comment got me to wondering “is there any chance I might nest Sandvox blogs?” I tried it, and it worked!! This was the major breakthrough. Sandvox has always been awesome about doing simple stuff that seems completely intuitive more than most software I use. But the ability to nest blogs meant that I could create a 2008 blog, a 2009 blog, etc… all the way to my 2017 blog, and when you view them in my default blog window, you’ll always see the ten most recent blogs, even if they spanned across years.

I’ve now rebuilt my blog that way. The Original Green blog now contains a 2017 blog, a 2016 blog, etc. But what about all the problems noted above with changing URLs? The URL of the Speed Burden post, for example, was originally—the-speed.html but is now—the-speed.html. The solutions were tedious, but worth it, IMO. First, I went through every post and copied every comment and pasted them as text and avatar graphics under “Legacy Comments.” There is great value in many of those comments. They made the Original Green book much better; the commenters are almost like my co-authors, as the book is filled with their ideas.

I first considered the page counter reset to be a minor loss, because nobody on earth other than me would care about how many visitors each post had to date. But then it occurred to me that the number of visitors could be instructive to me about which posts were most successful, so I went about the monotonous task of copying that number off every post (using my browser, where the number is visible) and pasting it into the page in Sandvox. For a post that has had 6,475 visitors to date, the text is “6,475+” meaning that it’s that much plus however many the page counter shows. I didn’t do this when moving from iWeb to Sandvox in 2011, so for those posts, it’s “+6,475+” meaning that there were more visitors before 2011, but I don’t know how many.

The third thing I did took the least amount of time. I made a spreadsheet I’ll blog about later which includes the core URL I copied from each page in Sandvox (”costs-of-sprawl—the-speed” in the example above) then two other columns with the before and after URLs. With this, I was able to create redirects for each of the posts in about 2 hours. They are Type 301 permanent redirects. This means that any link to the old URL will redirect visitors to the new URL. Also, a 301 redirect means that if a visitor has the old URL bookmarked, it’ll change the bookmark in their browser to the new URL. One caveat: if you do something similar, you should create the redirects quickly so people looking for your work can find it quickly.

One other thing I should point out: Looking at it one way, your whole blog (including your most recent post) is an archive. Viewed another way, there is no archive… you’re just putting posts into multiple buckets by year (or month, if you blog ever day). This means you’ll never need to move a post and break a link again. Kudos, Sandvox!! 

   ~Steve Mouzon

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