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Article: Reuse Considered Harmful

November 7, 2008

The Content Wrangler published another of my articles, which can be read at the following URL: Content Reuse: Is It Harmful?

I originally titled the article, Reuse Considered Harmful in honor of the famous letter by Edsger Dijkstra published in the Communications of the ACM, Go To Statement Considered Harmful. Though the term XYZ Considered Harmful is forever attached to Dijkstra, he in fact did not use that title, it was added by Niklaus Wirth, then editor of the Communications. So, I suppose it is only appropriate that the editors of The Content Wrangler renamed my article Content Reuse: Is It Harmful?

My main argument is that we should be careful about indiscriminate reuse of content. Eliminating duplication in your source control is fine, but blindly reusing content all over the place can be confusing to readers who may end up jumping around looking for the definitive version of some piece of content. I believe it is much better to follow the timeless advice of Isabella Mary Beeton, “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

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