Every so often I find myself browsing a website with a more critical eye than I might normally. Usually it is because a friend has asked me my opinion on a beta or if I am considering a relationship with either the company itself or its product. After running through SL (Security, Languages) of SLIME (donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have enough information to do the rest) I check out the site for staleness.
What determines whether something is stale? Typically two things
- A date range that should include the current date, but does not. Open a (new) browser and look at the footer of your corporate site. Does it say © 2005 – 2007? A shocking number do. 2007 ended 46 days ago.
- Company driven dynamic content of > 1 month. These are things like ‘News Releases.’ You mean to say that you as an organization have not done anything worth telling the world in the last month? No software update? No new customer? No new hire? Really?
I have turned down interviews from companies whose ‘Announcements’ section had not been updated in 10 months. If an organization cannot spend the time on their public image, what does that say about the company? This would actually be pretty easy to check in an automated fashion. In fact, here is some pseudo code.
if file.last_changed() > curr_date - 30 days then log bug in tracker
Yes, this doesn’t do the 1 month boundary perfectly, but in this situation the approximation is more than sufficient at achieving the goal.
A third place where staleness creeps in is harder to detect but is just as bad looking is in the actual site content. Take for instance Penguin’s bio of Ron Chernow. Now look at his Wikipedia entry. Notice anything different? How about his wife dying 2 years ago. You would think his publishing house would be aware of such a thing. It cannot be hard to push a bit of new content out onto their servers. As things stand now, it just looks sloppy. Unfortunately, this class of bug has no easy way of detecting in a non-human intensive manner. But I’m sure it is possible if an organization decides they are not going to accept having stale content on their site.