November 2, 2012

The Problem With TL;DR

TL;DR: Too Long; Didn’t Read.

It seems that, recently, many people are trying to simplify the act of news consumption. Faster ways to read, shorter summaries, aggregation of updates and rolling together similar content.

But here’s the kicker: we really don’t care about the majority of the news out there. It’s not that we lack the time to consume this information or that we feel overwhelmed by the volume or length of it. We just do not care.

It is important to know what is going on in the world around you. But to know every detail, every update, every little thing that happens? No. If I desire that kind of depth, I’ll seek out that information independently—it doesn’t need to be delivered to me.

Of course, interest discovery and personalization are difficult topics and we have yet to completely crack that nut. However, the focus on speed and efficiency is not a good interim approach until we solve that problem better. News is an endless consumable; there’s always more to be read, endlessly produced. Making it more efficent solves a problem on the wrong side of the equation: how can the journalists get readers more information, more quickly?

On the other side, however, the question really boils down to: where can I read content that interests me, the reader, and avoid the cruft?

Information isn’t consumed by quantity but by interest. We really don’t need to read more, faster.

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Joshua Gross is web designer and developer, and principal of Planetary based in Brooklyn, NY.