Friday, May 17, 2013


The Typing Monkey may re-use that headline (and tag) anytime we post links to articles on the web that actually qualify as articles.

What qualifies us to decide what qualifies as an "article"? Any piece we read that reaches a certain tipping point of the tl;dr factor. To save you a trip to Urban Dictionary, that weird abbreviation stands for "too long; didn't read" and is often used jokingly in comments under articles on the Web.

But it's just as often typed in earnest, because attention for reading web articles drops exponentially after certain word counts. The numbers vary depending on which study you read, but the advice is the same: the shorter the better. Which loosely means, anything that can't be read "above the fold" -- read without the user having to scroll further down the page -- is least likely to be read.

Why does this happen? Again, search around the Web and read up on studies, statistics and opinions, but the fact that it happens bugs us. It bugs us even more when we catch ourselves doing it. Never mind that this very blog posts two- and three-page scrollers all the time. We just can't shut up and that's another issue entirely.

So in defense of long-form journalism, criticism and other types of information delivery through the written word, we'll put "tl;dr" right there in the headline to let you know that what we're linking to, when we're recommending it, is more than one "page down" button's worth of reading but worth the time and attention.

To the links!

First up is "Wikipedia's Women Problem" from science writer James Gleick for The New York Review of Books. If you've been following the story at all, Wikipedia has slowly moved all of the women from the category "American novelists" into a sub-category specific to their gender. While this sort of OCD categorizing isn't weird on it's own, it's a problem because they didn't call the other category "male American novelists." Gleick goes deep. Hold on.

Take a break, drink some juice and then dig into Christopher Riley's love letter to Richard Feynman from The Telegraph. Riley's piece is secretly hyping the film version of his love letter to Feynman, but that doesn't reduce the appeal of his writing.

And perhaps most interesting to all of us at TMI, is a Wilson Quarterly article by Tom Vanderbilt called "Star Wars." Vanderbilt examines the value of "user review" critical opinions that dominate and influence our behavior on the Web and in the real world of commerce.

Yelp, Amazon and other giants of this format really do shape opinions, but Vanderbilt asks whether there's any real worth in these arbitrary and generally anonymous voices. Plus he asks what we bring to these opinions in contrast to what we might bring to the critical writing of that dying species: the paid, published critic.

For us, Vanderbilt's article is the most interesting, but all are worth a dive.

You'll be seeing mention of Arts & Letters Daily frequently for the tl;dr items, because that's where we go most often to grow our brains. Thank you A&L.