Obsolete writing refers to writing that has become obsolete due to reasons including (1) the author has changed their mind on the subject; (2) a better version of the same kind of document has been published; (3) the writing had some purpose that it used to serve and no longer serves (e.g. an advertisement for a product that no longer exists). Note that even obsolete writing can be useful for archival, anthropological, or legal purposes.
It is common for writing to become obsolete.
(Has anyone else investigated this?)
Dealing with obsolete writing
There are various ways to deal with a piece of writing once it has become obsolete:
- Delete the writing or allow it to be deleted (for instance, by not renewing a hosting fee).
- Do nothing.
- Mark the writing as obsolete.
- Alter the prominence of the writing among other pieces of writing (for instance, rather than linking to a piece from the homepage of the website, link to it from “the archives” or “old writings”).
What traits do obsolete writing have in common? Maybe:
- Opinion pieces tend to become obsolete more quickly because people learn more and change their minds.
- Reference works tend to not become obsolete as quickly, although they can be improved. These tend to become obsolete only (?) when a competitor shows up (e.g. Encyclopædia Britannica became obsolete to many once Wikipedia became a viable alternative; Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language was the preeminent English language dictionary until the Oxford English Dictionary came around).
- False information tends to become more obsolete as the truth is discovered (but it might take a long time).
It can be disheartening for writers to discover that much of their writing has become obsolete.