There is a term I learned while I was in the military: OBE. It stands for “overcome by events”. What it means is that one or more events have occurred which have made the original problem or idea go away, or make the information irrelevant, and usually not by design. Translating that concept to the Internet is a lot easier than it sounds.
I’m not fond of controversy although it may sometimes appear so and sometimes I write things that I later regret. Usually, it will have something to do with government or religion, with certain subjects that draw heated comments.
Rather than edit controversial articles, I prefer to remove them and then just point them to this page, which should make it clear that it wasn’t something worth keeping for a long time.
Irrelevant Articles and Pages
There are periods of time when I’m testing the effects of writing on some subject in particular. At that time, the subject matter is relevant. Several days or months later, due to something else I’ve changed, the subject matter then becomes irrelevant. When that happens, I will remove the articles and any pages associated with them.
Disappearing Comment Links
I have a plugin in place which periodically checks all of the links on this blog, both internal and external. It flags any that timeout, result in 404 error pages, or other errors like not being able to connect to a server. All I have to do is to click on the links to verify the errors aren’t temporary. Once I do that, I’ll remove the links.
Commenters link to all kinds of websites. Some of the websites are just allowed to do a disappearing act by letting the domains expire and some are intentionally shut down, as is the case with a lot of “Blogger” blogs. Some have been redirected to questionable websites, websites I would never approve a link to originally.
Checking outbound comment links is not only good for user experience (yes, people do click on them), it’s good for SEO purposes. Too many broken links indicates a poorly maintained website and I’m sure too many broken links can count against you in the automated eyes of the search engines.
Disappearing Embedded Links
When a link becomes broken from within an article, also called an embedded link, I have one of two choices: Either to simply remove the link (leaving the anchor text intact) or remove the article in its entirety. Which choice I ultimately make depends on what kind of article it is and if it’s popular or not.
Embedded links break for the same reasons comment links break, but sometimes it’s because the website linked to has done something incredibly stupid like putting the article behind a pay wall, requiring a subscription to read it. This is one of the reasons I rarely link to a mainstream news website.
Overcome by Events
This is what I mean by OBE on the Internet. As fastidious as I tend to be about maintaining everything in working order, dead links and irrelevancy are factors I cannot control and those events remove the remaining value of what I or someone else has written.
In the end, I’m simply explaining why things disappear on websites, especially my own, and I just thought you might like to know.
[Originally published in October, 2010]