Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WotW: Summarize the Web with One Mouse Click

We've all been there – you go to a blog/website/article and you're excited to read it. Then you see how long it is. Your brain does some quick mental math:

length of article x time spent reading / reward level = read?

Typically this equation amounts to the common phrase, "Too Long, Didn't Read." (TLDR). All because an article is either too long – or appears too long due to poor web formatting – we would rather skip it than benefit from whatever information might be contained therein. We can't blame ourselves too much though because we're busy and there are too many things to read. We only want to invest time in reading if we get some sort of benefit from it (this is one of the keys of a successful blog).

Now there is a great tool to simplify this process. Fittingly, it is a Google Chrome extension called TLDR. With one click of the mouse, this amazing extension will automatically read through an article and summarize the most important information. In one paragraph you can get an idea if the story is worth investing more time in reading. If not, well, you only spent time reading one paragraph.

You will have to have Google Chrome to use this extension. If you aren't already using Google Chrome, repent now and download it. It's free, in case you're wondering.

Once you've loaded Chrome, click on the Web Store icon in the bottom right corner. In the search box, type: TLDR. The search results will by default return nothing. You will have to select the Extensions tab and TLDR will be the first option. Be careful – there are multiple TLDR options out there. You want the one from Click on the extension. A pop-up window will appear. Click the blue Add to Chrome button in the top-right corner.

When the extension is installed, you will see an extension in the top-right corner of your web browser that looks like this:

Now, go to any website, particularly one that has a lot of text. Perhaps it's your friend's blog and they're rambling on about their family vacation. While you're interested to some degree, you don't want to invest a lot of time. TLDR can help.

For this demonstration, I'm going to use an article from the American Psychological Association about stress and how men and women deal with it differently. I saved this in my Pocket awhile back and now want to see if it's worth the time to read.

Once the page is loaded, I simply click on the TLDR extension in the top-right corner of the browser. I can also access it by right clicking anywhere on the page and select the grammatically incorrect phrase, "Less words, please!"

You will see a processing animation for a few seconds.

Once processing is finished, a pop-up window will appear with a one or two paragraph summary. Remember, this is a quick and dirty summary, so don't expect everything. But it will have a decent synopsis of what the story is about.

Let's say you're intrigued and would like to read a little more. TLDR also includes options for short, medium and long summaries. Or, you can read the original text from within the TLDR overlay, which is nice for pages with small text. Once you're finished, click the X in the top-right corner of the overlay and you're back to your article. Because this is a pop-up overlay, you never actually leave the page you're on.

Another cool feature is the final option on the left, which sets TLDR to work finding similar stories to the one you just read.

This extension has incredible uses. Imagine being a student and having to do research. This can help simplify the research process immensely. TLDR uses a complex algorithm to analyze the text of an article. Because it is simply summarizing, it will leave out information, so if you want the whole picture you'll still have to read the story. The real beauty of this extension though is its ability to help you quickly decide if you want to read the whole thing. And that is worth every penny of this free extension.


Tanya said...

Again! Wonderful! I had no idea such technology existed. I'm going to give it a try, especially on the economic links. Should save me heaps of time and now I won't have to have all the open pages hanging around waiting for me to get to the reading.

Lorene (just Lu) said...

I think this is amazing. Amazing enough I can even get over the incorrect grammar, even though the less/fewer thing is one of my pet peeves.