mod_rewrite and ignorance

For the last week or two, I’ve been using Twitterrific. One of its features is that you can watch for all tweets that contain a particular word or phrase. So I’ve been watching ‘mod_rewrite’. The following graph shows the rough distribution of those tweets.

It’s distressing to me, as something of a recognized expert on the subject, to see the vast amount of information online about mod_rewrite which is inaccurate, inefficient, or just plain wrong. But people are clearly hungry for any scrap of mod_rewrite info that they can get, since every time another misinformed tutorial is posted, 30 people retweet it as gospel.

Now, some could claim, very justly, that we brought this on ourselves. The documentation is frightening, and announces in the first paragraph that this is not for mere mortals, and has been largely unchanged for over ten years. We’ve recently done a complete overhaul of the docs, but it might just be too late.

And, of course, another huge force is at work here. Yes, the SEO industry. No, I will not engage you in the debate about whether all so-called “SEO professionals” are snakes and liars. A significant portion of this industry thrives on misinformation and impossible-to-fulfill promises. And many of these folks equate “SEO” and “mod_rewrite”, thus indicating a complete lack of understanding of both.

Between these two forces, there’s a huge thirst for useful mod_rewrite tutorials, both by people with legitimate need for mod_rewrite, and people who have been told, inaccurately, that they need it. And, unfortunately, for years the Apache docs haven’t done that. They haven’t offered the examples that people are actually looking for, and they’ve had that dreadful “ABANDON HOPE” across the front arch.

So, we’re working hard to rectify this with the new docs which will include lots of examples, and hopefully address the questions that you’re actually asking. But, alas, the nonsense tutorials keep springing up, so perhaps we need some active way to address those, tell you why they’re mistaken, and perhaps encourage the authors to correct them in useful ways that will result in the spread of true, accurate, efficient mod_rewrite information, and less of this ridiculous myth that mod_rewrite is a big scary monster.