Thoughts? Suggestions? Complaints?

Reader Boko999 says:

I enjoy the content of your posts but find the way they are broken up extremely annoying and I think breaking them up this way diminishes their impact. I’m not sure if it’s a deal breaker for me yet.

Time always tells :-)

I was afraid that would happen with some readers. But I was also convinced, going into this, that even more would be turned off by the sometimes-extreme length (at least by blogging standards) of some of the stuff I write.

I am trying to keep readers engaged by breaking things in interesting places, sometimes building in little cliff-hangers, and interleaving the multipart posts with shorter standalone pieces for variety.

There’s a practical human aspect for me in all this, in that writing these things often takes a considerable amount of time. Stuck as I am with the tribulations of partial employment, part of which is scrambling with freelance jobs (and recently, moving), I’m up some nights until 2 or 3 a.m., trying to complete pieces to post here. If I post these longer pieces only after they’re completed, it might be two or three days each time before I have new pieces to post.

I’ve toyed with the idea of stitching multi-part posts together, posting them as additional single narratives after the individual parts are all posted, but I’ve worried that that would be even more annoying and confusing. Suggestions?

The payoff for me in doing this is two things.

One is the opportunity to present what I hope are some new ideas in atheism. I like to think that my quirky metaphorical approach to the subject can give people new ways to think about it, and I really want to increase both the number of atheists and their comfort in thinking about the field’s diverse arguments.

The second payoff is interesting comments. Since most readers don’t comment, I welcome everything, even complaints, from the people who do.

Boko999, I really hope you’ll stay.

But I’d also love to hear from the rest of you. Any thoughts about the multi-part posts, or other aspects of my writing?

(Just FYI, those leaving compliments are welcome to gush shamelessly. There is no limit on the amount of praise I’m prepared to handle.)

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About Hank Fox
  • fastlane

    I like the multi-part post format, but I can see the annoyance for some. Either way wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me, or I would imagine for most, but who knows.

    Good writing is good writing, and the delivery is less important, IMO.

    Keep up the good writing!

  • GrumpyAlchemist

    I like what you did with the most recent multipart post – having links to the various parts at the top and bottom. I am fairly certain this is new… or at least I’ve never noticed it before. Anyway, I was slightly annoyed at the format before but I’ve found having those links pretty much fixes the problem for me.

    As for gushing shamelessly… I can definitely say that this has become the first blog I check for updates. I didn’t start following until I found the whole “free thought blogs” community by way of Blag Hag and PZ Myers but I am so glad I started checking out other blogs on the site and found your blog. I can promise that I’ll be a loyal reader no matter what annoying multi-part posting system I have to sift through. :)

  • zxcier

    Nothing wrong with doing it your way in multi-posts, keeps it interesting. As long as there are links to get back to the previous related posts like GA mentions, problem solved.

  • Timid Atheist

    While I enjoy reading the posts, I find that if all the parts aren’t available for me to read I don’t usually go back to read the others unless they appear in my reader. As I’m not visiting the site directly, but reading everything through my reader, this makes it a bit easier for me to catch the other parts as they’re published.

    I, for one, prefer the shorter posts. I don’t always have time to read a 500+ word post in one sitting.

    I enjoy your writing. It’s thoughtful, it’s plainly worded but still almost poetic in the usage and it’s engaging. Many of your ideas had never occurred to me before.

    Do as you like, since it’s your blog, but I certainly don’t have any real complaints about the posts being in different parts. And the added navigation for the other parts is a big plus.

  • rob

    i tend to not like multipart posts because clicking on the various parts is annoying. i am not scared off by long posts, or i would not read Orac’s Respectful Insolence.

  • Simon

    I generally dislike multiple parts or serialisations of any kind, but then I enjoy reading, and a long post wouldn’t be an issue for me, as I can just keep scrolling as I read it. However I appreciate that making long posts is a time sink for you.

    One thing you could do though if you continue with the multipart format, would be to just let us know how many posts a particular series comprises of, as then it is possible to decide whether to read them the article in-toto or piecemeal as the reader chooses.

  • Kiwi Sauce

    I don’t mind the posts being broken up with links, however I would like to go from one to the other without interruption.

    I’m really enjoying your writing style and what you have to say, you are a great communicator and thinker.

  • mikefisher

    Hi Hank. I like the episode format ~ don’t change

    Perhaps Boko999 doesn’t use a reader app ~ plenty of people don’t appreciate the benefits of such

    • Kiwi Sauce

      Hi mikefisher,

      What reader app do you recommend, as I haven’t encountered that term before? I’m running Firefox.

      • mikefisher

        You could try the Feedly 5.5 FireFox add-on for “a magazine-like start page based on the best content of your favorite websites. Powered by Google Reader and Twitter”.

        However I just subscribe to whatever attracts me in Google Reader which isn’t an add-on, but obviously launches in your browser. It produces a long & simple clickable list of unread subscriptions

        I have it as one of three tabs that start when I launch Firefox or you could make it easy to access Google Reader with the Google Shortcuts 2.1.6 add-on: “Display all Google services as buttons or as a space-saving dropdown menu next to your address bar or anywhere you like it. Reach services like Gmail, Google reader, Google maps, Google calendar, and many more in a single click from your browser”

        Hope this helps you !

        • Kiwi Sauce

          Hi mikefisher,

          Thanks for the heads up, I’m now happily getting my feeds via the Google Reader and the Firefox addon, and my bookmarks toolbar is now cleaned up. :)

  • Phledge

    I would rather read the broken posts if it meant two things: you post frequently, and it’s how you prefer to do it. I have no problem with reading long long posts, but if it’s not your style and it means that I have to wait for a week to read more of your work, then that’s no bueno. Keep it comin’!

  • geocatherder

    I’m also short for time to read blogs unless I’m having a sleepless night, and so I like long things broken into parts. Keep up the good work, Hank! I love your posts!

  • Steinar

    I have no strong preference between long posts and shorters posts linked together, but I do have a strong preference for frequent, smaller updates over less frequent, bigger updates. But, frankly, I think you should do whatever works best with the rest of your life. Personally, I think more frequent updates makes for a better blog, as it feels more “alive” that way. If I have a comment I suspect will be meaningless when the article is finished, I just wait a few days, and if I just want to open my mouth right away… well, then I do that.

  • GenghisFaun

    fastlane @ #1:

    Good writing is good writing, and the delivery is less important, IMO.

    Seconded! I’ll be back either way!

  • Jason

    My only criticism is the multi-part Fate of Broken people, #4 says that it’s continued, but nothing forthcoming. I do like how the latest one was done, where all installments were linked.

  • Lauren Ipsum

    Just to make your life difficult, I have exactly the opposite preference of Steinar: I’d rather have long posts once a day or every other day than a few paragraphs every few hours. I keep losing the thread of the multi-part posts, or I get caught up in parts 1-3 and get annoyed that 4 isn’t up yet.

    That being said, it’s your blog, so you should do what works for you. :)

  • SabsDkPrncs

    It’s not a deal breaker for me at all (I’m loving your blog), but I do find the multi-part posts annoying, especially because it seems to be a regular thing. Since most people seem to like the multiple parts, I suggest indicating how many parts are in a segment in the title (i.e. Part 2 of 4), so people who prefer to read everything at once know it’s completed, just from the title.

  • Old fogey

    Whilst I don’t particularly mind the episodic posts, I do wonder whether the single post is a good discipline as there is pressure to be concise so tat the post is not too long.

    A more serious problem is that it cuts up the comments into multiple sessions, which means you can’t read through in any proper order. If there was some way of putting all the comments together that would be great..

  • maverick

    Hank, do what ever feels right. Dont go “whoring your mind” to the expectations of some readers.

    Personally, the installment approach works just fine for me. when i got in front of my pc this morning i was looking forward to the denouement of the Travelling Dog – Granny Hands post.

    i find the break allows me to digest your work more completely.

    travel light Hank.

  • http://penstemon.wordpress.com Larry Ayers

    First, I should stroke your ego by saying that you are a lucid and effective writer, and I enjoy your posts, whether multi-part or single.

    I like the multi-part approach for long posts and I use it from time to time at my blog.

    Attention spans are shorter for web writing as opposed to print. My rough guideline for the length of a single post which I want someone to actually finish reading is 1000-1200 words. Longer than that and I feel that I risk losing the reader.

    Occasionally I’ll read the first part of a long post in the morning and save the remainder until late in the evening. Several parts make it easier to keep track of what has been already read.

    So, do what feels right! The links to other parts at the beginning and end of such a split post are very helpful, by the way.

  • Aliasalpha

    Multiple posts are fine with me but then so is one giant long post, I tend to wait till I can read everything before I start. Based on the permissable acts article, I’d probably have split it into 2 parts, it just seemed a bit short to me as 4.

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

    I like the fact that the multipart posts are broken up in such a way that each post is about one and a half screens worth of text. I do wait until the end to comment, but I have no complaints about the format.

  • Douglas Kirk

    I like the multiple post format, but usually wait until all the aprts are done before I click theough and read them because I hate cliffhangers.

    I have an idea for the people who prefer the large post. Forgive me if this has been mentioned before, I only scanned the comments, but maybe after a multi-part post is completed, you could post them all in their own (large) post? So that readers who prefer one big post just have to wait until the series is done to enjoy it without it being broken up by links, and readers who want to follow it as posted can still do so?

    Don’t do anything you don’t want to do of course! Thank you for writing this.

  • Boko999

    I’ve decided to visit your site on Sundays after reading the week’s Doonesburys, Non Sequitar’s, and Calvins and Hobbeseseses. That way potential annoyance will be minimized.
    At my age I can’t afford inducing any extra crankiness.
    Keep on truckin’

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  • http://Twitter24 Twitter24

    Hi, just wanted to say i liked this article. it was practical. keep on posting