Our attention spans have vastly shortened thanks to the Internet and our subsequent procurement of information from it at a rapid pace. It's tough to pay attention to something for a good amount of time, unless it's ridiculously interesting and stimulating. It's gotten so bad for me that I keep checking my phone every ten minutes—I even did it during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.
I can't just sit around and pay attention to one single thing for a substantial amount of time. I'm assuming it was the interwebz that spoiled it for me. Whenever I stumble across any type of text that's longer than 150 characters, this comes to mind...
I even find myself muttering this acronym to myself whenever one of my friends decides to tell me a long story that doesn't have to be long at all.
Example: Blah, blah blah blah blah blah. Blah, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah, blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah: blah, blah, blah and blah blah blah blah. Blah, blah blah. Blah. Blah blah blah—blah blah blah blah blah. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. Blah, blah blah blah blah. Blah, blah blah. Blah. BLAH, blah blah blah. And so my internet doesn't work and that's why I can't email you those pics.
It seriously gets like that sometimes.
All those unnecessary italicized words, when all I want to know is what's in bold! You may never convince your long-winded friends to just get to the point, but thanks to several plugins and smartphone apps, you can at least get some of your life back when you're reading articles online!
TLDR is a new add-on for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that neatly trims all of the fat from those long and out-of-shape articles to give you just the parts you actually want to read. For each web browser, the extension adds an icon at the end of the address bar, which you can click on to get a summary of the page you're on.
The application should automatically pop up with a very short synopsis—spanning only a few sentences. If this isn't sufficient, you have four other options: short, medium, long, and original. The other options get into more details, if that's what you need from the article.
You can also change several of the settings for the extension that include the length of the article , option to display images, and whether or not to allow secure sites to work. It even supports multiple languages—English, Spanish, German, and French (so far).
Since it's fairly new, it may not necessarily work perfectly. The extension is mainly framed around news articles and such, so don't expect it to spit out an extensive Sparknotes-type summary for an online book.
It's a great tool for research, brushing up on history, or just finding out in advance if you're about to waste your time reading something that isn't what you were looking for. With a super simple interface, great reviews, and a goofy looking sloth for a mascot, what's not to love?
If you're looking for mobile alternatives, look no further than Clipped (Chrome, iOS, Android), Summly (iOS), and Circa (iOS). These two apps work the same way as TLDR, except that you can't choose which articles you want shortened. Instead, both applications offer the latest news and their shortened versions for you to surf through.
With Clipped, you have to either sign in with your Twitter or Facebook account. This helps it cater to your likes and interests.
Once you log in, it will take you to its main page, where loads of short summaries of all the latest news will show up. If that's not what you're looking for, search in the address bar above the page.
Summly, only for iOS, starts off with a video introducing how the app works. In the spirit of the Metro UI for Window 8, Summly is divided into sleek boxes, each representing a different news topic.
Once you click on an article, you will be taken to the summary, where you can swipe down to read a longer version or the full article. You can refresh each box by sliding it to the left, and customize the topics, keywords, and sources shown on the main screen to your personal tastes.
Another good one for the iPhone is Circa News, which draws from news sources all over the web to bring you the most important news-related articles in one place, only in a more digestible manner. You can follow things like Top Stories, Politics, or World, and all of the hot articles will be seen in a row, with the hottest news pieces in a carousel at top.
When you click on an article, you can get the one-sentence summary, and then scroll down to get the juiciest tidbits about the piece, drawn from multiple sources, so you get only the important facts.
Know of any other great news summary apps or plugins we missed? Let us know in the comments below.