Because Reading is Fundamental

Most discussions show a bit of information next to each user:

What message does this send?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Yes. But don’t do this for the comments… And never load the next article please. My Safari Reading List lets me scroll to the next item, but only at the end of the page. So if the page is infinite, I never get to the next thing I have to read.


Woha first time using discourse, was checking it out in Bitnami in the morning. It is amazing Jeff, you are a role model to us. There, I said it.

I don’t even like to comment on these things, I only read your blog since 2012. But since you encourage reading, just wanted to say thank you… so thank you.


I think the problem, especially with controversial issues, is that people are already polarized, so a polarizing issue like guns there is NO REASON TO READ THE ARTICLE. MSNBC will praise Obamacare no matter how stupid a particular item is, FoxNews will condemn even the most helpful feature. Climate change is even worse - especially on the web, though WUWT is skeptical but tends to do the very analysis you ask for.

They have their creeds and write their screeds, and the comments are just part of that.

I cannot think of a single unbiased news source, and can count those who will honestly approach a subject, or at least give all sides on one hand.

Even Ars Technica. They were part of the corruption and lack of journalistic ethics now known as #GamerGate. Another place where you don’t have to read, think, and judge, you are either pro or anti, and nothing else matters.

But there is also the technical matter. Clicks pay. Eyeballs pay. So it pays to split up long articles into N pages, each with its own set of ads so I have to click several times to read the whole article. Oh, and in the RSS feed they onl (go to the site to read the whole article with ads).

On some forums, people can “like” my post. That means I said something relevant or interesting.

One more technical matter. My eyes can only stand so much. It would be nice to have AUDIO versions, or at least something that one of the voice reader apps could do something with. Most of the multi-page articles won’t work and others have problems. And Android, iOS, and the rest don’t have a useful screen-reader (even for those who are actually blind) that will read out an entire article. You want me to listen? Then talk.

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when you get to the bottom of the page, load the next damn page automatically

Paginated articles suck, but so-called “infinite scrollbars” are even worse because they break the usability of the browser by making it impossible to know how big the page is and making it impossible to search until you jump through enough hoops to get it all to show. Also, if the article is really long, it is actually harder to get to the end with typical infinite scrollbar implementations than with conventional pagination.

If you want to shorten the initial page to save bandwidth or whatnot, I think the way to go is to show “page 1” of the article and then have a link to open the entire article at once.

The browser already has a scrollbar. Your web app shouldn’t try to emulate a broken version of it.

Is there any time that you’ve ever been on the Internet reading an article, reached the bottom of page 1, and didn’t want to continue reading?

Yes, when I got to the bottom and realized that this was but page 1 of a 20-page article and I wasn’t interested enough to spend that much time. One more reason to just show the entire article upfront, in my opinion.

The quality of the discussion is what moderation is all about. I believe it’s a extremely hard thing to do for a machine, but we’ll eventually reach there. No idea how or when.


A very good article which I thoroughly enjoyed and I absolutely agree to the message as a whole. However there are a few subtler points I disagree with. :slight_smile:

If you’ve posted five times in the last 10 years, but you’ve read every single thing your community has ever written, I can guarantee that you, Mr. or Mrs. Lurker, are a far more important part of that community’s culture and social norms than someone who posted 100 times in the last two weeks.

Umm, how exactly have 5 posts over 10 years given any significant contribution to the community’s culture and social norms? I don’t think that’s how culture works. :slight_smile: While I agree that we should encourage reading more than posting, posting is also important because SOMEONE has to generate the content for others to read.

Remove interruptions to reading, primarily pagination.

Infinite scrolling is cute, but as much as I’ve talked to people, most tend to dislike it and prefer pagination instead. I haven’t done any research on this so I don’t know what the exact problems are, but it’s certainly not a miracle cure. Use with care.

They may not have contributed to the formation of the culture, but they would sure as h*ll understand by then. At that point, your job is to encourage this person to write more, which is a much nicer job than getting people who talk a lot to read more.

Infinite scrolling in artcles isn’t a problem – there’s always a definite end and most are of a reasonable length. I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever thought an article was better for being paginated, unless it’s extremely large-image-hungry (which is an anti-pattern of its own). It’s when you make whole sites or whole threads infinite that they can expand, well, infinitely.

The main argument against single-page articles is ad space, of course. You can insert ads at page breaks, but it’s not the same as reloading a full layout. I believe that’s shortchanging your audience, but the all-mighty dollar is a strong call.

Personally, I think read times are the most useless, since it’s pretty normal to open a tab or three and let them sit before reading them, sometimes for days. Or go off elsewhere in the middle of a long article. On the flip side, if you’ve read an article before but come back to it (say you read it on mobile or via RSS but respond on PC), spending five seconds on it to click into the comments doesn’t mean anything.

Defining the usefulness of a comment based on metrics just doesn’t work. You can never find a metric that won’t penalize an insightful comment or lift up a useless troll. Human and community moderation is still probably the best tool we have, until someone writes an AI module for wordpress.

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@asfd mentioned the broken scroll bar. Also, there’s no way to tell, before or early during reading, whether the article is too verbose to be worth the time. If it’s >30 minutes’ worth of giant paragraphs with no other formatting, the writer had better have a brilliant first paragraph to rein me in.

That old school program from my childhood was right, so deeply fundamentally right. Reading.

That’s a great point. But maybe many people were reading a lot at school, but they haven’t been listened too enough? So they learned that reading doesn’t pay off.

Irony: I was halfway through the post when I saw something that I really wanted to comment on, so I opened this discussion in a separate tab to start writing to avoid forgetting the following:

There are sites that go even further here, such as The Daily Beast, which actually loads the next article when you reach the end of the one you are currently reading.

This is the Internet; there is no “next” article. I am not reading a magazine and there are no connections that I care about between your content, except in very limited cases where (for example) I am reading part 2 of a 4-part, usually multi-day post. If you think you have more content that’s relevant to what I’m reading now, link to it in the article.

Of special note, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re designing a mobile site, I will never ever – though the stars may burn out and fade away – want to “swipe between articles” on your site. Will. Not. Happen.

As for measuring reading, I’m keen to see how this works out long term. You can’t actually measure reading, per se, short of quizzing people as you mention in the post. You can measure if the browser thinks it probably showed the content to the user, though of course you can’t tell if it’s sitting unloved in a background window or tab. It’s probably a fair approximation, though?

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You can always look for folks that correct spelling mistakes/typos; for example “someome” :slight_smile:

I’m interested in how ‘read time’ could be used. At first I envisioned something like a ‘post count’ but for combined reading time. Although I agree with the implied point about the danger of having visible numbers - but if we’re going to do it then I’m on board with the idea of it being more about listening than speaking! Could be a huge change in internet culture.

However my worry then became that as a fast reader would hidden algorithms start penalising me? You say “Read time is a key metric we use to determine who we trust.” - what does that mean, exactly? If two people read an article and both 100% process and understand it (and write “bananas” in the comments, as appropriate), but one reads twice as fast, I can’t see an algorithm that won’t ‘trust’ the slower reader more.

Maybe that’s no bad thing, I guess verging on the side of encouraging more time to digest something is reasonable. But it could turn speed reading into a curse from a ‘being trusted by algorithms’ point of view!

And this doubly for clicking on the borders and being taken to another article, or another section heading. Ever since redesigned their desktop site with mobile design, I can’t read an article without grimacing.

You do realize that adding links to some words in this fashion sometimes results in people leaving the article halfway and forgetting to finish it later. I personally try to avoid it at all times and include links as separate rows or at the end of an article.

I completely agree on the post count. It may be from a time when content was scarce. Now there’s too much content, and you should actually reward for posting less! Join dates are also often irrelevant as it does not tell how often the user has actually visited the site, contributed or read content.

This comment is the perfect definition of irony

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I think you nailed it, but partially. The real issue is that 99% of Internet is just crap. We “create” terabytes of data daily worldwide, but how much real information is really out there?

Internet is a fantastic copy / paste / forward machinery, but lacking dramatically when looking for real content or added value.

The same applies to comments threads. People tend to comment to any article without having read it fully, without grasping the “why” behind the words. People tend to wait for new articles or videos and then posting as quick as possible “first!”.

After many years of “online reading / listening” my mouse is just reacting naturally: it is scrolling down automatically faster and faster.

ps: paradoxically the 99% of this comment is also “crap”.

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But how do you reliably measure reading versus just sitting on the page? It would seem to encourage users to write scripts that make them appear to be reading.


I think there is still a use for users giving points to submissions/comments/etc that they value. However, being able to hand out free up/down votes is too easy to abuse (like the linked ‘I love my chicken wire mommy’ post).

However, if users only had a limited amount of up/down votes to hand out, I think they would tend towards finding the really good/bad content.

For example, a user could earn some points each time they read an article (more for full reading), then when browsing through user submissions if they see something they really like, they can give some of those points to the author. Likewise if they see something they really hate they can use some of their points to take points away from the author. Either way however, they have less points at the end which will keep them from giving them out haphazardly.

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