The reliability of dates on websites

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 15 12:29:15 UTC 2013

Garson's point is well taken.

In this case, however, the only dates on the page are October 5 and October
6 (with replies dated the 6th). Dec. 7 looks like the date the page was
archived or whatever they call it.


On Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 7:44 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      The reliability of dates on websites
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Ben Zimmer's recent message about the verb "drone" contained the following:
> [Begin excerpt]
> Michael Shouse, Burn Pit (comment), Oct. 21, 2011
> Who is to say who is a terrorist? That is a very dangerous label, and
> will be used against us, even as we drone people into martyrdom.
> [End excerpt]
> The date of "Oct. 21, 2011" seems to be based on the text located at
> the website. Since it is possible to retroactively alter the dates
> listed on a website I think that it is natural to wonder about the
> reliability of such dates.
> Have the editors who are compiling the OED, Merriam Webster
> Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, and others developed
> policies on which dates listed on websites provide acceptable
> evidence? Perhaps the archive capture dates recorded by The Wayback
> Machine of the Internet Archive should be acceptable. (In principle
> even these dates can be modified retroactively.)
> The sentence with the verb "drone": "That is a very dangerous label,
> and will be used against us, even as we drone people into martyrdom"
> is present in a snapshot within The Wayback Machine database that is
> dated December 7, 2011:
> Even with a date of "December 7, 2011" instead of "Oct. 21, 2011"
> Ben's discovery is great. Maybe both dates should be given.
> Ideally, an electronic historical archive should periodically copy
> data to a storage format that is fixed and difficult to alter, e.g.,
> data should be burned onto write-once archival quality CDs, DVDs or
> Blu-Ray discs (if they exist). If archival storage of this type does
> not exist then it should be developed.
> Backup snapshots in write-once storage could be used to provide
> assurance that data is not being retroactively altered.
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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