Initially it's just an aggregator that presents commentary in plain text. I plan on adding a summarizer one day. For a personal project, I've been using it daily for over a year, so I know I find a lot of value in this type of thing.
As sites try to get more sticky, the signal-to-noise ratio decreases. You spend more time reading a lot of trivial articles that a Facebook friend recommended instead of a few articles that you've scanned yourself. I know Google and FB say social search is the cool thing, but in my experience the only thing it does is increase consumption of mediocre shiny stuff. Much better to pre-qualify sources and then control the depth of your dive. For newspaper23, one of the original ideas was a timer for each day. 30 minutes of scanning and the site would refuse to load until the next day.
I'd like to see more of this type of thing -- gearing content consumption to humans instead of site creators and advertisers.
Newser tried to do the same thing but gave up and just focused on in-house created summaries.
Regarding the summary process, it's good to see another group manually summarizing posts as opposed to Summly which tries automate the process. For many reasons already stated in another comment, I don't think automation will ever work.
Good luck to the guys over at http://toolong-didntread.com and http://newspaper23.com. I hope one of us gets some real traction!
Edit: Another product that tries to summarize news http://cir.ca/
It could have been summarized down to something like: Rumors are circulating that a suspicious white van was parked in front of the house that blew up.
I would rather it be super short with just the important fact. If it peaks my curiosity, then I'll click to the full article.
I don't know, that's just my opinion.
Our goal is to give the reader a good understanding of the topic while leaving out the unnecessary details and redundant information. The original had 465 words. That means that the Skim That summary cut the story down by over 50% while still giving you a strong overview of the story.
Here's why: Let's assume we have the perfect algorithm that knows exactly which sentences to pick for a good summary. You'll still end up with a summary that's horribly out of context and difficult to read.
Try it yourself. Assume your brain is the perfect algorithm and pick the most important sentences for a summary. Then try to read just the sentences that you picked without rewriting it into a coherent paragraph. More than likely, it'll be an out of context confusing block of text.
Algorithms will never solve the summarizing process unless they are teamed up with a rewriting engine that could build coherent paragraphs.
> Algorithms will never solve the summarizing process unless they are teamed up with a rewriting engine that could build coherent paragraphs.
That doesn't sound like never. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if such AI would created within 50-100 years, ie in my lifetime. I think this comment exposes the common false thought-pattern that if something is not viable in the next quarter, then it'll never happen.
I know if I wrote a summary of a Microsoft Surface article (I have one), it'd be very different from someone who loves it -- or is even an MS employee.
And spam... big issue there.
(disclaimer - I have your plugin and have tried it, summaries seem way too short.)
You should have a few links listed on that page that you know will work well as examples for people to try the service out with.
Btw, how do you feel about my other comments in this thread about algorithms not working well? My basic point is that they will most likely produce paragraphs that are out of context.
Disagree - having written a bunch of these gist extractors I have found that the good ones do not produce out of context paragraphs. In fact, that's pretty much the point - to find the salient portion of the content.
They are out of context because they (we) are basically just doing extraction. In which we just extract the most important sentences, arrange them in order, and present it in a paragraph / list. I prefer presenting the top sentences in a list though. In my opinion, presenting it as a paragraph will make an effect that it's out of context rather than in a list.
If the summaries was done through abstraction, like how humans are doing it, it will obviously produce better summaries. But why we are not doing it? I believe abstraction summaries are holy grail of automatic summarization.
In the meantime, I created a list of popular stories from Reddit news sources. Each story links to a special hybrid page that allows you to write a summary on top while you read the story below.
I really like how it uses line by line bullet point fields to help write the summary. I experimented with something like that in the past. It kind of works but it isn't as smooth a read as a paragraph of text but it does make the writing process easier.
It seems that I helped inspire you nonetheless, which is great of course!
As for what makes tldr.io great; it's mostly the Chrome plugin which adds TL;DR icons next to the links on Hacker News.
They still need to work on enticing more users to contribute back though.
Isn't it possible to discuss the merits of the product provided in the opening post without one-line nonsense posts spamming your own thing?
What many people underestimate is that summaries have an inherent problem: bias. No two people are ever going to summarize an article the exact same way - much less so when it comes to politics etc. So before I use a site to read summaries, I have to trust the brand (I trust The Economist, for they mostly differentiate between reporting and editorializing) and I will never ever trust an anonymous bunch of people (the "crowdsourcing" summaries-solution) to accurately summarize without bias. I value as-close-to-objective-reporting-as-possible very highly - judgments I can make my own.
Phase 1: The MVP of a news aggregator should be a curated/editorial like traditional media/magazines, etc 
Phase 2: The second stage should be to have submissions from your readers (on content that interests them).
Phase 3: The next would be to have a voting mechanism, and then realizing that articles have different relevance in different communities - which is what prismatic and ypander were aiming to solve.
Full Disclosure: I am working on summarizing technology news, and the tagline so far has been "Hacker News on Steroids." Before it gets to that stage, I'm skimming my most favourite feeds from Google Reader. The best mobile wrapper I've found (since I'm targeting mobile as well) has been Feedly, which presents it as more like a magazine. Keep in mind Feedly didn't start out as this 4 years ago.
Another project aiming to solve this problem with a bookmarklet (and has a more appt domain name imo is tldr.io) though I personally haven't used it. Summly is another one, but after using it for a while, I found Feedly much better suited to my reading habits.
I'd love to team up with others who are working on this problem. My MVP is at http://dinopost.com. Drop me a line at aaron at dinopost.
 Phases based on Casey Accidental's blog post: Online News is Broken: http://caseyaccidental.com/online-news-is-broken/
full disclosure: i'm one of the cofounders
I'm guessing it has to do with column width and coloring.
But it scales nicely out to a tablet. And a phone. Part of the initial appeal for my writing it was to download all of the daily commentary as json to my tablet. Then I could walk around town and such without having to worry about an internet connection. The idea was -- how much real static text do you consume in a day? Can't be more than 100 or so articles. So why not just download the plain text and consume it at your leisure?
Another feature I wanted was the ability for people peering over my shoulder to NOT be able to tell what I was consuming. Many times at work or on the train I'd have some time to read commentary, and the last thing I wanted to do was load up a page with a branded look and feel. I wanted the plainest amount of pure text possible.
I appreciate the feedback. Although I use it daily, it's not high on my list of priorities. Next up I think I'll double the amount and type of content. Maybe after that I'll go back to the UI for some rework. For me this is more of a personal thing than a business feeler. So even if nobody else in the world likes it, I'm good. :)
The thing is though, summarizing news articles is best done by just reading the first paragraph of the article. News articles are intentionally written this way, and it's a very difficult baseline to beat in automatic summarization.
Still nice site though.
On web sites, the goal is to get the user to click the "more" or "details" link to get the whole article and thus display more ads.
The reality is that most of the "good stuff" for a news article could be summarized in a paragraph that would satisfy 90% of the need to read the full article - but that would defeat the business model of most sites/media dispensing news.
I like the idea of this site.
"The flesh is weak but the spirit of commerce is willing." (op-ed)
"Last weekend, my family and I packed our car full of supplies and drove to a fire station in New Jersey to deliver goods to an area that had been hit hard by Hurricane Sandy." (small business)
"Last April 28, a splendid spring Saturday that fairly begged you to be outdoors, I spent all afternoon in front of my living-room TV, anxiously watching the last day of the annual N.F.L. draft, live from Radio City Music Hall. " (NY Times Magazine)
"The relocation of Albert C. Barnes’s great polyglot art collection to central Philadelphia was opposed by many and dreaded by most." (A&E)
I guess my point is that journalism styles vary even within a publication. Therefore, any automated attempt to simply use the first paragraph as a summary is bound to be wrong a lot of the time. It would however be interesting to use a human-generated summary dataset as the training data for a "buries the lead" classifier. I'll bet you could do it with a bag-of-words feature pretty easily, and that the most important words would be personal pronouns.
Of course, much of what is in the paper is not "hard news" so some sort of automatic summarization could be useful for those pieces.
American efforts to help negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the week-old Gaza rocket battle faced a new obstacle on Wednesday when the first bus bombing in years traumatized Tel Aviv, raising the prospect of a new Israeli retaliation just as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was working to achieve even a brief pause in the fighting.
At least 24 people have been injured in an explosion on a bus in Israel's commercial capital, Tel Aviv, in what police described as a "terrorist attack".
None of these sites teased me into clicking through, they presented their stories in full text. I pay for NYT access, but their paywall is unrelated to your theory of PV corralling. These are all decent, concise treatments of the story.
What does "90% of the need to read the full article" mean to you? It seems like indefinable to me.
Does BuySellAds look broken? Disable your ad blocker, their haphazard default filters sometimes break our site.
I don't care enough about you(yet) to disable adblock. I don't even know what "sponsor" means in context of your site. I was just clicking around.
Also, you probably need it for tracking, but I don't like clicking on http://toolong-didntread.com/sponsorship and being redirected to http://buysellads.com/buy/detail/158594?utm_source=shorturl&...
Longer comparison with the main competition: Google News also allows me to group sources that are consistently reliable (which appear in an "Editors' Picks" section that I can customize). The Spotlight section of Google News seems to provide much of the same usability as the prototype site submitted here, showing only headlines at a glance, but as another comment here has already said, news stories are written with lede paragraphs to give you the main idea rapidly.
The kind of automated curation and formatting I look for most in a news aggregation site is not curation for short snippets and formatting for good-looking white space, but curation for quality of content and formatting for information density. As I have customized it on my browser, Google News provides that.
I sympathize with anyone who feels too busy making a living to have time to read. But when I can win reading time, I'm glad to read long articles, and I still try to read actual books even in this era of most people doing a lot of their reading online. I appreciate people working on the issue of getting more reading done in less time, and meanwhile hope that the long writings continue to get plenty of attention from thoughtful readers, and plenty of discussion here among the busy participants on Hacker News.
Yes, being too busy is one reason for wanting summarized news but it's not the only reason.
Often, news stories are created for search engine consumption, not human consumption. You find long articles full of repetitive information and bloviating. A good summary can cut out everything but the basic facts of the story so you're up to date on the news without having to consume all the fluff.
Of course, liking summarized news doesn't mean you can't take the time to read an in-depth article or a book. In fact, you probably have more time to do that since you saved time with the TLDR version of the news.
This is nicely done. I'll be giving it a shot as a tab that never closes.
It is done for each category. I wish the up would do it for all categories at once, because I don't always have time
It's always interesting to pick up a newspaper from a year ago and see how few items are worth reading anymore, and imagine how many stories I've read and forgotten.
The same might be said for HN, for that matter... what am I doing here again? ;)
This is a actually a very nice effort.
The issues I have with growth and actual value, is with how the summaries are generated. Automatic generation is fast and inaccurate, manually curated is slow and very accurate. In a world where people no longer have the time to read newspapers, their not only looking for quick news on the run, they want current news. Something that happened today, everything that happened today. But quick, not the full story, "i'll read that later." Meeting in the middle between fast and slow approaches does not work here. You're too slow, and the headlines in my RSS feed and twitter have already informed me of the news, too fast and your summary becomes a failed attempt to make twitter and RSS better quality. I have no idea how your TL;DR are currently generated. But I would think you'd have an aggregation and be doing some manual curation. To me for this to really work, you'd have to have a large group of people that read the article generating the TL;DR, constantly iterating, until you end up with an extremely efficient 2 sentence summary. Or there needs to be a project that integrates TL;DR on large scale, the publishers, news papers of the world, blogs..They submit these directly.
I think there's still a lot of value in what you're doing. I just don't think it will take off as it is now. Away from the name/marketing/novelty/social aspect not really being there. Twitter, RSS feeds, and sites like http://skimfeed.com/ end up providing me with far more day to day value. If you took this and spoon-fed me the TL;DR via my phone, i'd consider being a repeat visitor a little bit more. But you'd then be competing with a whole 'nother slice of the pie.
Also, how did you get the summaries? It's like you have some algorithm to re-word the first paragraph of the story.
I don’t think today’s technology can auto-summarize news for us properly. The approach taken by TLDR is the correct one. The news should be summarized by human to be useful.
To crowd source this function we can create groups of like-minded people. Members of each group need to split the job. Such a process will save many souls.
In that style, a summary and broad overview with the most salient points, is presented first. Then the article may delve into further detail. The reader can quickly get an overview and then decide whether and how much further they care to read into the details.
Instead, today everything seems to be written in a "narrative style". Often, the first some paragraphs set the scene -- they're "atmosphere" -- sometimes before the writer even deigns to tell you, the reader, what the story is actually about.
Facts are interspersed throughout the remainder of the story, and often don't even lead paragraphs but rather remain buried within them amidst a muddle of further descriptive language.
For the conveyance of news, it's actually quite crappy writing.
I hear/read that it's part and parcel of the push for everybody to have a byline and to establish a "name" for themselves. Which I can in part understand particularly in this day and age of contract work and zero job security -- or even a job (as opposed to endless freelancing) per se.
But, for the seeking and consuming of news, it sucks.
Humans, no matter how altruistic, have inherent bias that will influence their selection of news to summarize, as well as the nature of their summarization.
Circa is another prime example of right idea, problematic solution. It gives me news and photos with no attribution... not even bylines of whomever created their shortened bits of things that they claim could be news. (intentional sarcasm) There's no mechanism whereby I can learn to trust them, or toolong-didntread.com.
I wonder how many other users may have had a different takeaway of the product if the attribution and sources was more obvious?
As a digital publisher myself, I'm curious as to how you obtain the rights to the images you're using in the app.
The scores are based on title, sentence length and sentence position for now. Because there are more to come. They are included in the JSON output.
This isn't meant to disparage either your point or the idea being discussed, but there are some things that cannot be condensed without destroying their meaning.
As just one example, on reading the history of the Vietnam War, it becomes obvious that those who moved us into the conflict simply didn't understand Vietnam and ought to have studied longer and deeper before committing troops to an unwinnable war fought over a misunderstood principle. This is obvious now, but only to those willing to read more, and deeper, to the degree that they actually understand the topic.
This obviously doesn't apply to everything -- many topics can be safely condensed -- but the risk remains that an issue will be condensed to a state of incomprehensibility with the best of intentions.
For another example, it is the attractiveness of of tl;dr that make many people think science is a collection of facts. Or that Frankenstein is the monster, not his maker. Or that "decimated" means completely destroyed. Or that "literally" means figuratively. And so forth. Most worthwhile ideas can't be meaningfully compressed past a certain point.
Ultimately it ends up devaluing my conversation and could make for an awkward experience. Better to be oblivious to something rather than semi-educated. So if I'm honest and say "no, I haven't read that," the person I'm speaking with can fill me in and we can have a great talk.
There's a little term I came across a few years ago that's brilliant: info snacking. Paralleled with a healthy diet (food), too much "snacking" can result in poor health. Same thing here: without substance you're but a balloon waiting to be popped.
I see it as our brains adapting to the information overburden that we feel is being imposed on us. As a result, those learning to adapt are creating four categories of information:
(1) Stuff I need to know
(2) Stuff I should know
(3) Stuff I'd like to know
(4) Stuff I don't care about
Content shortening/summarization helps augment our ability to quantify what fits into 2, 3, and 4. If I read the first paragraph of a traditionally written journalistic piece, I know where it fits before the second paragraph. But a precious small percentage of online content is written in that manner -- first paragraph giving the reader enough information to know what to do next. (There's a whole rant on our lost ability to write, but that's for later.) So since a smaller and smaller percentage of potentially viable information is written traditionally, automated summaries (should) help us decide sooner where something fits.
Does that make sense or am I just spewing madness?
This being HN and all I must admit I had my hopes up for something more .. technical. Some kind of text summariser perhaps..
Nice site never the less.
it's already showing some quite old news as a result. the new jersey earthquake was several weeks ago, positioned as the third "world news" story.
great concept and design, though.
I disagree. I had the same idea for a news site and I'm disappointed they beat me to it. I think it would only take me maybe 30-minutes to and hour to summarize the news of the moment. Do it three times a day. How hard is that? You could easily hire extremely smart people to do this. What English major at a top college wouldn't love to put this on his/her resume for some extra beer money?
PS: the chrome extension I'm talking about is here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/tldr/ohmamcbkcmfal... (same one czzarr is referring to)
That said, I know first hand most people are incapable of writing well much less condense into exact words. This was on my list of to do as well and I've interviewed some writers and those of relevant majors and I assure you, the stuff that comes back is not as good as you think it would be. In the long run, you'd need an army of decent writers that can condense content well.
Seriously, you want to take people out of journalism? Even if it's an excerpt from the story, I wouldn't trust an algorithm to do it for me.
Two of my favorite examples for this are the DCA cancer treatment news and those people who don't pay for fire protection in counties that don't require it; the typical headlines are "Canada Cures Cancer" and "Firemen stand by as house burns down". The former isn't very true and there's a fair amount to read, while the latter is entirely true, only missing a little, critical, bit.
To put it another way, you're teaching me something with all those summaries, but you're NOT teaching me how much I don't know or when to go look up more information, and I think you should try.
"War and Peace", Leo Tolstoy, 1,225 pages : it's about Russia.
"Hindenburg" : a really nice dirigible, until something bad happened in New Jersey.
"Adolf Hitler" : politician, didn't like Jews very much.
"Helen of Troy" : nice-looking woman.
"Calculus" : a province somewhere north of algebra.
I was surprised that Gaza was mentioned on your front page but not world news (at 10:20 ET) and that a 2.0 earthquake in new jersey made world news.
EDIT: after thinking about it some more, I'm still not sure how your website is different than, "We opened a Tumblr and/or Twitter account." There are lots of link blogs.
That's a curious "Why", not a crotchety "Why". Lots of people are talking about browser extensions that summarize the news or are linking to other sources that do this; is the state of journalism so that a summary is better than what media outlets produce because of excessive filler (redundancy department all hands alert), or because we don't like reading anymore?
Reading full form journalism is great but if you had to do it for 100 news stories a day, your day is gone. And, right or wrong, many people want to get a breadth of information and then focus on a few parts of it, rather than solely consume a deep amount of information.
Newspapers used to fulfil this role quite well. You could "scan" a paper in 20 minutes and feel reasonably up to date. But "scanning" online is somewhat trickier because of the format. So these services seem to try and bridge that gap of offering you a ton of headlines and summaries all in one place.
On the other hand, far too much of journalistic prose (and even more so, speech) in mainstream media is contentless fluff.
But I could see my eyes getting bored after a while on tldr. I much prefer this layout
Optimized for fast consumption or just dicking around.
Good luck to you.
i do a sector (infosec) specific site for myself and a handful of friends using twitter to seed links and libots to summarize, works like a champ and has been running solidly and automatically for over 3 years. could be easy to retarget. python, mysql, libots powers it, think delicious+twitter.
I'm not sure there's any advancement here.