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What's the date?

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On the web everything is in the present, but that doesn’t mean it is presently relevant or even accurate. Timestamps are an essential component of any online content you create.

Timestamps are enormously important to participants with online content. While the content you are authoring may not always have relevance, it will always be on the web, sometimes even after you think you’ve removed it from the web. Numerous sites run archives, others simply scrape content and some folks may even print things out.

Your work may live on after you are gone. However, it will become a useless mess if you fail to provide the proper context. That context is the exact date. 

You may think this is a non-issue, but think back for a moment. If you work and play on the internet you’ve probably re-shared, commented on or been surprised by something you thought was new content but was, in fact, years old. Think about how you felt when it happened. Even if you never re-shared stuff from this date last year by accident, just reading it and briefly thinking it was something new probably made you feel a little silly.

Why alienate possible participants like that?

Any content management system worth its salt has to timestamp its content internally. It isn’t difficult to make that meta-information show up on your site. Some organizations get it, like the Guardian, who removed words like today and tomorrow from web reports. There are many others that don’t however.

I have frequently stumbled upon sites that don’t list the date at all or, just as useless, only list the month and day. Just as bad are the sites which publish multiple posts a day and don’t timestamp them with the date and time of publication. I can’t trust content that comes from these sites, and neither can you, because it is impossible to tell if it is current or relevant.

If you run your own blog, work with a news organization or are just occasionally posting content online do everyone a favor and put the month, day and year right there under the title and author. You’ll be helping to build a better internet.

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