March 29, 2004

Future-proofing selling waves

Posted by shonk at 01:53 AM in Blogging | TrackBack

After thinking about it for a long time, knowing I should but dreading the process, I finally went ahead and future-proofed my URLs, which is #5 on Gina’s list of nine ways to make your website better. As it turned out, it went more smoothly than I had hoped (of course, the bugs won’t start popping up until tomorrow, but as of right now it looks pretty good).

Anyway, for those that don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, basically I wanted to make sure that web addresses of the various posts, archives, etc. on this site would look more like this:

than like this:

See, in the first we avoid two key issues. The first is the use of a file extension, in this case .html. Now, the file extension is fine, so long as I never want to change the format of the pages on this site. But if I decide I want to make .php pages instead, all of a sudden everybody’s links to my pages are broken. Changing to .php is unlikely, but what if, some day in the future, something newer and spiffier comes out? That’s why it’s called “future-proofing”.

The second issue is that in the second example above, the URL refers to some internal identification scheme. Which is usually a big no-no anyway, but is especially bad since, due to this, exporting and then importing your entries can “break every link to every entry(Movable Type’s non-permanent permalinks). On the other hand, in the new schema, not only is this not a problem, but the entry URL actually tells anybody that looks at it something about its contents: specifically, in the example above, that the entry was written on March 29, 2004, and that it probably has something to do with the words “future proof”. That way, even if somehow that link gets broken, it gives the reader something pretty helpful to plug into the search engine, whereas a six-digit string of numbers doesn’t mean anything to anybody.

So, it’s a good idea. Okay, but how do we do it? Well, I sure as hell wasn’t going to figure it out on my own, so I combined two different sets of instructions from around the web. The bulk of what I did is contained in Már Örlygsson’s “Howto: Future-proof URLs in Movable Type”. Then, I used a nifty plugin, Short title, and Dave Dribin’s suggestions to be able to customize the URLs by way of the “Keywords” field.

Anyway, hopefully it all works. If there are any problems, please let me know.

UPDATE Needless to say, I spoke too soon. Got a 500 error somewhere in the midst of sending Trackback pings. No idea what the problem is, but I’ll work on it tomorrow.