One of the problems with accessing on-line publications (including blogs) is that it’s hard for readers to verify the accuracy, reliability, and freshness of the content you’re reading. Especially in a technical article where a solution written for one version of a product may not work in a later version.
Here are three things I believe that anyone posting content should do in order to help readers insure your post is accurate and fit for its intended purpose. These aren’t difficult to add to a post, but they can help enhance your credibility by helping the reader evaluate whether the content will work for them now and in the future.
- Put a date on your posts – On the Internet, blog posts and articles are almost eternal. You owe it to your readers to let them know how fresh your content is. This is especially true in technical areas, where six months is like six years and tech info can be outdated literally overnight. I am constantly surprised by how few sites do this. A simple date will let readers know whether this is current info. And if you update a post, slip an update date in there too or reissue the post, to let the readers know you’re keeping it current with new information.
- Enable comments on your post or allow your readers to email you – Give your readers a chance to comment on your content. This can save your post and your credibility. If you make a mistake, readers can give you a heads-up, giving you a chance to change it, issue a correction, or expand on your original post. Moderate reader comments and only release them if they’re appropriate (don’t let anything go up without review or your site will soon be filled with shoe-sale links). But give your readers a chance to make comments, ask questions, and fill out the post. It allows you to better connect with your readers and makes your site more interactive and relevant.
- Put in product release versions and special considerations – If you’re writing in 2014 about MS Office 2010 or IBM i V5R4M1, specify these are the versions you tested with. Specify which product version your content works with. Capabilities, procedures, commands, etc. change from version to version. Putting in the release information will allow readers to know whether this is valid for the version they’re using. There’s nothing worse then a reader trying to implement a fix that isn’t enabled in the software version they’re using.
Again, these are very simple things. But they are invaluable for helping the reader trust that your content works in their world.
(oringally published December 3, 2013; reposted on February 25, 2014)