Over the past few days, Rachel Kwon, Manuel Moreale, and Kev Quirk all weighed in with some thoughts on editing posts after they’ve been published.


[…] i want the challenge of committing to publishing something, putting it out there, and leaving it be. that’s not to say things should NEVER be edited, and certainly not that our thinking shouldn’t change over time. on the contrary, i want to always be able to change my mind about things. […]

i digress—that point was not specific to personal websites. what i meant to say is that something about replacing words and thoughts or basically perpetually publicly editing personal thoughts and feelings doesn’t feel like what i want this space to be. […]


[…] I believe a personal blog can and should be a representation of who you are at different points in time. We change, we grow and our thoughts and ideas grow and change with us. And it’s important to have testament of that. If I change my mind on something and I go back end edit my post from 4 years ago, there’s no way for you to see and be aware of that change. […]


I also think that going back and editing technical posts, or guides, is fine too. For example, I’ve gone back and edited my getting started with Mastodon post a couple times as Mastodon has evolved. I think this kinda editing is fine too.

But when it comes to opinion pieces, I don’t think they should be edited. Yes, you should (in my opinion) check the spelling/grammar before posting, but I don’t think you should go back and edit your opinions retrospectively if they change.

As often happens when blogging meta discussions crop up, I’m going to turn to Rebecca Blood, whose thoughts on weblog ethics back in 2002 heavily informed the way I went about things not just on my “professional” journalism blog but in my personal blogging, too.

Blood’s conception of weblog ethics boiled down to six points.

  1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.
  2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it.
  3. Publicly correct any misinformation.
  4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.
  5. Disclose any conflict of interest.
  6. Note questionable and biased sources.

In the conversation Kwon, Moreale, and Quirk are having, obviously we’re mostly talking about the fourth point. Typically in my case, I might strike through incorrect information and provide updates in addenda at the bottom of the post.

Really, what Blood’s suggestions get at is the idea of finding a version of transparency that works for blogs.

(It’s worth noting that Quirk also mentions his disclaimer, something I recently implemented here and that increasingly is becoming a thing. If you’ve blogged for any significant period of time, I’d perhaps argue that a disclaimer is an act of transparency that should be considered best practices.)


(again, there is a lot of nuance that i am conveniently ignoring here to make my point, including the fact that “editing” can include all manner of things including correcting a simple typo to removing harmful or hurtful language to just not wanting to keep something up in perpetuity because your own writing makes you cringe, and the same rules should probably not apply to both, and others.)

I do think that even in the case of “not wanting to keep something up in perpetuity” some sort of placeholder should be posted indicating that such a drastic change has been made, but that’s also very much a personal and subjective line to draw. One’s own blog should perhaps be the safest space you can make for yourself online, and you need to do whatever makes that true.


It’s fine if I didn’t express what I have in mind clearly at my first try. I’m not going to edit it. I’m gonna write a follow up post. Because that is what happens in real life when I talk with people. I don’t stop and go back to edit what I said.

This is as good an argument as any for why I’m hopeful that Weblog.LOL will be able to get internal backlinks working: it would allow anyone landing on an old post easily to find links to later posts that by necessity referenced the older one.


What I like about having this blog for 10 years, is that I can go back and cringe a little at my opinions, my writing style, my language etc. I like that I’m a different person now than I was then. If I went back and edited my opinion posts I wouldn’t be able to do that.

In the end, this in part is what my blog restoration project is about: bringing all of these past selves back online.

There’s only a fraction of this history back online, but already I’ve added a footer to the front of the blog with a rotating editorial selection of past posts I think remain worth reading.

Dwight Furrow for 3 Quarks Daily somewhat coincidentally wonders if identity matters and examines different thoughts and theories about how to define conceptions like “identity” or “self”.

[…] According to the psychological continuity theory, I am the same person over time if there is the right kind of psychological connection between different temporal stages of my life. However, it is difficult to nail down exactly what is the right kind of psychological connection. Memory by itself isn’t sufficient, although a memory theory has been one widely held account of psychological continuity. The memory theory asserts that I am the same person today as I was when I was a teenager if I can remember at least some episodes that occurred back in the day. But this will be adequate only if the remembered events actually happened to me, and who I am hasn’t yet been established. That is, we can’t define identity in terms of memory if, in order to certify the memory as “mine,” we have to presuppose the identity we’re trying to define. The argument is circular.

What about narrative theory, wherein “self-told, personal narratives are central to the coherence of our lives”?

In this debate about the narrative theory, there is some question about what counts as a narrative. By “narrative” do its proponents mean something as straightforward as The Da Vinci Code or something as fragmented as Naked Lunch? Proponents of the narrative view seem to mean a straightforward linear narrative with a beginning, middle, and end and tidy transitions between episodes. But it isn’t obvious that the course of our lives is quite as linear as this theory requires.

Furrow suggests that three things determine “a sense of a continuous self over time”.

  • A suitably large number of memories of different stages in one’s life, some of which involve plans or anticipations of future states of affairs that came about because of one’s own actions.

  • An implicit confirmation of these remembered events by others who shared them.

  • And a continuing sense of agency in carrying out plans and implementing actions to achieve goals.

“What matters is not that I have the same or similar characteristics over time,” he writes. “Rather what matters is that my new self was caused by my old self.” Identity, in other words, is malleable and changeable, whereas self is a matter of causation and intention.

Also coincidentally, Mette Leonard Høegi for Psyche discusses her aphantasia—a condition I share—and its potential implications including for the construction of identity.

I would further hypothesise that aphantasia comes […] with a reduced sense of self. In his book Reasons and Persons (1984), Parfit formulates the view that personal identity is reducible to physical and psychological continuity of mental states, and that there is no ‘further fact’, diachronic entity or essence that determines identity. The belief that persons are separate entities with continuously existing selves, he argues, is to a great extent an illusion. […]

Aphantasia could certainly explain why Parfit’s theory resonates so strongly with me […]. While many people find such non-essential ideas of personhood and existence disturbing and estranging, to me they’re not only obviously plausible, but also highly relatable – and easy to practise. When I introspect, I literally see nothing – and on that basis, it is likely more difficult to create and uphold an idea of a centred, essential and continuous self.

My aphantasia (and its cousin, severely-deficient autobiographical memory) for sure gives me a different sense of continuity or in fact a lack thereof.

Just yesterday I’d come across a post I’ve not yet migrated which speaks to some of this. (Eventually, you’ll be able to find it here.) I’d looked back at something I’d written on a group blog back in the early-aughts, and didn’t entirely recognize what I was seeing.

[…] I don’t really recognize that person, that me who wrote that. I can’t conjure an internal sense of who he was, or what he was doing when he was thinking these things, or what his life was like, or how he ended up on a blog with a number of the web thinkers of the day.

These things combine for a good example, then, of what I meant when I reacted to that research about what psychologists are terming derailment: I do not have “a constant feeling of me-ness that transcends the various chapters” of my life.

Tonight’s bout of waybacking comes across, then, as rifling through the forgotten papers of a stranger.

I know this was me, but I can’t feel him. It was some other me, and there have been who knows how many others of me in between, and who knows how many others of me still to come.

Somewhat more recently, thinking about that post, I wondered “how far back my sense of self extends, and where the cutoff is at which it ceases”. Just prior to the post above (in another that isn’t yet migrated but likely will be here when it does), I’d described how my “derailment” seemed to differ from that of others.

At any rate, by the article and study above, my entire life appears to be one of routine “derailment”, per se, except in that I don’t feel the discomfort they speak of, over the disconnect between the who I was and the who I am. I’m not sure it ever occurred to me to think of myself as anything other than a succession of selves.

It’s anyone’s guess just what I’ll find and how I’ll feel about it as twenty years of blogging slowly comes back online. I’ve talked before about the cognitive outsourcing to externalities like my smartphone. Will restoring twenty years of blogging serve to retrospectively outsource a “stable, constant sense of self and identity”? I’d already completely forgotten at least one mental health event in my past, for example.

In the end, when much of the less-than-ephemeral things I’ve said online is back online, just how many of me will there be?