Once Upon A Click – Hypertext and new ways of reading

IMPORTANT: this post is made like a game, assuming complete interactivity. In order to read properly please use the links (highlighted in orange). Or you could just read straight through and become very confused…enjoy!

Kaleidoscopic image of paths

Once upon a time people read text from top to bottom and from start to finish. These days there are a multitude of ways that a user can read. In the digital world, one of the key inventions that has created a new system for reading is also one of the key features that make the internet work: hypertext. Click here to continue.

You have either just ignored the important introduction in bold at the start of this piece, or you have just engaged in an interactive experience that is coming to its conclusion. Hopefully some of you will give Murray and Manovich a read, or will rethink the idea of Finnegans Wake or the value of Planetfall and other text-based adventures. For those of you who are now cats, I hope that you have a look in some second-hand bookshops for Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s classic adventure-game-books.

You will probably have noticed by now that although I am the author of this piece, you have become an active agent. Like a player playing a game of any kind, you were allowed to drift off into Facebook, infographics, or other web-based media, and drift at will through them for as long as you pleased. By coming back to complete reading this post, you have fulfilled the role of this piece as an information segment designed to be both read and played with. The only role left that I want to offer is one of complete engagement – becoming the author yourself. So I will leave this open-ended -

Hypertext has offered a whole world of new methods for creating a new form of narrative that involves direct actions from the user. This is moving toward giving users autonomous control over what they are interacting with digitally. As a result… (complete in the comments section by clicking here!)

Glad to see I’m not alone on this one. If you were in any way like me when you used to play these games you probably just checked both answers out of curiosity. In this example, though, it makes little difference as you’ll be meeting up with the “no” crew when you click here to continue.

Click the image to continue along your path, unless you want to end up going in circles…

Click here to continue…but continuing won’t always get you to your conclusion…

All of this is somewhat reminiscent of text-based role-play game-books that I remember enjoying when I was a child (for example, the Fighting Fantasy series). These books allowed the user to select what direction the reader would take, and would give different results based on a series of choices that the reader was asked to make. Do you remember these books? Click here for yes or click here for no.

As has been pointed out by many theorists, hypertext is probably the most essential ingredient in web data that separates large bodies of text from the analogue form of books or films to the more digital form of games, websites or blogs. The use of hypertext has given us the ability to link to different parts of pages…

What hypertext thus creates is an altogether more intuitive and user-driven system for navigating large bodies of text. In the case of hypertext the “footnote” nature of links gives users the choice of what to read and how to digest information. This certainly creates problems when distractions arise as a result of hyperlinks creating new paths of enquiry that may back up information, but may also create more agreeable forms of taking it in, pulling the reader away from the original text (still here?). This is particularly typical of my own habit of diving into Wikipedia where I start around here and end up around here for no discernible reason other than hyperlink-frenzy (something this paragraph encourages strongly!).

Critic Marshall McLuhan wrote about the kaleidoscopic nature of new story-telling. Rather than following on along a single path, readers or viewers can follow many variants toward one (or many) end-points. Links give internet users agency over what they are reading. Rather than turning pages sequentially, users are allowed to explore freely at their own will and their own pace. So the experience of reading online is thus a vastly different experience to its analogue counterpart. Digital media encourages the user to hop and jump around, and become more engaged with a piece of text than hard-copy media. Often, when large chunks of text are displayed, images are used to break up paragraphs and increase the readability of digital text. Click on the image below to continue.

Go quick, before the light changes!

The development of text-based adventure platforms evolved further in the 1980s when notable text adventure games like Infocom’s Planetfall (1983) created an even deeper interactive experience for users. These games gave players the ability to exact a high level of control over their adventuring hero, with far more options available and far more conclusions possible than in Fighting Fantasy. Although Planetfall was not the earliest of these titles, it is a good example of a very open and free-form text-based adventure with a deep and particularly touching storyline. *Miaow*. Click here to go to the conclusion of this post.

…or different pages altogether…

Hopping around text like this has become common in interactive infographics, which are fast becoming one of the leading ways to express information online. Although many of these infographics do not incorporate actual user interaction, many (like this one) encourage the user to engage in a map-like system, reading and tracing a path through what is otherwise a flat, 2D piece of information. Click here to continue.

A wizard appears from a cloud of smoke and turns you into a cat for never having played these games. You can continue reading by clicking here, but don’t forget that you are now a cat and can’t really read.

All images in this post are my own and subject to copyright unless stated. I don’t mind reproductions, but please credit them to this blog or contact (contactmoonunderwater@gmail.com) for more information.

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136 Comments

Filed under art: design, Words, writing: non-fiction, writing: technology

136 responses to “Once Upon A Click – Hypertext and new ways of reading

  1. My kids used to have hard copy books which gave you a choice of endings; the hyper text experience seems to build on that! Fascinating … =D

    • It certainly does. There have been some hypertext soap operas, but I haven’t (yet) come across fully immersive hypertext books that use hypertext in this way. Might be a cool thing to have a go at…

      Thanks (again) for reading!

      • Hypertext fiction certainly exists – I’ve not read any, but there is even (of course) on line database: http://directory.eliterature.org/

        There is also this piece from Salon.com, about why hypertext fiction doesn’t seem to float many people’s boat: http://www.salon.com/2011/10/04/return_of_hypertext/
        Some good points are made about the limitations of the medium.

        Your post does very well what the examples I’ve just found of hypertext fiction don’t manage so well, which is each click leads you somewhere without losing the overall thread of your thesis – kaleidoscopes (as hypertext fiction is often compared with) are pretty look at, but lack narrativity (or story-ness if you prefer). You manage to maintain a cogent thread that’s simple to follow.

        But now I have to manage my newfound fascination with Lithuanian football clubs. Thanks for that…

        • Haha, that’s an interesting post at salon.com. I’d love to think that hypertext novels could be a “wave of the future”, but ya, the limitations are many, particularly from the author’s point of view.

          I’m not sure yet if the kaleidoscopic story-telling won’t catch on though. I’ve been introduced to some amazing software recently that’s being developed to help authors create kaleidoscopic storylines (http://advancedstories.net/).

          But then at the end of the day the broader the story the more prone to distractions the reader will be. To keep interest I think the author will have to…

          *checks stock market history of Poland*

          *watches baby panda sneezing*

  2. This was one of the most unpleasant reading experiences I have ever had. I read through three paragraphs deciding it was not worth continuing.

    This is not a criticism. It’s a statement about how interesting what you’ve done is.

    • That’s really interesting. I’m currently studying how to further incorporate interactive media into different experiences using computers (including apps, hypertext, games etc.). What seems to come up over and over is how important “interactivity” (i.e. giving control or agency to the reader) is for keeping people interested. Your comment shows that not everyone looks for that experience.

      Out of interest, do you normally read long blog posts?

      • It is actually that I am wanting to have the experience of control in my reading, and what is supposed to be “interactivity” removes control for me.

        I am a very selective reader, and I don’t like to read text that doesn’t interest me or doesn’t include new information, so “click here to continue” drives me crazy. How do I know if I want to read more if I can’t see what I will be reading? I am also not very patient, and waiting the nanosecond for the screen to load only to find a paragraph that could be safely skipped over without losing anything significant feels like a colossal waste of time.

        The click feels like power to some people. To me, it feels like a waste of time. So whatever comes after the click needs to be worth it. I don;t have a slow connection or anything–I have just come to expect to get what I want right now from what I view.

        I am probably not typical of average readers. i am probably typical of very strong readers who constantly interact with text–skipping over certain parts that aren’t crucial, going back to other parts that need to be digested more fully, and so on–and I find it frustrating when the interaction with text is delayed or controlled artificially by the writer.

        What a reader like me wants is to know fully what is there to be read or viewed as much as possible at one time so that the reader can make autonomous choices.

        I do read some fairly long blog posts. I don’t like long blocks of texts or unnecessary words. I don’t read every word of a post or even all of the paragraphs.

        I hope that helps.

        • Agreed. “Interactive” reading is an interesting deviation from the norm, but it doesn’t work for me.

        • Ashanam has said exactly what I think about reading blogs. For me interactivity is only ok up to a point. I don’t mind clicking on a link as if it were a parenthesis to give me a little more info on something before going back to the main body of the post. Having said that, thank you for producing this post, it has made me think about what I do and don’t like, and what I will and won’t read.

        • Wow, thanks a million for the comprehensive response ashanam!

          I think this is interesting because I’m currently working on a post regarding the difference in narrative between traditional forms (written) and newer ones, like interactive narrative. I think in line with a lot of theorists on this, that these are two completely different schools, and need to be treated as such.

          I also wouldn’t suggest that you are an atypical reader; I’m not sure there exists such a thing as a typical reader anymore – there are so many platforms and so many options I think reading, like many other past-times, has become a wholly individual process. Depending on what I read I work quite similar to how you do (paragraph-skimming, then delving in for chunks of info), but that’s not always my technique.

          I also think that what I have done in this post is in a way kind of gimmicky. It is taking an old form of writing and adjusting it into a new medium. That doesn’t make it a better post, not does it make it strictly “interactive” (in reality this is a very linear post, as I’m sure you realised), but it is just the application of a medium (hyperlinks) as a way of telling a story about that medium. This is a lot like 20th Century art theory – using painting to talk about painting etc., and that was what I was trying to achieve.

          Thank you so much for your feedback though, and that also goes for @Kiersten and @herschelian – I find it so interesting seeing how different people read and react to different formats.

  3. Well done and thought provoking.

  4. I like the “title” function too, like here: http://wp.me/p1IMoL-1B1

  5. A great idea to explain hyperlinks by directly demonstrating them! I really enjoyed the post, and it made me laugh when facebook popped up after clicking one of the links! Thank you, an interesting and informative post!

  6. I love that you bring attention to something that we see everyday. I have often wondered if including hyperlinks pulls readers from my page to a journey on Wikipedia.. I know we are supposed to include it for SEOs and webhooks.
    This was a very clever journey through your own page!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Thank you very much for reading and for the congrats!

      Ya, I think about that with hyperlinks too – they are certainly important, but at what point do you lose track of the initial line of enquiry? And in this case, do you ever “finish”: reading anything online?

  7. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts and commented:
    Watch your clicks

  8. I really like your blog and would love you to feature on mine, http://www.5thingstodotoday.com. All you have to do is write five suggestions along with a link back to your site. Please check out the blog and see the sort of things people have written about.

    • I’ll certainly put something together! Just Freshly Pressed today so I think I’ll have to try and keep up with the housekeeping for now, but I’ll send something on soon. I like the concept, thanks for the invite!

  9. I remember those fun children’s books! I always had to go through every option so I knew every outcome of the story…well done! This must have taken quite some time.

    • It took more in the planning than in the execution, thanks for reading!

      Yep, I loved those books too; I see so much of them in flash games and indie games online, they have really influenced something cool in this generation.

      But when you know every outcome do you pick which one you want to be the “true” ending, or is it just about seeing all the possibilities? This is a lot of what I think about hypertext – it’s like taking you on an adventure that never really ends, it just changes constantly.

      • It would just always bother me to not know the alternate endings, for whatever reading. However, I did usually end up picking a favorite ending. I think the use of this technique is so successful because it stimulates the desire we all had as children to go on a hero’s journey or adventure. Whatever the reason, it is wonderful to experience the sense of curiosity often lost with age.

  10. This blog post was simply… fun!

  11. I really enjoyed this experience! thought provoking, I will never read posts the same. :-)

  12. sprinklesofchatter

    While this seemed like fun initially, somewhere around the area of clicking on “distractions” and the various images and infographs totally ruined it for me.
    Somehow, it stopped being about what I was reading and became more about going clickety click.

    • Haha, bang on the money. What I was playing with in this piece wasn’t so much the idea of interactive narrative, but how an interactive aspect can just be tagged on to a narrative piece.

      I lied a little at the start – this isn’t technically a game, so much as a regular post that is laid out in a different fashion in order to tell the story more accurately. I’m sorry you lost interest, but I’m glad you let me know! For my part, it was a really fun post to write!

    • I find that I ignore hyperlinks most of the time. I don’t the interruptions. I have had worse though. The web site wants to talk to me or a video that is playing on the side of my screen. I have to cover it up to be able to read the site or I have to leave the site. GRRR. Why do people want to distract me all of the time? I also tend to loose the original page in the bouncing around the web sometimes too. (Dashboard to article on what makes something fresh pressable to here)

  13. I think it’s awesome!
    Have you ever watched the film Clue?
    It’s based on the board game Cluedo, but it comes with three different endings, and will select one at random, unless you ask for all three.
    The other thing your post reminded me of was the interactive fiction games on telehack.com.
    Although you have a lot more control over them, as far as I know, there is only one conclusion.
    Thanks for the fun read, and congrats on FP!
    :D

  14. looks like you are going to have a stack of trackback links in you comments section

  15. That was incredibly fun! I had no idea that someone has actually been tracking how many hours we spend on social media rather than studying / working – but I certainly fall into that category (unfortunately). I haven’t seen a post like this in a long time, thanks for the entertainment and interesting insights. And congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    • Thanks for the congrats & I’m glad you enjoyed.

      Yep, that infographic gave me a bit of a fright when I found it too – I’m a little too heavy on the procrastination side when I get going – but sooner or later I seem to get the work done anyway, so maybe we’re OK…

  16. Reblogged this on Bored Of Study and commented:
    Made my day today as it brought back my childhood memories of reading fun books where you choose your own path. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  17. I liked this. . . I had never actually thought of the use of hyperlinks as medium in and of themselves. And it was fun to go through :)

    Did you battle any Grues is your day?

    • To my shame, I only played Zork for the first time about two months ago. It’s still brilliant, but I am not an experienced adventurer by any means.

      Glad you enjoyed. Hyperlinks have been touted as THE medium of the future, but so far I think most attempts to use them successfully have failed. I’ll do a little more on this in a follow-up post.

      But I do think using hyperlinks to write about hyperlinks was a pretty natural way to work!

      • Personally, I think that hyperlinks are the first step toward how digital interaction will look like in the future. The touch-screen expanded the scope of what is possible on a device, especially as seen in tablets. We’re going to see interactive content of all sorts, not just interactive text.

        And I did enjoy your hyperlinks about hyperlinks, and your commentary about how even this simple post becomes an interactive experience. With regard to games, I really do miss the text-based adventures; today I feel like games rely so heavily on graphics and mechanics that they skip out on writing and storytelling. The old adventure games only had story.

        • Re point 1 – ya, touch-screens are going to offer a whole new dimension, both from the point of view of how they are controlled, and of what they potentially offer. There’s a world of possibility there – I’m working with them myself at the moment and I can’t wait to push the technology as far as possible!

          Re point 2 – I agree…to a point. Text-based adventures are brilliant, and there is little like them in terms of really immersive narrative. That said, there are still some excellent games that have beautifully interwoven narrative that work alongside nice graphics and sound, and I love these too. If you haven’t yet discovered it, try the indie game Braid – one of the most beautfully interwoven story/mechanics/aesthetics games I’ve come across yet.

          • 2– Absolutely! The extent to which modern games can intertwine narrative with story is unprecedented (think Bioshock). But It seems like those games are the exception rather than the rule.

            To be fair, it’s always been like that (not too much story with Dig Dug or Mortal Kombat), which is what fascinates me about the text-based adventures: the writing is put front and center, as it is one of the very few things the developer has to work with. All the atmosphere, tension, excitement, it must be crafted by the way the game is written.

  18. Tech Tard

    Brilliant :)

  19. That was fun. Although I enjoyed it, it is hard to follow the rules. When I am told to click I feel like I might be missing something important..but if I don’t click and go I might get lost and lose track of the flow intended by you, the conductor. All fascinating psych papers for the art of guiding readers where you want to go…here! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Very exciting.

    • That’s really interesting. I think to a degree we’ve been so trained now to see hyperlinks as “alternative information” that are distracting to the main body of text. In that case maybe we are seeing them in the master-slave sense that Manovich suggested for footnotes…

      Thank you for the congrats – it’s amazing to have this enormous readership all of a sudden. It’s really something else – the hardest part is getting back to all the comments!

  20. As I was clicking through I was waiting for the Fighting Fantasy reference to come up as I felt like I was falling back through time to partake in a similar adventure. Indeed, much of our current way of interacting with online information isn’t too dissimilar to what many of us grew up with in these books.

    Action is given to us in small snippets before we’re prompted where to go next. Seldom did you have to read more than a page before being given an opportunity to digest what you had read and make a decision based on the information you had been given. While I’m not suggesting that pick-a-path adventures are to blame for how hyperlinks have changed the nature of web browsing, it certainly demonstrates that there is more than one way to take people through the story telling process.

    • Fighting Fantasy had to get a mention here. It was such a big part of my childhood – I loved those books, and I do believe that they are certainly influential on hypertext and other similar media.

      With regards the concept of different forms of narrative, I think that’s the big question now. Video games, GPS games, interactive blogs, Apps etc. all have some serious narrative power, but they seem to be creating new ways of telling stories all the time. I for one am incredibly excited to see what comes next…

      Thanks for your thoughts, you put this very poetically, leaves lots of room for further thinking…

  21. I don’t like too many hyperlinks; they are often a distraction and a waste of time. I’d rather think about variations of a theme in my own head.

    • Kind of like how Finnegan’s Wake works? There are a lot of theorists who argue (and I generally agree with this standpoint) that “interactivity” is not a new idea. They state that in film, literature and art we have always “filled in the blanks” and that techniques like hyperlinks are just new and more obvious ways of working in the same way that we always have. Some even go as far as to state that hyperlinking is less interactive, as it gives more control to the author and less to the user.

      I think hyperlinks are fine; they are great in theory for academic writing, and it’s nice to see sometimes where ideas or acknowledgements are directed, but I agree, they can be very distracting if they are over-used.

  22. I can see a whole new fiction genre opening up here. Choose Your Own Hypertext Adventure.

  23. Hi, great post! It really stirs the imagination and captivation of the reader!

    I was actually trying to find out months ago how one could insert the paragraph (hashtags??) markings to enhance navigation on a page but was unsure how to phrase what I was looking for and so the search was unfruitful. Can you share your knowledge and wisdom please?

    Most gratefully,
    SM

    • Hi Sleepy, thank you for your kind comment. And yes, you are more than welcome to be privy to this little magic trick. Below is a brief explanation:

      You need to do two things here. These are both carried out in the html text.

      First, create a name for where you want to link to using
      < a name=”NameOfParagraph” / >

      Then you create a link to that area by writing
      < a href=#NameOfParagraph >
      and close that link at the end. If you haven’t written in HTML before, remember that you always need to close any tag that you open. w3schools is the perfect online resource. Below are links to the two pieces of information that I’ve just written on w3schools. If this is still confusing send me a mail and I’ll try to write a detailed guide for you!

      http://www.w3schools.com/tags/att_a_name.asp

      http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_links.asp (on this page scroll down to the examples using the id attribute, you’ll find it there)

      • That’s perfect Moon, thank you for taking the time to explain it. I look forward to implementing it among my own pages. It will certainly bring navigation to a whole other level. The Moose salute you!

  24. This is probably the coolest thing I have ever read! Besides being such an interesting concept to read about, it definitely did remind me of the Wikipedia jaunts I tend to go on, whether I’m actually looking for information or just testing out whether it’s true that you’ll get to Philosophy if you keep clicking the first hyperlinked text outside of parenthesis in the article (the answer I’ve found so far is yes, except for the few topics lead to a circular path, which leads you to Philosophy once you click the second link).
    Anyway, I’m pretty much grinning like a fool at how much fun it was to read this post. Thanks for that :). (And yes, I did click both links, just to see where the no option lead, because I have always just needed to know.)

    • Oh dear Wikipedia, I love you, but you’ve consumed so much of my life…I had never heard of that philosophy game before though. That’s a new little feature for me to play with – if I find an alternative I’ll post it on here!

      Thank you very much for your compliments. I’m glad you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed writing it. The idea that I left anyone grinning like a fool is enough to send me to sleep smiling tonight.

      So this comment has equally made me very happy. It’s like a feedback loop. I wonder if we both keep smiling will we eventually end up at philosophy?

  25. Fun, informative, and interactive post! Like a Pick-A-Path book for grown-ups. :)

  26. This is so clever! Thank you for taking the time to create such a perfect, illustrative example of the benefits of hyperlinks. I’m a big fan of using them in emails and even in informal research documents as a substitute for footnotes or brackets.

    • Couldn’t agree more. I think that hyperlinks are definitely underused in e-mails, and as a result mails can get pretty messy if they have links all over the place – but sometimes I’m afraid that people won’t spot the links and as a result I end up writing (click here) and other things like that just to be sure.

      Thanks for the compliment and the comment!

  27. Thanks for reminding us of circular versus linear thought tracks.

    • You’re very welcome! Thank you for reading! I guess it’s the little bit of Ancienct Greek narrative that we’ve all got tucked away somewhere that keeps that circle spinning…

  28. I guess more than ever before, the Internet makes us flit like butterflies among pieces of information– in not always a connected way. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes not meaningful.

    • It’s hard to know. I’m not sure if a comprehensive study has been done on how much information is absorbed from internet-flitting…but then maybe we used to do that with encyclopedias and other forms of non-fiction before the internet was around.

      But definitely from personal experience there are times when hyperlinks are terrific, and other times when they’re more or less meaningless…

  29. That is a very interessting and funy post. You are right, I checked both answers to see what is behind. And I almost lost track by reading the wikipedia pages. But I came back and finished the game, so this ist my result: I spent quite to much time reading funny posts instead of doing the work I have to do. But anyway: It was fun!

    • That’s brilliant! I’m glad you went on a Wikipedia hunt – they’re like modern knowledge-based treasure hunts and are so much fun. I’m even more glad that you returned, meaning that you got out of the post exactly what I was hoping you would :)

      Thanks for enjoying! You’ll work better now that you’ve had a little fun :p

  30. I took a graduate school class in Hypertext in 1998. Hard to imagine that people were writing books and teaching classes about it in the late 1990s when everyone thought AOL was cutting edge. We had to design our own web page using the concept. I used Adobe PageMill as my software. I laugh about it now, but that course changed the way I thought about reading and the internet. Thanks for the refresher course.

    • You’re very welcome. And ya, the use of hypertext in the late 90s in particular was really fascinating. If Flash etc. hadn’t come along and made things more pretty I wonder whether hypertext novels would have gone a lot further (then again, there is still time!).

  31. [As a result] …we will obtain our information in a much more fragmented way. This control which we gain is something we loose again because of the incompleteness of our information.

    Didn’t you ever “wake up” from a session of internet hyperlink clicking thinking *huh*? (as in what just happened to the last three hours, and why is it I only vaguely remember what I just learned?)

    Anyway – interesting blog post :)

    • Cool! You’re actually the first commenter to finish the statement!

      Interesting response – I often wonder if we are taking in more information or losing more with the high-speed clickability (it’s a word!) of the internet…the idea of “waking up” from an internet session is a really intriguing one – more and more contemporary theories seem to be looking at the idea of the digital world being a completely separate area to the analogue, and as a result it often makes me thing of the separation of dream and reality.

      Great concept, nice response, thank you!

  32. Very interesting insight. The new way of reading is like an offshore boat speeding over the liquid surface of a wide expanse of meanings. The old way is more similar to a submarine who moves in deep, dark waters, its wandering through text a tridimensional mind trip.

    Read Read Read

  33. Absolutely loved this! Very clever and amusing post, I really must try one of those choice-ending books. Haha, thanks for sharing.

  34. Reblogged this on Cornish Ramblings and commented:
    Really intelligent and interesting post! This definitely deserved to be Freshly Pressed. Well done.

  35. AK

    I just laughed with delight as I roamed around this piece. It’s so very true. Hypertext has changed the way we read.

  36. There have been some YouTube stories that use this concept by clicking on links in the actual video. One of my sons’ favorites is The Dark Room: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvkjP6dqpfY

  37. Hypertext gives us a choice….do we go through the door or take a different route? Great article and interesting comments.

  38. Pingback: What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: Once Upon A Click | The Daily Post

  39. It requires great thinking to read… and i appreciate the posts…

    http://taymecanencia.wordpress.com/category/uncategorized/

  40. Wonderful! I loved each click and discovering what was on the other side of the hyperlink. As a child, I used to love the choose your own adventure novels.

  41. Fun, especially for a beginner. Thanks.

  42. I think interactive reading is something we take for granted nowadays.
    For it to be useful, the reader needs to – unthinkingly and effortlessly – build a “site-map” of the content in his mind as he goes along, so that he can make informed decisions. If I click here I will learn more about X, if I go there I will see more of Y, but I can come back here to continue etc.
    Else the reader will quit. More and more quickly as time goes on, a parallel to the tl;dr phenomenon: too confusing; didn’t read, or too much like work.

    Btw. your link back from the other page is missing the jump label…

    • Cool point. Ya, I agree about the idea of mind-based site-maps. It’s an interesting process that we pursue. Here’s a great little program that has been developed recently by a University of Georgia professor focussed on narrowing down these multi-dimensional narrative routes into a more coherent block if you were interested in this idea.

      Thanks for the link info, will sort that out!

  43. That was too awesome and way over my head I think….would be fun to learn>>!!

  44. Before the internet age, my dad used to read the end of a book first, then some from the middle, then start at the beginning, but would dip into various parts as he read. It used to infuriate me, but he was just reading the way many of us do now, I suppose.

    • Wow, that is really amazing. I’ve heard of some unusual ways to read before, but never came across your dad’s system. It’s also a lovely highlight on how individual the process of reading is!

  45. I remember those books with fondness. Thanks for the trip down memory lane 2.0.

  46. I’m a cat! How did you know? You must be the wizard then. Click here to find if you are someone else!!

    Interesting post :D I’m the one who uses my mouse wheel to open the link in a new tab so I have multiple tabs open, which I read simultaneously. I’m not really one for many links, but knowing that this article finishes where it starts, made me feel comfortable enough to open the links on the same tab!

  47. Bren

    Have you read Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov? It’s a fun piece of I-guess-you-could-call-it-interactive text from the 1950s, which covers three stories at once – the first, a 999 line-long poem in rhyming couplets by the fictional author John Shade; the second, increasingly weird footnotes by the equally fictional editor Charles Kinbote, who describes himself as a personal friend of the poet, explaining in a bit too much detail about their friendship (often hilariously missing the point of things that happen); and the third, also in the footnotes, “explanations” of how the poem is not autobiographical of John Shade, but an account of the history of Kinbote’s (possibly imagined) home country Zembla.

    • Never read Nabokov, it’s now on the list! Sounds terrific! I did love Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann though – similar idea with lots of interweaving stories, and a cracker if you haven’t read it!

  48. How fun is this! An interesting – and enjoyable – read!

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  50. I’m sure this comment is going to be deleted, but…

    Although the writing is great, the structure is horrible and terribly annoying to read. I gave up after about two minutes, and I guarantee that a significant proportion of your audience is going to quit before getting more than a couple paragraphs in. This is a prime example of using technology because it’s there, not because it is useful. A good blog is linear but utilizes links appropriately to support the content.

    • The idea with this post is to use the technology to tell the story about the technology. Like making a painting about painting or writing a novel about a novelist. So the entire point was to do exactly what you said – use the technology for the sake of it. In fact, this is a linear post, structured exactly as I normally structure posts, with a beginning, middle and end and some information in between. It just uses hyperlinks in order to demonstrate the story.

      And just as a point, I’d never delete a comment unless there was gratuitous cursing or spam. You’ve just made an observation, and not a particularly negative one either so it’s safe here!

  51. Very interesting..it was like going into a labyrinth of caves and just exploring all the different paths, never knowing where each might lead.
    I personally however found it a bit disconcerting (I like my leisure reading to be old school). But really love what you have done.. you’ve made your point!

  52. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Unique concept.

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  54. I used to write programs that used tables and yes/no decision statements to allow you to engage in a role-playing game. Never thought of doing it with hyper-text. Wow!

  55. Really liked this! I have never had so much fun reading something so informative! I wish I could do something like this for my essays in school, though I do wonder what my teacher would think…