Caching Feature

I’ve been working on a few new features for this weblog. Aside from the search box in the sidebar, I’ve written a program that creates a local compressed cache of all outgoing links. This allows you to see a snapshot of whatever page I link to at the time it was linked, and also to see the content if the other server is down or the content is gone.

There is now a little dot following each link when there is a corresponding local cache file. For example, check out The Dick and Jane Reader for Advanced Students· from this month’s McSweeney’s· (parental discretion advised.) The dots to the right of those links should lead you to a local cache.

My weblog also automatically adds “titles” to outbound links—that means you should be able to hover your mouse pointer over a link and see the title of the linked document.

I’d appreciate any feedback on these new features. Particularly let me know if you notice any bugs, odd behavior, or ugliness with particular browsers. I haven’t had an opportunity to test with any Windows-based browsers.


  1. Steve Laniel Jan 28

    You emailed me about this a few days ago, and I’m just getting down to it now. If it’s possible, I might suggest including a [*] (bracket-star-bracket, if WriteBack somehow munges that) instead of the dot. Surround that bracket with A HREF tags, and include a TITLE attribute that says something like “Click here for a locally cached copy in case the remote copy doesn’t work.” I think if you don’t include a) a standard footnote marker (and [*] is pretty standard, just like [1] in emails) and b) a description of what that link does, then people won’t know to click on it. The dot that you use is also far too small; people shouldn’t have to click on an object that tiny. A lot of people use small dots for permalinks, which is similarly inconvenient. I’m quite impressed by your having implemented this, though; very nice.

  2. Steve Laniel Jan 28

    Oops, sorry: you already *do* add the TITLE. You’re one step ahead of me.

  3. Adam Kessel Jan 28

    Yup, there is a title.

    I originally had just that sort of link [*] (actually [#]), but Dylan commented that it was too obtrusive. Given that appears on almost every link, it does make for a lot of breakage in the text. So I switched to the tiny dot. My thinking is that it will be rarely used–I’d prefer for people to follow the real link; the little dot is just a backup, mostly for me and other people “in the know”. Another idea was to have a blog-visitor preference setting for whether and how to show cache links.

  4. Steve Laniel Jan 28

    Hmm. Good point. However, I’d suggest using some sort of English-text label, if only to make typeahead easier. How does one typeahead to the little dot?

    Without playing around with the formatting on my own, I can’t think of a good alternative. So this is, as they say, a nonconstructive suggestion.

    If I may go meta for just a moment, I’m enamoured of the whole Blog Comment idea. It makes the web into a conversation, in a way that noninteractive pages don’t. All praise … um … this.

  5. Steve Laniel Jan 28

    The “permalink” for the Dick And Jane Reader is

    Just so’z you know.

  6. Adam Kessel Jan 28

    Ah, see, you’ve fallen into my trap. My whole point was that I linked to the McSweeney’s front page, which had the “Dick and Jane” article at the time. In the future, it won’t have it anymore, but then you can go to my conveniently cached link to see what it was I was linking to at the time.

  7. Steve Laniel Jan 28

    That would suggest two possible uses for the cache: 1) to link the “state of the world” at the time of your post, and 2) to recover a cache of the actual document, in case the actual document goes off the web. I’d count the latter as substantially more valuable than the former.

  8. Adam Kessel Jan 28

    Actually, I think they’re about equivalent. Particularly for dynamic sites, say CNN or the weather, a few hours after you create the link the content will be different. Sometimes there is a permalink equivalent to “page x on day y” but usually with sites like these there isn’t. So I think the two functions you mention are often the same and are equally useful from the perspective of “here’s what I actually cited.”

  9. Steve Laniel Jan 28

    Ah. We’re in agreement. When it’s reasonable to talk about a “permalink” to a resource, and you’re linking to that resource, then I’d say cache the permalink. When the content is dynamic, like the weather at a specific moment, then link to the current state. I can’t dig that.

    However, with something like CNN I suspect you’ll most often be linking to permanent data, like a specific story. It’s probably rare to link to the front page, which is the dynamic part.

  10. Steve Laniel Jan 28

    I meant “I can dig that,” rather.

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