Most amazing thing I’ve seen in years: Read a thousand words a minute

How to read 1000 words a minute

A new app allows you to read 1000 words a minute

 

OMG: That happened very fast:

This app is now available for chrome: Sprint reader

Once you have added it you can do this: Clip

Just did a few e-mails with it and it works great, but jokes get lost when reading with it. 

Original post:

This post has absolutely nothing to do with either wine or cycling. I apologise for that, but I’ve just seen one of the most amazing things, and really think it could have a massive impact on the way, we all communicate with each other.

Have you ever noticed that the icon, in MS Word for saving a file is a floppy disc? I don’t even think about it because I know exactly what that symbol is. It only occurred to me how very odd it is because I am currently struggling to learn a computer programming language called Python.  I am following a free online book and got stuck. So did a Google search for the thing I was working on and found and online tutorial video: the guy who recorded the tutorial must have been younger than me because he was explaining in the abstract, what floppy disc is! I think he may even have said the words “People used to save their files on them”.

While I was at university, I learnt to use a video editing program called Final Cut. Most of the symbols in this program were representative of a different era. There was a pair of scissors to indicate cutting a physical roll of film and there was a little brush which was used to stick the bits of film back together.

It’s funny how when you have no personal recollection of how things were in the past, these little symbols can seem quite twee. The floppy disk is clearly there to reassure people, who used to physically save things to floppy disks that when you click that button is doing something you associate with floppy disks which is “saving”. But if you have no experience of using floppy disks or scissors to edit film the symbols lose their meaning. Or, more to the point, their meaning becomes entirely abstract.

In order to write this blog, I’m using a computer program called DragonDictate (http://www.nuance.co.uk/dragon/index.htm). It’s actually a program that I’ve been using for the best part of 20 years on and off. I’m severely dyslexic, and I was about 17 years old by the time I read my first book cover to cover for pleasure. I remember in the early days of Dragon, the speech recognition was poor. In order to train this computer program, you have to read it a sample text. I sat there, reading the text and when I struggled with the words, my dad whispered into my ear, so that I could continue reading to the computer and it could calibrate my voice for future dictation.

When I got to university, I found I was spending a lot of time retraining the computer and teaching it new vocabulary. After a while I decided to just take up typing my written text. By that point, Microsoft Word got more sophisticated and started putting squiggly lines under your text. Also, Google had become much faster. So it was easier to use the Internet to check homophone errors, (using the wrong spelling but the right sounding words).

Since starting wine rides, I found that I’ve had to do a lot of emails. When you run a small company, you end up wearing all the hats. So I’ve come back to Dragon. It’s now so good that I can even use it in busy cafes, I have no idea what people think of me when I’m dictating in a public place, but to be honest, it’s so much more convenient than actually physically typing the words in that I’m really not that bothered. I presume most people assume that I’m on the phone or talking to somebody via Skype.

My dyslexia makes me more open to using voice dictation software than other people, because I struggle more than normal without it but I was amazed to find that after I’d started using Dragon again a number of my friends also started dictating their correspondence. The non-dyslexic people I know who use voice dictation regularly are iPhone users. They’ve come to it by using Sirree to dictate text messages or emails while their driving. From my point of view physically keying in your words into a computer is almost as odd as getting a typewriter out.

The notion that you should enter text via typing is incredibly silly when you think about it. Dictating text is five times faster than typing it in. So whilst I use it because it helps me with my dyslexia, this is one instance, where I believe that my weakness is actually making me stronger because it is causing me to be more inclined to be an early adopter of technology.

You might find this hard to believe, but even when I’m browsing the web, if I see a big block of text, and suspect that I’m going to want to read most of it, I’ll actually copy it and paste it into Word and then get Dragon to read me the entire article. This has the advantage that I can take my laptop with me to the kitchen and continue reading the article by just having the computer read it out to me in a robotic voice.

A lot of people hate the robot voice. I can hear past the robot and generally hear in my head the voice of the author rather than the voice of the robot who’s reading it to me. Most people who are used to reading and presumably have strong mental muscles for reading would much rather just scan the text with their eyes. I personally am glad that I’ve managed to overcome my aversion to the robot voice. It has the advantage that if I’m reading a book on my Kindle, and am finding it a bit dull, but want to persevere, I can just  leave the kindle on the passenger seat of a car when I’m next on a long journey and hit play. The book will than read out to me.

But yesterday, somebody posted a link on Facebook, which really astounded me. It’s made me look at the way we use computers completely differently. And it’s this: http://www.spritzinc.com/blog/

I came across it via a post on Facebook that said “this app lets you read a novel in two hours” and thought it sounded like complete rubbish. But if you haven’t done it, go to the link and click the circular button in the top right hand corner and see how the entire text of the website is fed to you in a constant stream with one letter of the word in red as opposed to black.

What they’re doing is highlighting the optimal recognition point for each individual word. This means that the words can be fired at you like a machine gun and yet you’re able to read them incredibly quickly and all the text goes in, and you retain all the meaning of the text. You can crank the speed up to 1000 words a minute. I’ve read their entire website using this app and frankly think it’s amazing.

What they’ve managed to show is that we are currently using text on computers and the web in entirely the wrong way, were actually still presenting text in the same way that it was presented during the time of the Gutenberg press. The only reason that we display text on A4 pages in lines is because that easy for printing machines and handwriting. As a result, when not taking advantage of how computers work and how digital devices can display text to us.

If you just sit and meditate on it for a moment. It’s amazing what this little app could do, rather than websites being large cumbersome things that you have to scroll through constantly. They could just be a montage of different images or headings that you could click on and then a stream of text would come at you, containing all the content for that section of the website. Things like Facebook could stop looking like drums that you have to turn through to get your content and could start looking like constellations of different sized balls. The size of the ball, indicating the popularity of the stream that someone has posted. Think about how quickly you could read through someone’s tweets?

When I first got my Kindle: I loved it because, unlike a book I could set the text at the size I wanted. I narrowed the column and read books at the most reduced column width I can get. This is because it’s less straining for my eyes means that they have to scan back and forth less. What Spritz app is doing is allowing you to keep your eyes absolutely stationary.

I can only imagine how in the future we will look at text displayed on A4  pages and see it as tortured. The written word displayed on a page is literally on a medieval rack being stretched out for the convenience of an arcane technology.

Having now seen this little app, I genuinely believe that in the future. Most text will be consumed this way. It’s not only the text that is being tortured by spreading out across the page. It’s also our eyes that are being tortured by having to physically scan from side to side. Reading text. This way is not something our eyes evolved to do. Yes, they can dart back and forth, but I don’t think they are supposed to do it monotonously for hours on end.

It’s silly to make yourself a hostage to fortune, by attempting to predict the future, but this app more than anything else I’ve seen recently, in my opinion, is the one to watch. Running on concrete can give you bad knees, bashing the keyboard all day can give you RSI, and reading at length can give you eyestrain and all these things are being overcome by technology.

I really believe, that as soon as people see the advantage of consuming text one word at the time, they won’t be able to tolerate the slow mechanical process of reading words in the way we do now.