Keep the blog Archive sidebar?

On another blog I read which focuses on Excel, the author is wondering whether he should keep the Archives sidebar (to the right) with the list of links by Month/Year. I’m wondering about that too.

The reason I originally started to use the Archive listing is so that people can see the blog has been active for a while. Of course it took a couple years to earn that sort of questionable credibility. That said, personally I think this section is useless if that’s the only reason it’s there. IMO, longevity alone is not a legitimate bragging right, though some people think it is. We click links because we want to go somewhere specific. Of 24 links for the last 2 years that this blog has existed (January 2006, February 2006, etc), which one might one of my visitors want to click? It’s completely random unless they want to go through all of my content without duplication. With WordPress we can assign multiple categories to any post. That means the same post can easily appear in multiple categories, so while using the Category sidebar to explore a blog is helpful, it’s also subject to boring us with lots of duplication. WordPress could use a user option to lock postings to the first/primary category so that visitors can hit all entries in an organized manner with no duplication. (Hmm, I’ll check to see if that already exists…)

The Archive sidebar isn’t completely useless. When I go to a new blog, or even one I check out every few months, I look at the article that brought me to the site, then look at what else is on the main page to see the most recent entries, and if I like what I see I frequently go back to see what else the blogger wrote recently. Then I might start drilling back month by month until the content starts smelling stale. I dunno if others surf like this but I suspect many do.

Technical material is sometimes ageless, like tips on how to use functions in the Win32 API, but other material can get dated quickly, like nuances of VB4, then VB5, then VB6, then .NET Framework 1.1 with VB.NET, then 2.0… It’s hit or miss as to whether the older info is going to be helpful to future generations because when we’re writing content we don’t know the "shelf life", and we generally don’t go back to old postings to tell people they aren’t valid as of a given date/release, or that the info may still be helpful if you’re using TechnologyX v43.29. The web has no notion of temporal validity. (Hmmm, I think I just got an idea for the next killer web app…) So for now it’s up to the reader to determine whether content is stale or perpetually fresh – this is a real pain for guys like me that research technical material, going back into years of blogs and forum postings.

So for myself, after considering the options, I think I’ll leave the Archive listing just so that people can go back over my content in the order that it was written, and decide for themselves when they want to quit. YMMV. However, I may look at moving that sidebar to a page of its own, because as time goes on it just gets bigger, and I think the real-estate could be used for something more productive.

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