Patterns Of Hypertext

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One of the challenges of understanding hypertext writing -- and of writing better hypertext -- has been developing a vocabulary of structures and patterns. Once we have a shared vocabulary, it is much easier to describe specific hypertexts, both to understand how they work and to communicate suggestions for improving them.

The work that became known as "Patterns of Hypertext" began as informal editorial discussion in Eastgate's offices, chiefly among Mark Bernstein, Kathryn Cramer, Eric Cohen, and Diane Greco, in the mid 1990s. Because we were editing hypertexts every day, we developed shorthands for structures we needed to talk about. (-- MarkBernstein)

The patterns discussed in the 1998 paper include:

  • sequence

  • hierarchy

  • Cycle

    • Joyce's Cycle

    • Douglas's cycle

    • Contour

  • Counterpoint

  • Mirror World

  • Tangle

  • Sieve

  • Collage (described as Montage in the paper, but this was wrong)

  • Neighborhoods

  • Split/Join

    • Rashomon

    • Overview

    • Moulthrop's move

  • Missing Link

  • Feint

"The complexity and unruliness of the complex webs of links we create has frequently led to calls for "structured" or otherwise disciplined hypertext. While calls for clearer structure have tried to avoid, consolidate, or minimize links, it is now clear that hypertext cannot easily turn its back on complex link structures. Where it was once feared that the cognitive burdens of large, irregular link networks would overwhelm readers, we find in practice that myriad casual readers flock to the docuverse...

"Since large linked constructs cannot be wished away, it is time to develop a vocabulary of concepts and structures that will let us understand the way today's hypertexts and Web sites work. Progress in the craft of writing depends, in part, on analysis and discussion of the best existing work. An appropriate vocabulary will allow us both to discern and to discuss patterns in hypertexts that may otherwise seem an impenetrable tangle or arbitrary morass.

Mark Bernstein, "Patterns Of Hypertext" Proceedings of Hypertext '98.

Specific Patterns: CounterpointPattern

-- Last edited October 27, 2002

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