Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Problem of TL;DR

I was reading a post today, which had a succinct summary at the end explaining what I had just read. It was not a scientific paper or even an economy journal. It was a simple anecdotal story from a person who used way too many words for a way too boring story. Yet there it was, a Tl;dr at the end, mocking the reader, simplifying the 6 sentence post and abridging it to 2 lines. Tl;dr, for the unacquainted is an acronym for Too long;didn't read. It serves the function of cutting down time of the reader to let them absorb the required information instead of actually reading the information.

The problem right now is not reading too little, but writing too much. Tl;dr tries to give a solution to
the problem that does not exist. To me, these textual bombardments of posts are no better than Tumblr GIFs in a Buzzfeed article. More words does not necessarily equal more knowledge or a better story, sometimes it is just a pile of overwrought ideas haphazardly scratched on the screen.

To get the redundancy of TL;DR, we have to first understand the concept of words. The English language has 26 alphabets. A dictionary roughly has 250000 words. It used to be, writing too little was our fear, but writing too much is just as bad. When things can be explained in 10 words we use a hundred. Like someone trying to organize his workload by creating unneeded files, successfully complicating the process. This is a direct result of what schools try to force on us.

It is counterintuitive to first write something going into tautologial and redundant details and then backtracking to a vague summary redifining what was already written. After reading a plethora of teenage angst and woe paragraphs, it's transparent that cutting down words to the core that both explain the post concisely and maintain the essence of the written piece is harder than it looks. Much harder than going on about an easily understood topic like the leaking wound of an HIV infected person.

One good story, written well and edited with brevity is worth a lot more than hundred stretched posts written by a bored guy trying to procrastinate on the Internet.



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