January 26, 2009

A Story for the Cloud: blueful

by Nick Montfort · , 2:43 pm

bluefulAaron Reed, author of Whom the Telling Changed, has distributed his new story, blueful, in a fascinating way. I could say more, but you’ll see how it works formally after a few seconds, and the story only takes a few minutes to read. Also, the story leads on to something else, something very intriguing. So why not fare your way over and see for yourself?

10 Responses to “A Story for the Cloud: blueful

  1. Malcolm Ryan Says:

    I’m… I don’t know how far through the work at the moment, and while I like the story, the constant page turning is getting tedious. It’s seriously distracting me from the content of the work. I’ll move from one page to the next and forget what I just read. In several cases it has taken me more time to turn the page than to read the contents.

    I don’t like the feeling of not knowing how much more there is to go. I didn’t expect it, but there is a comfort in knowing where you are up to in a story — whether you are near the beginning or the end. Especially in a work like this, which is a labour to read, I need to know how much of a commitment I am being asked to make to the work.

  2. Malcolm Ryan Says:

    Hmm. The ending leaves me with a dilemma. As an international reader, I am asked to pay for postage. Do I care that much? I wouldn’t normally have made a payment for this work. Or do I just ask for the postcard without leaving a tip, even if it makes me feel like a cad?

    Of course the cost of postage is next to nothing, but asking for payment automatically changes the dynamic even if the cost is trivial.

    I’ve just finished reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and he points out a similar phenomenon. Introducing money into an interaction automatically changes it from a social interaction to a market interaction. People are more willing to volunteer to do something for free than to do it for an inadequate payment.

  3. Andrew Stern Says:

    That was crazy, in a good way.

  4. Aaron Reed Says:

    Hi Malcolm,

    I appreciate your comments about your reaction to blueful. I just wanted to mention that I only added the optional “tip jar” for international people this afternoon, once I exceeded my initial budget for postcards and postage. I’ve sent out over 300 postcards so far, and while the postage for a single card is indeed fairly trivial (although it gets up to 94 cents to send one outside North America), it does add up. I’m fond of blueful, but I’m more fond of food.

    The notion of not being able to tell how far you’ve gone through a work is a problem I’ve noticed in lots of interactive stories— a future project I’m working on plans to address this.

  5. Malcolm Ryan Says:


    Thanks. I did enjoy your work, although I admit that I would like to be able to re-read it in its entirety without the page swapping. And I totally appreciate the cost issue, I was just commenting as a designer on the way the decision affected me.

    May I suggest that you remove the tip request from the second-to-last page, so that players can choose whether or not to receive the postcard without having to treat it as “buying the ending”. Once they have made the choice, I think it is perfectly reasonable for you to ask to contribute to the cost (as I have now done).

  6. Aaron Reed Says:


    I see what you’re saying about how readers might view the old setup as pressuring them to “purchase the ending.” I’ve taken your suggestion about moving the donation request after the form.

    Thanks again for posting your reactions.

  7. Johnathon Plato Says:

    What a ride! To be honest, I was sad that the story didn’t end on the penultimate page, with the phrase, “Of course.” It seemed like such an elegant denouement. The choose-your-own-adventure epilogue felt wrong and out-of-place in the context of the assured, purposeful storytelling that preceded it. But I very much enjoyed the work as a whole. I even liked the length. As the story grew longer and longer, I knew that every time I moved one more page forward, exploring the story, I was leaving behind others with shorter attention spans and less commitment. I liked that. Congratulations on a storyproject that works on a level beyond its gimmick.

  8. Aubre Says:

    Neat idea, but I’m a little annoyed by the fact that Google Calendar appears to be completely busted at the moment, thus halting my progress in the story. I’ve been trying and re-trying to load it for about 10 minutes. I guess that’s the risk you take when putting things out on so many disparate sites.

    Despite that annoyance, however, I’m still looking forward to the ending. I guess I’ll just have to try again tomorrow.

  9. Jazz Says:

    The Wiki page is dead as well.

    We’re following this over on unforums.


  10. Scott Rettberg Says:

    Cool idea — but the time I got to it, it appeared that many of the pages didn’t work as originally intended, but I suppose that it is the nature of this sort of beast. Nice promotional work to draw readers to the novel. I’ll admit that as a reading experience, it didn’t work as well for me. The part of your brain that is hunting for the next url (or the intended reading text) interferes with the part of your brain that is trying to read the story. But it was great follow-through with the idea, and used a lot of the networking sites creatively (some less so). It intrigued me enough that I look forward to reading the IF.

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