Screens, Research and Hypertext

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Choose Your Own Adventure

Policy is full of complex interactions. Why shouldn't our reports reflect that?

It didn’t take long for the REMINDER team and Soapbox to converge on the idea of a choose-your-own-adventure approach to the project.

Photo of the author's copy of a choose your own adventure branded game. But, really, aren't all games choose your own adventure?

I’ve been taken with the idea of nonlinear nonfiction for quite some time. All the way back in 2014, my team at The Century Foundation built one of the earliest think tank longform pieces, featuring a narrative that hopped around in time.

The great thing about the web is that it allows for multiple branching pathways. It’s not at all hard to lose half a day following links down online rabbit holes you never even knew existed.

REMINDER brought a treasure trove of interconnected research findings just begging to be built into a user-directed experience.

As you might expect, moving from theory to practice takes some work.

That work started with reading several hundred pages of research reports. As we went through each piece of research, we pulled out interesting bits, adding each discrete bit to a single sticky note.

We went through a lot of sticky notes.

Once we had our collection of notes, we began mapping out the connections between them.

replace this with a better shot

It got a little complicated.

We ended up with about 65 articles, each linked to one or more other pieces of content. The articles are all short—most are between 50 and 250 words of text, though some are simply an interactive chart or a few words and a graph.

Readers can navigate through the entire set by following sets of follow-up questions. For example, an article on the number of migrants in a given country distinguishes between the stock and flow of migrants. Follow-on questions offer readers the option to see a definition of "stock" and "flow" and to see charts for each statistic or to understand why flow matters to migration.

For more context

Wait, what's this REMINDER thing?

What to read next

What would I need to do to create something like this?

Other items of interest

What's wrong with just putting our reports into a PDF like a normal person?

What's with your obsession with nonlinear writing.

Tell me more about these branching pathways.