Monday, August 01, 2005

information overload and speed reading aggregators

at last year's bloggercon III, robert scoble held a session on information overload. the session really got me thinking about ways to process information more efficiently, but since that time, i feel like very little has been done to alleviate the information downpour that many of us choose to wade through.

i've been trying to patch the leaks here and there by employing new technologies and judiciously pruning my feeds: filtering/funneling services like pubsub, technorati,, and myweb2 have allowed me to increase my signal to noise ratio, while moves like 86ing boing boing have been the blogistani version of abstaining from television.

but it's still not enough. at a fundamental level, we just need to start processing information faster...instead of a river of news, we need a neural implant of news. hopefully, digital reading technology will hold us over until my mindjack is ready, so over the past couple days, i've started work on a speed reading aggregator akin to trevor f. smith's speed reading java applet.

so go ahead and try it out and let me know what you think either via comments or email. the demo i put up uses canned post data scraped from scoble, udell, and rajesh jain that i stored on my server to circumvent the xmlhttprequest cross-domain restriction. (if any of you guys want me to remove your material, let me know).

so far, the speed reading aggregator (any ideas for a name?) uses straight up html, css, and javascript to do it's dirty work -- and the hackery is pretty filthy, believe me. tops on the lists of crappiness is the fact that i have to strip posts of all html. i do this because i'm too lazy to implement the logic required to smartly deal with multiple words enclosed in a single tag, especially when it comes to the highlighting code. but hopefully i'll get around to fixing this later this week.

next on the list of features:
  • allow the user to adjust the number of words displayed
  • display words over multiple rows
  • change display speed based on punctuation
  • additional keybindings??? (an emacs set to complement the vi set?)
if anybody has any further ideas wrt this project, please get in touch w/ me. i'm at best an average coder to begin with, compounded with the fact that i have zero html, css, and/or javascript experience, so i'll almost certainly need your input.

oh, and a thanks to a couple other developers: i'm using adrian zentner's string tokenizer and stephen cote's libxmlrequest...


UPDATE: i totally forgot to provide instructions...
  1. click on one of the feed names in the top left corner (e.g., scobelizer, jon udell, or rajesh jain). this will fetch the post data and load it into the aggregator.

  2. now, either click on a 'speed read' link above the post you want to read, or just hit 'J' to advance the reader to the first post. the contents of the post will be displayed in the dark gray bar on the top of the screen in a speed reading fashion.

  3. you can change the post being presented by navigating with the 'J' and 'K' keys.

  4. further commands are displayed on the page, but let me know if you are still having trouble.

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At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is some cool shit.

I want something like this for my email too.
Curious - how did you determine how many words to display and highlight? I'm wonderin how it would be if like 7 or 8 words appeared at the top and then highlighted each word.

Keep us posted on updates.

At 1:22 AM, Blogger Jesus Henry Christos said...

good idea wrt email...i didn't even think about that. i'll try and mock up a protype of a system like that soon.

the word number choice was arbitrary. in the second version of the mockup, this is configurable. (i'll probably be pushing v0.2 by end of day thursday).

however, in v0.2, all word flashes still occur one-ontop-of-another in the center of the grey bar -- in this way, the user doesn't have to move their eyes from side to side.

if i get time, i'll mock your method up as well. it seems like your method will provide context to the reader that my method doesn't...interesting...

anyway, thanks for the feedback,

At 12:35 AM, Blogger Jesus Henry Christos said...

aaaaaaand by end of day thursday, i mean next thursday...or something.

i'm moving out of philly tomorrow

i hate moving. time to burn it all down...

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait for that...

Where you moving to?

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Jesus Henry Christos said...

the grand caymans, for a year or two.

At 11:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck with Med School down there....hope you don't stop coding.

Looking forward to v2.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Jesus Henry Christos said...

thanks for the well wishes...

however: all future coding will be strictly samizdat in order to escape parental wrath.


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