I visited DeviantArt today, as I do every other day or so.
Often it’s to upload a photograph I’ve taken, but more often it’s just to browse and add to my Favourites. I wondered what the point of this adding to Favourites is, well, with regards to my own benefit. I do a similar thing here on WordPress; if I read a post but have nothing I feel is worth adding to the Comments section I’ll just Like the post as a sort of acknowledgement that I’ve read it and thought it was a good read. It also reminds me if I ever return to a post that I’ve already read it. Adding to Favourites on DeviantArt serves a similar purpose, although it forms a collection that is accessible to others from one’s profile; I’ve hardly ever delved back into my Favourites section, but I’m quite conscious about what I add there, such as landscape photographs rather than those of scantily-clad females.
This brings me onto the topic of this post… Infinite Scroll.
DeviantArt notified me when I ventured to the site today that they had added a Topic about what they’re working, regarding site updates. One of these “updates” was “Infinite Scroll” [link at the end].
Ever heard of that before? I have, but first, what is it? Well, it is, pretty much*, what it says it is: the ability to scroll, non-stop…
*at least until the content runs out.
It’s not anything new either:
“Tumblr introduced endless dashboard scrolling on their site in 2009; the feature allows you to view all posts on a single scrolling page. Some Tumblr themes also support endless scrolling, which is activated from the customization page of the theme.” – [source]
What is the benefit of such a “feature”?
There seems to be no benefit from a visitor’s perspective (unless you want to waste your life away scrolling), but all the benefit to a commercial site* like DeviantArt that are vying for your continued attention.
(*a commercial website being any that seeks to gain a profit in one form or another).
“While infinite scroll does provide a solution in some cases, it can be less than ideal for users.
Infinite scroll can be disorienting, uncontrollable, and can cause your users stress.” – [link below, although no sources for these claims]
DeviantArt aren’t the only ones deploying such a “feature”*
*I always think of the term “feature” as being something positive, but that’s evidently debatable (hence me debating this one here).
Other notable sites which deploy this feature* are Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.
*the term “infinite” is not exactly accurate to the “feature” since content is always limited, but suffice to say the ability to endlessly scroll is virtually there, and, by its nature, encouraged and sought after – your attention = money. This is often instead of the user having to actively ‘click’ to proceed onto another page, which would more often break the spell of “attention”, or at least give the user the mental ability to realise they have other things to be getting on with. We become hooked by design, and I’m certainly not immune to this, and as my last source points out, few people who use these services are.
In addition to Infinite Scroll there are algorithms that suggest more content to you, often based on your present and previous viewing habits, likes and dislikes*.
*Continue to watch videos on Youtube that you find offensive and it’ll likely bombard you with more of the same; whatever you watch, the platform will likely keep you in that “bubble”, presenting more of the same, it may also cause that content to be presented to others or portrayed as appealing due to the increased number of “Views”. This can be a good thing, but it can limit your attention, opinions, and knowledge to a narrow viewpoint, which in itself can be a concern (if not to yourself, then to others who might prefer you to endulge their different perspectives on life).
I recently watched a video by Andrew Kirby on Youtube whose videos are largely about personal development; in this particular video he talks about Infinite Scrolling under the heading of “a social dilemma”. He also offers some good advice that I hadn’t considered regarding websites’ algorithms: by actively likeing content and following channels you want to see more of you can encourage the algorthims to work for your benefit, offering you more of the same. If you want to have some entertainment and some developmental and educational content then create two accounts, one for each; that way you can help yourself to separate work from play.