The problem with paginated archive pages on blogs

A few years ago I created the wordpress templates for the first version of Minimalissimo, which was brilliant. Years and years ahead of its time. Maarten, the mastermind behind that site, asked me to fix the weird problem with paginated archive pages: If you scroll to the bottom of a blog, you often see a link to older posts. These pages are often numbered, like /page/1/, /page/2/, etc. The problem with these pages is that the content on these pages changes all the time. The oldest posts are always displayed on the page with the highest number (on this site, at the moment that’s number 12). This makes these pages completely useless. You can’t link to them because next week the content you’re referring to is probably gone. The numbering is the wrong way around.

Can you fix this?

I have no idea how to fix this in WordPress (somebody really should). But I was reminded of this problem while I was working on my self hosted photo site. There were more than a hundred pictures on the homepage: the page was getting too heavy for devices with suboptimal specs and people with suboptimal network connections. So I created paginated archive pages the right way. The first 40 pictures I uploaded to my site can be found on page 1, as you’d expect. The second batch of 40 pictures can be found on page 2, etc. This makes sense, does’t it? If I tell you that I really like the sequence of three pictures with the shadow of a man climbing up a ladder on this page, that link text will make sense as long as my site exists.

Overflow

There is an issue with duplicate content though. Not so much for robots (I refuse to work for robots, robots should serve us humans) but for my visitors. I’ll try to explain, but I’m afraid I’ll fail miserably: If I have 121 pictures on my site, I would have three pages with 40 images, but I would be left with just one single image to show on my homepage. I don’t want that, I want many images on my homepage. I don’t really care how many exactly, as long as it doesn’t slow things down too much. So I decided that the homepage will show at least 40 images, and at most 80. When the counter hits 81, a link to the new page is added to the list. If you paid attention to what I wrote in the previous sentence, you’ll see that I don’t generate the page when the counter hits 81, the page already exists. I only publish the link. If I published the link as soon as the page was created, the visitor would look at the pictures on the homepage, arrive at the bottom, click on the link to page 3, and see exactly the same pictures again. That’s duplicate content, and that’s confusing.

Fixed amount

I’m not sure how you could fix this if you do care about the exact amount of posts on your homepage, like I do on this very blog. Maybe the creators of wordpress didn’t know how to solve this either and thus decided to reverse the numbering.