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What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: Once Upon A Click

Every day, a handful of WordPress.com bloggers are featured in Freshly Pressed. Each week, we take a close look at…

Every day, a handful of WordPress.com bloggers are featured in Freshly Pressed. Each week, we take a close look at one post and why we thought it was Press-worthy.
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How do you read a blog post?

The simple answer is of course “start at the beginning and read to the end.” In the hypertexted world of the internet, that kind of simplicity is under siege. Blog posts contain hyperlinks we’re subtly encouraged to click before we’ve finished scrolling down the page. Photo-essay slideshows distract us from the main event. Our eyes (and our focus) slide around like our attention spans are on ice — and that’s often how we’re meant to be behave.

Web content designers up on digital narrative theory are increasingly throwing intentional interruptions, digressions, and diversions in our way, and they’re doing it because it works.

In short, we like to click around, and the more we do, the more we’re hooked. (Yes, that’s what the internet has done to us.) It’s this ethos that MoonUnderWater has firmly embraced with his post “Once Upon A Click.” Here’s why we loved it.

It’s Interactive

The first thing you’ll notice about the post is that it deliberately sends you elsewhere. At the end of the first paragraph, you are prompted to click the link to continue — and when you do so, you jump to a different section on the same page. A later link will send you to an entirely new page. If you didn’t choose to go along for the ride, this post wouldn’t make much sense — but follow the internal links as you’re meant to and it turns into an argument for non-linear storytelling. In the finest tradition of “show, don’t tell,”  the very technique it’s using to keep you reading is the one it’s championing. We liked that a lot.

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.

MoonUnderWater manages this neat literary trick using internal anchor tags — the same ones Wikipedia uses to help you navigate to the precise sub-heading you’re looking for.

What’s the lesson here? As we’ve said before, it’s important to make your blogging easy on the eyes. The best way to do this is to keep paragraphs short and left-justified. Break up paragraphs with well-chosen images. This post does all these things, but it adds unpredictability to the mix. You don’t know what’s next until you click the link that sends you there.

If you want to keep people reading, it pays to surprise them once in a while . . . and maybe make them work a little for their next paragraph.

It’s Well Researched

Non-linear narrative is a literary form that predates the internet. Have you ever worked your way through one of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, or the UK’s equivalent, Fighting Fantasy? MoonUnderWater directly acknowledges his debt to these pioneers of interactive narrative, and to the text adventure video games that paved the way for modern epics like World of Warcraft. He also touches on the wider nature of digital media consumption.

As a multidisciplinary introduction to a broad topic, it’s a winner — and shows the value of using your research without swamping your argument in quotes and references.

It’s Playful

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.

In less sure hands, this could become a dry, overly academic piece of theory. MoonUnderWater gets around this with a little geeky humor.

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!).

A blogging voice with a wry tone (used appropriately and intelligently) is an effective way to keep a reader engaged. If your writing can make someone laugh — or smirk, or giggle — they may follow you with a sense of loyalty they’d rarely bestow on someone who merely informed them.

In Summary

For its interactivity, for its use of background research, and for its playful nature, this is one post where we all clicked to continue.

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  1. I almost always ink to other sources of information related to my post. Also I tend to ignore outward bound links if I am more intrigued by what I am reading. I go elsewhere only if I find myself more curious about the elsewhere than what I am reading where I am. I do not link to other places in my post. My Ebooks, however, are so organized.

    I read this post through without going elsewhere. Need to get my coffee and start cooking for today’s big meal.Might or might not get back to explore the outward bound links.

    I have two questions though. Many of my Ebooks elaborate on the ideas I present in my posts. How can one link to those organically and not just for the sake of selling. I become a cranky old lady when taken somewhere else only to find a sale’s pitch. Maybe that answers the question. A peek inside as Amazon does. But would like your wiser ideas.

    Second question. How many links are too many links?

    In honor of Thanksgiving, I am so grateful you guys are here. You have taught this blogger a great deal and make her far less cranky than some others hawking information. Keep it up.

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    1. Kind of you to say! I’ll pass that along to the team.

      >>”How many links are too many links?”

      I couldn’t advise you there – i think that’s one of those “how long is a piece of string” questions, I’m afraid. :) But if you’re sending someone somewhere with a link, it’s important to give them a good reason for having followed it – especially if you want them to come back afterwards.

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  2. It is a wonderful post! “If your writing can make someone laugh — or smirk, or giggle — they may follow you with a sense of loyalty.” – I totally started following him for this reason. Thanks for sending us on a grand adventure!

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  3. I tend to keep paragraphs short and limit each paragraph to a single subject, so that a keyword scan will allow the reader to locate the right piece of text quickly.

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  4. I’m rather green in blogging so the computer lingo is slightly daunting at the moment (makes the discovery of a new skill and hopefully accomplishment truly rewarding I think) so I may have a few (millions) questions. Thanks in advance for any advice y’all can offer. :)

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    1. Hmmm a few-million questions? Now, I don’t feel so “all alone” Green is good? Just add water…which is all the help we can get from the other guys. Learning from what they do right and wrong is what it’s all about! Love this site, maybe someday I can put “Dr.” in front of my name. Let’s see Cookie, we might be at the grade-school level or possibly high school? Anyway, I love attending this free University. Hope they don’t tack this on to my student loan?

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      1. Thanks for your kind words, Jim! We don’t accept money, but donations of your hard-earned attention are awesome. Welcome to the Daily Post community!

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  5. Oh wow, thanks a million for this post – it was so humbling to get Freshly Pressed, it’s even more so to have such an in-depth and complimentary review written!

    Pressure is on to make the next post even better…

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    1. My pleasure! Digital storytelling is a really fascinating topic (the site behind the link “digital narrative” in the article is to one of my favorite places for reading about it). Also – I may or may not have a copy of “Warlock of Firetop Mountain” in my bookshelf. Just saying.

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  6. Brilliant concept! I have used it a lot without even knowing that this works! I like the interaction theory. I always think that all institutions websites ( like the museums or government) should include a Blog to interact with the community.

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  7. I blog but not often enough and have a long way to be the blogger I would like to be…thanks for the tips that you keep sending our way. Happy Thanksgiving!

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      1. I too am a newbie and yesterday I doubted I had any abilities at all….yes….a series of posts for people like us that are just getting started would be so nice including definitions of all the acronyms too please. Thanks guys for doing this

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      2. Thanks for your comments on this, everyone. As Krista says above, we’re discussing your suggestions.

        In the meantime, if you’re looking for a run-through of how to get started with your WordPress.com blog, there’s a terrific beginner’s guide here:

        http://learn.wordpress.com/

        And if you’re searching for a specific word, a good trick is to go to the Support page . . .

        http://en.support.wordpress.com/

        . . . and type the word into the Search box, top right, and click the “Search” button. There’s a huge amount of helpful documentation in there.

        And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, your next best bet is to use Support’s contact page: http://en.support.wordpress.com/contact/

        And of course we’re always happy to help in any way we can!

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  8. This is where I get so frustrated…I am trying to add this to my page and I can’t do it because I cannot find the “plug-in” part of my blog…I cannot even get started!!! Arghhh…..anyone out there that can help?

    Click here to download feedjit.zip containing your WordPress plugin.Now do one of the following:
    Sign in to your blog and click the Plugins/Add-New menu on the left. Then click “Upload” at the top and upload the feedjit.zip file you downloaded.If the first option doesn’t work for you, manually copy the feedjit.zip file to your WordPress blog’s wp-content/plugins/ folder. Then unzip feedjit.zip in the plugins folder.Then sign-in to your blog and click the “Plugins” menu on the left and click “Activate” on the Feedjit plugin.Now click the Widgets menu on the left under Appearance. Drag Feedjit to the sidebar on the right.That’s it, you now have a Live Traffic Feed in your blog side-bar! You have options to change the widget colors and width on the fly.

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    1. Hi Lisa, it sounds as though you’re trying to upload a plugin to a WordPress.com site. I’m afraid that we don’t allow plugins on WordPress.com sites. They are allowed on self-hosted WordPress.org sites. Here’s a bit more information on plugins: http://en.support.wordpress.com/plugins/

      PS: In future, it’s really best to contact Support http://en.support.wordpress.com/contact/ for any help with your WordPress.com blog. That allows us to keep comments focused on the post at hand. Thanks!

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  9. I just started my blog about a month ago and I’ve been trying to find my style, as a blogger. The link aspect makes it a totally different form of writing. I have a knitting and travel blog, and I’m not sure what use such a blog would be, if it didn’t have links to the patterns I make and to youtube videos demonstrating the skills – I really love that each reader’s experience of the post will be different based on the way they move through it…

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