Instant Gratification of a Hyperlink

Working through this week’s readings, and readings for another class, I am left questioning the expectations digital texts (and traditional texts) have of me, the reader. As I read Paul Ford’s “As We May Type”, I found myself torn between wanting to read the post in its entirety and wanting to stop to click on a hyperlink that will take me on a related excursion. And then I asked, what is Ford’s expectation of me, the reader? Does he want me to click as I read, or wait until the end? Does it change his message?

Ford introduces three new, yet very different, composing tools: Fargo, Editorially (which has since been made unavailable due to a lack of interest), and Medium (to name a few). In this very post I myself have included hyperlinks to these tools. My purpose being to allow readers to access these tools right away if they so desire. If you notice on Ford’s piece, he did not insert hyperlinksfor Fargo, Editorially, and Medium in the body text of the post, but in the margin as a list. Why include hyperlinks to demos and talks within the text, but not to the tools he is writing about? Did he want the reader’s complete attention?  (It didn’t deter me from immediately visiting the site.)  I actually ignored the list on the right linking me to all of these tools he reviews.


Initial screen when visiting Fargo

I found it interesting to try to read about a new tech tool, instead of playing around with it. While reading, I had to fight the urge not to go play with them. Although, Ford’s piece did provide background information as to how these tools were developed, for what purpose, and how they are different from others, so that was helpful. I did not overcome the urge to stop reading and go play, however. Just after reading a little about Fargo, I visited Fargo’s website and wanted to play around with it. Then I came across this screen: I As a new visitor, I could either click the left button and be taken to a page that explains what it is, or I could click the right button and start to mess around with the tool. I immediately wanted to choose the right button and jump right in. I wanted to definite it for myself, not how the creators define it. Which button one clicks seems to say something about the person. Am I a person who plays first, then reads the directions? Yes.

How is reading a digital text, and making decisions about hyperlinks, different from reading a text with charts, tables and figures? Does my decision making change? Initially, I would say no. For the New Horizon Report 2014, I found myself at the beginnings of each section wanting to go look at the framework or figure used to make decisions about what to include in the report. I kept thinking (as I have done for years with these texts), when should I go look at the chart to which the authors are referring? Of course, I know I have a choice in this, but what if my choice changes the message, or if I lose out on something? It would be interesting to evaluate how effective these choices are in understanding the material. (If the results differ, that is.)

My last question: Do we teach these reading practices to our students? As I’ve worked through the curriculum writing process for eight years now, I have had the chance to peek into prospective English, math, science, and history textbooks, and there is a significant amount of images, tables, graphs, and figures  (it seems to have increased). I’m left wondering how often we take the time to go over how to read them? Additionally, how much time do we take examining digital texts in the same way?


7 thoughts on “Instant Gratification of a Hyperlink

  1. Yes! I did the exact same thing. I started looking up the apps on my iPad or the programs on my computer and wanting to play with them before reading more about them, haha. You bring up an interesting point about hyperlinks — what is an author’s purpose for them? Last year when I was the chief copy editor of a newspaper, one of my tasks was to insert hyperlinks to the online versions of our news stories, and I remember how I changed my method for the sake of time instead of thoughtfully choosing related news stories. I started just sticking links to any story from the same day’s paper at the end of each story instead of carefully thinking through actually “related” stories (like sticking sports with sports) just because it was a tedious activity piled on top of the other things I needed to do before leaving the office around 1-2 a.m. each night. So the purpose behind the links moved from “you might be also be interested in this related story” to “here are some other stories from today’s paper,” though the heading remained “Leading in today’s Crimson White.”

    Additionally, I don’t think we’re always taught these reading practices. I know I’m guilty of skipping over charts and maps in books and spending my time focusing on the plain text.

  2. I’ve also been curious at times to the intentionality behind how online authors choose to present what they are writing. The use of hyperlinks once added to the speed of how the internet could be explored, but is this really the case anymore, especially given that the ability to look anything up is usually two clicks away?

    I also used to be a “player” rather than a “reader” when it came to new technology tools. But I have noticed lately that I’ve started to read “the rules” more often since many programs no longer have text labels for things, but rather pictoral buttons that are supposed to be more intuitive. These often leave me confused when first starting a new program these days (and I feel ashamed for even saying it). Likewise, programs are starting to rework certain words within the creation of their programs. I noticed this as I registered for ScreenCast today. One of the first “terms to know” that was listed was Breadcrumb… the place to go to lead you back to the start… I think.

    • Maggie, it is interesting how developers are creating their own terminology or reworking existing words and concepts to fit their tool. Also interesting is the decrease in instructions and an increase in pictorials and icons with little explanation. Look at what Apple has done with any of their devices. The packet that comes with an iPad contains three very small items: a picture of the iPad with captions of the function of the four buttons and on the back a website for support, a five-page mini- information guide, and two Apple stickers.

  3. When my students design their own e-Portfolios, I am surprised how often the rig their hyperlinks to open in the current page instead of opening in a new page. I always make sure to include the “open in a new window” command so that people can click the hyperlink, it opens in a new window for later, and then it is there for them when they are done reading my website. To me, that seems to be the role of a hyperlink; open it so that it is there when you are done. Especially with an ePortfolio, you wouldn’t want someone to leave your site, get distracted with other things, and forget about you!

  4. I am interested in the teaching students how to read this. In my district, we have to do a unit on nonfiction that also includes using the sidebars, images, and any other supplementary material that comes along with a lot of written material. I know that I often direct students to these places of information, but I don’t know that I’ve often discussed the best way to get through the piece individually, as in read it all then come back or split your attention. I often feel like I’m supposed to focus on one piece at a time, then go exploring, but I was tempted several times in this week’s reading to leave the page I was on and jump down the rabbit hole that is the online world.

  5. I’m really interested in this idea that our personalities shape our reading practices. As you mention above, you’re “a person who plays first, then reads directions.” By contrast, I’m a cautious direction-reader who waits until I’m SURE I know what I’m doing to start using the new tool. And that’s fascinating to me–that our unique traits and characteristics influence how we read.

    As my students and I continue to discuss how there are unlimited “ways of reading,” I want to focus on your idea that who we are as people influences what we do with a text.

  6. I love that you question how it might change the reader’s experience, and what his intention might have been for us by inserting the hyperlinks. I also resisted doing so on this particular piece, but it was mostly because I’d set myself to the task of making sure I read what I originally set out to do.
    In other situations, I’m a spammer of the command+click which opens a link I’d like to visit in a separate tab. I can keep reading to the end of the piece, or to the end of the paragraph, switch over and explore the tab, and still have the article waiting for me when I’m ready to come back to it.
    Thinking about it from the other end: why did I choose to put hyperlinks in my own blog this week? Part of it was inspiration from other class posts that have done it, part of it was wanting to experiment with inserting links through wordpress, and part of it was wanting to give all of you access to what I’m talking about should curiosity strike you. In a way I kind of hoped it would be distracting because that means you’re interested in checking out something that I already love. Maybe it’s a little bit the same? Or maybe it’s a little bit advertising. 🙂

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