Ruminations on Posts vs. Pages

By Deane Barker

Blogging systems have always confused “posts” and “pages.” We’ve talked about this before: what is the difference between a time-sensitive “post” and an “eternal” page? At what point does a “post” get re-visited and revised enough that it should become a page?

We wrote about this at length almost two years ago:

What’s the difference between a blog post and an “article” or a “story”? By those terms, I mean content that isn’t as ephemeral as posts that hit the site every 15 minutes.

Blogs are, by definition, transient – they’re time-based, and items get essentially dropped into a stampede that tramples down the front page. What if you want something to rise above the stampede?

I also talked about this obliquely in a post about the Wikipedia coverage of Hurricane Ivan last year:

With Wikipedia, you’re not seeing a series of posted items. You’re seeing a single body of information, continually updated and groomed. Thus, the basic information stays right where it’s easy to see. Wikis are more “speak to me like I know nothing” information, rather than “tell me the very latest nuance” information.

The ideal is really a combination of both – keep the basic (wiki-ish) information right there, and have a sidebar of the latest (blog-ish) information as it comes in.

The difference between a post and page is reflected on this site – how do we differentiate this post from, say, our Terms of Service? Really, what are the differences between the TOS and “regular” blog posts:

  1. The TOS shouldn’t appear in any category listing
  2. It should have slightly different formatting (no “recent posts in this category,” no Adsense)
  3. It should have a different URL pattern.

That’s really about it.

Our solution was to have a separate blog in Movable Type for “Static Pages.” That blog uses the MTKeyValue plugin to explicitly specify a filename under which we want to write the TOS. It also has some different templates. Pretty simple.

Movable Type 3.2, however, includes a much more subtle method to getting decent static pages: entry basename control. MT always had the ability to morph the title of an entry into a URL, but now they let you set it:

With Movable Type 3.2, we really unleash the power of the basename field by allowing you to set it right in the entry interface. So now, you can title your entry “Play that not-so-funky music” and set your basename to “midi_ring_tones_on_your_cell_phone” to let link-hoverers and search engines know what they’re going to find on that page.

This means you could make an entry and set the basement to “terms_of_service,” and you’ve created your very own URL namespace for a static page. (You probably still need them in their own blog, however, since you don’t want to see them in any archives.)

WordPress has probably come the closest to nailing it by explicitly creating a sub-system for “pages.” From the Wordpress Codex:

Pages, on the other hand, are most often used to present information about yourself or your site that is somehow timeless – information that is always applicable. For example, you might write a Post describing what you did or thought on a particular morning (“Breakfast was good”), but on a Page you might write something whose context is less time dependent (“This site is about breakfast”).

Pages in Wordpress can be hierarchical. You could have a page for “Authors” then a subpage for “Deane,” “Joe,” etc. This feature is only in WP 1.5 and above.

Radio Userland has “posts” and “stories” (pages):

If you think of Stories – conceptually – as permanent or semi-permanent weblog Posts, you will be on the right track. Most folks compose weblog posts on-the-fly as they are inclined to share something of immediate interest. Stories tend to be written at leisure to capture extended thoughts on a given subject.

There’s a risk here, I think, of transcending the blogging format itself. If you’re using a WordPress blog for nothing but pages, do you even have a blog? Do you need to use WordPress or something else? A wiki perhaps? For that matter, do we need to declare jurisdiction:

  1. Posts are the domain of blogs
  2. Pages are the domain of wikis

If you sit down with a client who says that he needs a blog and you find out that he wants to store a bunch of static stuff that won’t change, would you be better off putting him in a edit-controlled wiki? (Or a CMS, for that matter.)

No hard-and-fast answers here, just questions.

Can we do a quick survey on other blogging platforms? How do they differentiate between posts and pages?

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