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We're no longer updating this page!

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 11:52 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

If you're a frequent visitor to BBC Online you might have already come across the message at the top of this page, which is now appearing as a banner heading across more and more of our pages. We've updated our existing signage for pages that have reached the end of their active "working" life.

When a site has evolved as ours has, it just isn't wise or cost effective to continue working on some of the pages we published in the past. At the same time, routinely deleting inactive content doesn't feel entirely right either, does it? (More on this below).

Whilst we work through the sensible way forward, the best approach at present is to clearly label pages which are no longer being updated but which have been left online either for reference or because they may still be of some interest. I hope we've done this elegantly even as we alert our users to the fact that the content provided may now be outdated. Of course we will continue to remove sites and pages which have become so outdated that they may lead to actual harm or damage.

To date, we've used a yellow "virtual sticky" note - like a floating label on the page. It had its' pluses in that it was simple and effective. But it partially obscured some of the site content, was tricky to implement technically, and just did not sit comfortably on the page.

This is why we've moved to a simple banner label across the top of each page. It links to a Help page explaining why we're no longer updating the page.

The aim of this labelling project is in part to show more clearly the extent to which we actively manage or "curate" our online content. I believe BBC Online should be an actively managed resource of information, tools and services which support and enhance the BBC's six public purposes for our audience.

It's all part of our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of user experience across BBC Online. The Barlesque templates which have been introduced gradually over the last 12 months support a consistent site wide look and feel. However, the migration of every page to the new template, even when it isn't any longer actively managed, is not a prudent use of resources. So in most cases, sites and pages which aren't being migrated to the new visual style will be labelled as "no longer updated". None of this applies, of course, to BBC News pages which generally carry a "last updated" message to inform users about the timeliness of information on that page.

There is a view, that perhaps we should grasp the nettle and delete "old" pages. As currybet points out, we continue to harbour some very old sites which pre-date even the previous templating language. (Most of the old sites currybet links to in his blog are no longer available, although at the time of writing, there is still Politics 97; and there may well be others).

There are others who would passionately veto deletion because of the inevitable broken links. I don't entirely buy this argument though I do sympathise with the considered view that these sites can offer information or stimulate memories around a particular BBC programme or event which may just be of value or interest in the future. As can be seen from currybet's examples, in their inimitable way, they can add to the history of the web and the BBC and its activities online.

As we debate this, we've been pondering what we should call the labelling project. It's obviously related to the traditional activity of archiving, but it's not exactly the same. My colleague Dan Taylor, had some interesting thoughts about archiving the web on his personal blog back in June last year.

Incidentally some of you (including the community at the Archers and Points of View message boards) noticed that yesterday the banner appeared on the sign in page on some of our message boards and blogs. This was an error, a bug which has now been fixed. My apologies.

Seetha Kumar is Controller, BBC Online .

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