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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tons of Willy Week links go bad

Blogs are ephemeral things. For example, many folks give blogging a try, but burn out after a while. And many of the fascinating web pages to which blogs link are gone in a short time. And so when one scrolls through the archive of an older blog, many of the links in older posts go nowhere. You get one of those "404" messages. Stolen "hot linked" images from other sites disappear, too. It's the nature of the blog-beast.

We try to minimize those flaws on this site, and one of our ways of doing so has been not to link to OregonLive when there's an alternate source of a story available somewhere else. OregonLive, loosely connected to the O newspaper, has had a nasty habit over the years of taking down content after a relatively brief period of time. At one point, it was a mere two weeks. We're not sure what their deal is these days. But our working assumption has been that links over there will be dead in a short time.

A nice alternative has been Willamette Week, links to which have stayed fresh for years. But alas, something happened recently at the Double Dub, and now most of our older links to stories over there are dead ends. They must have had some sort of changeover in their software, which renamed all their old pages and in the process exterminated thousands of old links. That's a real shame.

We're not sure it had to be that way. Five years ago, when our site completely collapsed due to atrocious activity by a web host, we were eventually able to bring it back to life. But the software we used to regenerate our old content changed the names of all our pages. Thus, we figured that old links to our site would become worthless.

But wait! Our tech hero, Jake Ortman, came up with a program that told our new server what the new name and the old name of each page was, with a command to redirect traffic looking for the old page to the new. It was one of the most amazing things we've ever seen a computer do.

Anyway, wishing that WW had come up with a way to make the old links still work, we mourn their demise. Yeah, we guess we could look up the more important ones with a search engine and rewrite the links. But life's too short -- we aren't going there.

Comments (8)

The technical term you are looking for are redirects. However, depending on taxonomy of old and new site, it may or may not be feasible.

For both a positive user experience and SEO, not having 301s in place was a bad move by those folks.

There is an Oregonian workaround for inveterate linkers through Newsbank at the Multnomah County Library (or other subscribers to Newsbank).

Example - http://0-docs.newsbank.com.catalog.multcolib.org/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:NewsBank:ORGB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=138EB1650AEA6F00&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=8CE642B8CA5C4083BE84A2539D6E1A73

Yea that's cracky but with bit.ly it's just http://bit.ly/ob7seX.

But! You'll be prompted to keypunch your library card + pin to access either link. O updates to the DB are daily. No luck with the WW, or for that matter, the Sellwood Bee.

They seem to make a lot of suspect calls over there in regards to web development. The new site roll-out was horrible ("where do I click" confusion plus Oregonlive style pop-unders) it put me off for months and I avoid the site to this day unless someone direct links to a story.

Willy Week, if you are reading this, get off that inane Wehahaha system and get onto something like Drupal. Then get a Google Analytics account so you can tell when the changes you make are driving traffic away.

Drupal is a non-profit grade management content system, please get real.

Ah, you seem to be a direct competitor of the O and WW. I can't see them being eager to help your blog out.

Your blog breaks more relevant news and has more analysis than either of the print media papers. The O is establishment "news" that is entirely reactive and does not question the party line. As a resident of NE PDX, I come here to read about the various machinations of the powers that be, the PDC, what Mayor Creepy is up to and what not.

The O is a dead, it just doesn't know it yet.

I mentioned this tonight at the neighborhood pool to my friend from WW. He said it was all screwed up today for about 15 minutes, then back to normal. He didn't seem to know what went wrong; just one of those computer things. Do your links work now?

All the old blog links work fine for me. I guess they fixed them?

BTW, Drupal is horrible.

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