Python doc url disappearance

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Python Doc URL disappearance

Xah Lee, 2011-01-04

Python Doc URL Disappearance.

In my Perl and Python Tutorial, i have about 50 links to documentations at python.org. For example, about 15 url have this form: 〔http://python.org/doc/tut/node7.html〕 and about another 15 has this form: 〔http://python.org/doc/lib/typesseq-strings.html〕. As of today, all these links are 404 errors. No redirect nor any measure to tell user how to find that file.

I truely hate sites that do not take consideration of url permanence. This has also happened to FSF. See: A Record of Frustration in IT Industry; Disappearing FSF URLs.

Link maintenance many not be easy for sites with large number of files, such as documentation. But site owners should at least be considerate of this issue. It's not too difficult to maintain permanent links. There are many solutions, such as redirects (Apache server url rewrite, html refresh tag, file aliases), or provide dynamically generated page that tell user where the info might went.

When you create new content, you should also plan ahead on possible url changes. For example, if it is a documentation, you might include version number there, e.g. 〔example.com/v1/doc.html〕,〔example.com/v2/doc.html〕, 〔example.com/latest/doc.html〕. This way, you can have permanent url for almost all your url without much management.

So, what does this mean to you?

  • As webmaster, before your create a url, think about how the url might impact url permanence. Is it likely to change? Can the url be maintained?
  • As blog writer, when you link to sites, keep in mind that later all your urls for references may be gone, and reader have no idea what's the content of those urls. Before you link to a specific url, you might want to include the page title, or link to a more general table of content page instead. You might be able to actively monitor your links, but you might want to make it so that your links wont suffer link rot so bad even when your site is no longer maintained (such as on a CD ROM)

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