Story types


The basic content types that Drupal provides are not sufficient. For example, a story is “a post that is submitted to the attention of other users and is queued in the submission queue”, and a blog is “an online journal or diary”. These terms do not adequately enable prepare the user for what they’re to read. This document provides a set of terms which can be used to purposefully classify different types of content.

Some web publications– blogs in particular– treat all content as the same. This may lead to an uneven reading experience. I originally thought to create a new taxonomy vocabulary to manage these– but then I realized that type is a standard property for each story. By defining content types, we can better organize this site, so that readers can better find what they want to read.  (this is what traditional publications do with departments). What I’m in the process of doing is changing the layout of the site is to group the stories physically on the layout by story type (and this would also display similarly for each of the taxonomy topics).

the Story Types

A pointer (or reference) is a link to resource on the web or physical publication. Incidentally, this was the primary structure of weblogs from their early days–  Dave Winer’s Scripting News still largely consists of pointers.

A thought may follow from a pointer, it is a simple observation of reality, and often expresses a “what if” or “why not” question. The thought format is eschewed, but it does have niches in the observational comedy of Dave Barry, Jerry Seinfeld and Andy Rooney. Thoughts should invite further research to become analyses or to generate proposals.

A first person story. These are found in New Yorker “Talk of the Town” pieces, in news briefs, and are popular in “participatory media” (for example, an anecdote of receiving a fundraising call).

A question is where I don’t have much to go on at all, and I’m just soliciting information.

A response (or review) is a critical analysis of a particular event, report, or work of art. These should be more researched than simple thoughts. For responding to published writings, a critic could respond directly on the original site or in a lengthy letter-to-the-editor, but by publishing their own response, they can assert a little more control over its publicaiton. Responses are usually provocative than analyses because they have a focused critique. (The New York Review of Books comes to mind).

An analysis (or case study ) is the result of sufficient research, and compiling enough anecdones. A statistical presentation can help as well.

A proposal should highlight some analyses, and then suggest a plan of action for the reader.

A definition (or explanation) is the ur-primary source– not just reporting on something, but the definition of the very thing itself. Documentation (for a product, software, or process) should be thought of as a definition. This is typically defined by the originator or owner, but it is also reasonable for a publication to supply a definition for a term that is commonly misunderstood (cf. Slate’s “Explainer” column). A critique of someone else’s definition would be better categorized as a response.


What’s missing

  1. I haven’t listed “personal journal” here. My thinking is that entries in a personal journal entries tend to feature most of these types of writing.
  2. I grouped report with analysis for now. They differ in that a report explains a real-world event, while analysis explains the ways we understand the world: language, media, etc. For example, my analyses of Web Design involved from real reporting “leg work” to measure the lengths and widths of news websites. But I didn’t have to use my legs to venture out into the real world; just my fingers to navigate the virtual world. So I don’t feel like a reporter. I figure that most analyses & reports should be classified together, since those are the meat & potatoes of any publication.
  3. The Drupal book structure is perfectly compatible with these terms; a book is a collaborative compilation of many stories.


In addition, by properly classifying content type, readers know how to clearly engage the stories. The types are ordered from lightest to heavist. Lighter types take less time and effort to put together and will be shorter. Heavier types demand more rigorous critiques. Ideas usually proceed from lightest to heaviest, but sometimes it is necessary to jump to creating a definition first (like here). I want to track the type of writing that is being produced, and to ensure that it leads to a proper balance. The lighter pieces are easier to do, and the heavier pieces may be less read. But they all should support each other.

I’ve leapfrogged some of the lighter types, in the production of this document. This piece is a defnition of how I’m going to organize the Civilities website, and how I recommend other Civ sites to be organized. Time permitting, I could do an analysis of existing websites to determine how balanced their story types are. My next effort, as I produce the code to support the type-based layout, would be to put together a brief proposal for how to build this into a Drupal module.