A Lifetime of Content

While in the shower today I started thinking about what sorts of challenges a person might face when their personal website contains a lifetime of content. For people who are prolific writers who cannot go a day without putting words down somewhere there are bound to be issues that are somewhat unique to their use case1 but, for the most part, the issues they face would be universal enough to think about realistic methods to organise and present several decades of posts.

An obvious way to look at the problem is to see what large sites do now about their burgeoning collection of articles. Newspaper sites will have tens to hundreds of thousands of items that people can search and sift through. Professional bloggers like John Gruber will have thousands2. If a typical person were to write 200 semi-long items per year then two decades of effort would result in 4,000 posts and five decades of effort would be 10,000. Would a person with ten thousand posts with images, links, tags, and other meta data stick to a reverse chronological telling of their life? Or would something better be needed? Would ten thousand posts be a tipping point, encouraging someone to instead present their writing in a magazine format? Or as some sort of summary? Or perhaps with "most popular items" on a landing page, then a running list of recent posts on a separate page and in RSS?

These questions popped through my mind today while thinking about some of the older blogs that I've read over the years and the incredibly long list of months that generally sit in a sidebar. People who write in a paper journal generally use coloured tags and sticky-notes to mark important items or pages that they'd like to celebrate. The closest simile I an think of in the blogging world would be "pinned posts", but this is hardly something a long-term blogger would want to do as the landing page would become an almost-static list of the past as more and more posts become pinned.

With a magazine format it would be possible to have a carousel with a random selection of pinned posts, with newer items around it. For browsers that do not have JavaScript enabled, the list can be presented in a flattened, less dynamic manner. But is this the answer?

Perhaps for some, but it's not what I'm looking for on my site.

With over 3,100 posts of my own, not to mention the 96,497 social items or the 167 quotes, there are really just two ways to find items on here:

  1. Via Search (either on here or via a search engine)
  2. The Archive page

This is like a game of chance. Will anyone find the items we wish to share for any length of time? And, when a person has an entire lifetime of content to share, what is an effective way to prioritise?

  1. I dislike using the term "use case", but can't think of a better one. Situation? Circumstance? Preferences? All of these are captured by the umbrella term "use case".

  2. A rough estimate says that he has 1,565 posts on his site as of today, which was determined by using a search function to count the number of date strings. Not an exact figure, but close enough.