T. L; D. R.

Meaning “Too long; didn’t read.”

This really caught my eye. It was in a NYTimes article a few days ago about a 17-year-old who sold his company to Yahoo for 30 million dollars. What was way more interesting than his youth and all the money was his idea: “…his algorithmic invention…takes long-form stories and shortens them for readers using smartphones, in its own mobile apps…”

“…he started coding at age 12. Eventually he decided to develop an app with what he calls an “automatic summarization algorithm,” one that “can take pre-existing long-form content and summarize it.” In other words, it tries to solve a problem that is often summed up with the abbreviation tl;dr: “too long; didn’t read.”

   I’ve now got a sign, TL; DR posted by the computer. Like keeping videos under 2 minutes. And it’s a new world coming, with pocket sized screens the norm for young people. Keep it short & sweet, I keep reminding myself…

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

6 Responses to T. L; D. R.

  1. Lloyd- I met you a number of years ago at the Timber Framers conference at Asilomar in Monterey. I had a great conversation with you about books, life experiences and skate boarding (in particular, Mnt Tabor in Portland & Carve Boards). Your ability to connect across generations inspired me then and continues to inspire me. Thanks for another great post! This 12 year old is amazing.

  2. i agree with above, lloyds blog is interesting daily and the short attention span shouldn't necessarily be catered to: if they don't have the patience to enjoy something longer than a twitter tweet then let em jump back into the mainstream…

  3. Hi Lloyd! Well…. I get worried about people favoring brevity over length simply because that is the style of information these days – it seems to me the length of the format should fit the length of the idea. So, for something like what this kid has done with news, it makes sense- if it's short, you will read more news articles, and thus get a more complete patchwork of what is going on in the world. But I worry about how the short-and-digestible format is also beginning to dominate other aspects of life, which may not necessarily be served by brevity- because ultimately, what is short and made quickly is generally disposable.

    It's analogous to shelter, really! 🙂 If you're spending a night in the woods and need a place to sleep for the night, you build your "house" out of a tarp, not concrete! But if you're making a home to build a life in, you do it incredibly slowly with materials that will last for your lifespan. I get concerned where this spreads over into consumer culture- even simple things like a frying pan for instance- you'll probably need a frying pan for your entire life, right? So why make it out of something like teflon, which scratches and you have to throw out? If you have a cast iron pan, it will last forever (not even getting in to all the chemicals in teflon :P).

    As an artist and musician, I get especially concerned with the idea of disposability. Cultural ephemera is one thing- it's beautiful, I love it, it's like a patchwork of small ideas that when put together show a picture of many voices in a particular time period. But I worry about younger generations, where short becomes the only form. A lot of the most important ideas, the ones that serve you for life, are long and take a long time to develop and absorb. I'm realizing I probably sound like an old grouch, but I'm young too, I'm 26! I guess I notice a big difference in how people deal with information between people my age, and people who are 20 and younger. Ultimately, I guess everyone of every age will do well to remind themselves of the basic "form follows function", particularly in terms of the amount of time an object or idea needs to be useful for, especially in these disposable times. Sorry to be so long-winded, it's a topic I've been thinking on lately 🙂

    All the best, Happy Easter! –Liz

  4. What I was thinking of with the T.L; D.R principle is communicating on the web and on cell-phone sized devices. It's just a couple of types of communication — we also do the long form in our books — but digital communication is also part of what we do here, and short is usually sweeter.

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