One of the most hated practices on the Internet is the breaking of articles into pages. Jason Kottke swearingly rants against it here, and Mike Davidson denounces the practice here. I don’t much like the practice either, especially when a short, pointless article is broken into four or more pages (Davidson mockingly points to this extreme example).
Davidson argues that only extremely long articles — more than 20 screens long — should be broken up into pages, and these pages should correspond to logical divisions within the article, which he calls “acts” (I’d call them “chapters” or “sections,” but you get the idea).
Some of Davidson’s commenters, however, say that he is guilty of a similar practice: offering just the first paragraph or two of a blog post on the blog’s main page and RSS feed, and requiring readers to click through to view the full article. I’m about to do the same thing, right now. If you’re reading this article on Cognitive Daily’s main page or in your RSS reader, should you have to click a link and wait for the page to reload to read the rest?
Web guru Robert Scoble thinks you shouldn’t, and tries to throw his weight around in a comment on Davidson’s post:
Influentials like me (er, weirdos like me) who read hundreds of feeds and then tell our readers about which feeds are best (or which items) ARE how many people will find your blog.
So, if you want more readers put out full text feeds.
If you don’t care about getting more readers, then, yes, partial text feeds are just fine.
Partial text feeds tell me that you are rude and unwilling to treat me — as a reader — well.
It’s the same disease as those who do page view pagination.
You should look in the mirror.
Yikes! I guess Scoble’s never going to link to CogDaily! Some of our own readers have complained (more politely) of the same thing.
But as I responded in the comments, in order to pay the bills, we need readers to come to our web site, not just read via Google Reader or Bloglines. Doesn’t a partial RSS feed help you learn if you might want to read more? If you’re not interested, you can skip it, so the RSS feed still offers an important service. Similarly, there is a functional reason why we display only a portion of each post on the CogDaily home page: We want you to be able to see a selection of posts and pick which one you want to read.
As Davidson admits in his post, there comes a time when an article needs to be broken up. I’m not sure I like it chopped as finely as Gamer Theory does, with just an index card worth of information on each “page.” When I conducted an experiment putting the complete text of Moby Dick online, I decided each “page” should be about three screens long.
That also happens to correspond to about the size of the typical CogDaily article. I think readers can follow along comfortably for that length of article; any longer than that and it should probably at least have some kind of subheadings to keep readers oriented; it’s easy to get lost in a sea of text.
So what do you think of the way articles are presented here on Cognitive Daily? Would you like to see them broken up into smaller chunks? Are you okay with our decision to include only a portion of each post on the main page and RSS feed? Or are you with Scoble in believing that all partial feeds are “rude”? Do you have any other ideas for how we could improve CogDaily’s design and presentation of posts? Let us know in the comments.