Corrections, links, and RSS

I messed up a post below on the 9/11 Commission; I just plain got it wrong because I didn’t do my research well. I added a correction to that post, leaving my mistake for the world to see, as is our ethic in blogs. Then it occurred to me I should go farther and so I went to the sites where I’d seen links to that post and, where possible, I left a comment confessing my mistake. But now I also realize that readers who saw the post via RSS will have seen the original item but not the correction on it. That’s an issue for corrections in blogs. Similar issues exist in print: If you clip an article or just remember it and don’t see a correction — often buried — and don’t go looking for it in an archive where a correction may be attached, you can carry the error forward. Online, at least the original item can carry a correction for all those who see it after the correction is made. But what about the links to that item? And what about RSS readers, who see feeds of original content but not of changes to that content? Because of RSS, should corrections cause new posts that can be seen in feeds?

  • dg

    I believe in the case of RSS, the current best practice is monetary reparation for all those who can provide the following:

    1) Proof of having received the original post via an RSS reader
    2) A 200-500 words, well written expression about their feelings regarding the original post, its affects upon their lives, and any deep-seated memories, emotions and/or meaning it may have stirred.
    3) An additional 100-1000 words addendum to describe the disappointment, frustration and/or anger knowledge of the correction invoked.

  • Amy

    Excellent accountability, Jeff.

    Re RSS, yes, some kind of correction tag that sends the new corrected post to the feed would be ideal. Users could choose to enable a “correction” icon in their preferences, that would draw their attention to corrections.

  • rick gregory


    NetNewsWire 2.0 on the Mac lets you see edits to the item and to choose whether or not to consider the item new if it’s been updated. Support isn’t perfect since Brent has to work around feeds that don’t use the GUID tag (A GUID is a globally unique ID that identifies the post even if things like the timestamp and title ar changed).

    If support for GUIDs (or some other equivalent mechanism) was widespread and popular feedreaders supported it this would be great.

  • Tim Windsor


    With NetNewsWire at least, any change to a post shows up with the post being unread. Thus I got both your post about the correction AND the original corrected post.

    I’m not sure, but I believe this is the expected behavior in RSS: if an item changes, it is scooped up again.

    (As an aside, one fun feature of NNW is that it shows all edits that have been made. So I get to watch bloggers who stealth-correct Dave Winer change the tone and, sometimes, the content of their posts without any further mention)

  • Tim Windsor

    Yeah. What Rick said….

  • Tim Windsor

    …and if I’d been clever enough to NOT put my lame little joke about Dave inside HTML-style brackets, the post above would read something like *cough* Dave Winer *cougn*

  • Jeff:

    Because of RSS, should corrections cause new posts that can be seen in feeds?

    I sure hope not, because I make corrections all the time to my posts. Not usually about something substantive, but for instance on this post, which is about being scammed by Classmates-Dot-Com’s “automatic renewal” policy, I changed the term “cost switching” to the more general “preventing exit,” because it’s probably more apt. I also added an opening paragraph making excuses for such a petty dispute on the fourth anniversary of 9-11.

    I didn’t leave a note about the changes anywhere, so those without the RSS feed won’t even see them and those who only see the changed posts won’t know that I’m editing on-the-fly. But at least in the case of the RSS readers I’m not that concerned. If they’re interested enough in the post to comment then they have to click on the web link, which will give them an opportunity to read the edited version, as well as any acknowledgments I choose to make. The RSS readers may be the only ones aware of my overwrought compulsion to edit.

    As for acknowledgments, well I’m making one here, but if the changes aren’t very substancial then fretting over them probably does more harm than good. That doesn’t mean that I unerringly know what’s substancial and what isn’t, but there are plenty of “blog brothers and sisters” around to clue me in.

  • Luke Blanshard

    FWIW, I read your blog via Bloglines, and corrections always reappear as unread messages. Each post has a “posted on” original posting timestamp, and optionally an “updated” timestamp. Your RSS feed must be providing this info.

  • EverKarl

    I think you already went above and beyond the standard of traditional media, so I wouldn’t walk around with the hairshirt on.

  • MattV

    NewsGator can be set to download revised posts. Works great on sites with lots of updates.

  • Hey, at least you made the correction. I caught Xeni at Boing Boing deleting a reference to that erroneous story that police in NOLA had shot and killed workers sent to repair the levees (in fact, the police shot and killed gang members who attacked the workers.)

    And to answer your question, it really is up to the feed reader. A really smart feed reader could compare the two versions, and highlight the changes. Most that I have used just bump the article back up.

  • Mike Sierra

    Agreed. I understand RSS is really too (simple|stupid) to spec this, but clients at least ought to distinguish an update from a new post; diff-ing against cached content would be gravy.

  • Vox

    SharpReader shows altered posts as just that. Post titles are bold until read, if a post is changed the title is once again bold – and italicized to note the alteration.

    I understand there are some readers that show you exactly what the change was. That seems like overkill in most cases – but would satisfy your request.