I discovered this abbreviation this morning in an article about a British 17-year-old who just sold an “automatic article summarization algorithm” to Yahoo for some thirty million dollars.
When I was 17, I was earning 50 cents an hour as a babysitter, work that included washing dirty dishes that had been stacked in a dirty kitchen for a week and taking care of a dirty fat aging dog that farted and drooled noisily and constantly. I can still smell that dog. Her name was Geisha. She loved me and always tried to stay close, the better to share her charms.
What’s sad about that (the work, not the dog) is that it didn’t occur to me that I might do better. It didn’t occur to me that I might, say, create a lucrative algorithm or refuse to clean fetid kitchens. It was simply my lot in life to work for a pittance and wash other people’s moldy dishes while their putrid dog stank up my space and their kids spat gum in my hair.
What’s sad about that still is that I still sometimes think that way – although I no longer tolerate flatulent basset hounds. I’ve accepted the fact that basic algebra represents the extent of my mathematical prowess and potential; there is no well-paid algorithm creation in my future. And I no longer wash other people’s dishes (unless you count Son #1, Son #2, Girlfriend of Son #1, and all their various hangers-on, acquaintances and pets) (I do not count Husband, since at our house whoever cooks does not have to clean, and he does most of the cooking).
So there has been some personal progress in 37 years. Where there is life, there is hope.
Yahoo will use this kid’s work to create a mobile app to help its smart phone clients digest tough chewy servings of complete sentences and whole paragraphs.
Annoyance with being expected to actually read writing composed of complete sentences and whole paragraphs has given rise to the comment tl;dr: “too long; didn’t read.” This is unequivocal social death online.
By cutting text, the new app will solve the problem of wordy writers. Articles will be cleared of adjectives and adverbs and descriptive clauses, transformed into short single-syllable blurbs that can be easily read while driving, cruising Facebook in heavy traffic, drinking coffee, and applying mascara in the rear-view mirror.
Not “or,” mind you – I used “and” deliberately. This morning at an intersection the man beside me was shaving and talking on the phone at a red light, with a lit cigarette in his shaving hand.
At least all I was doing was eating a messy breakfast burrito and fumbling for a napkin and trying to adjust the visor in the glare and check my teeth for stuck food in the mirror.
The new Yahoo app will not solve the problem of lazy readers. It won’t solve problems for lazy readers, either.
If a lazy reader fed the news of Dionne Warwick’s bankruptcy filing into the automatic summarization app, he might get back “Warwick owes $10 million in taxes, has only $10 a month.” This tragic revelation brings a tear to my eye; Dionne is a cultural icon from my formative years, and deserves better.
The reader who is not lazy will peruse the whole article and discover that Warwick’s set monthly income is $20,950 (from royalties, retirement funds, and contracts). Her monthly expenses total $20,940, which includes $5,000 for housekeeping. So, yeah, she has just $10 left over every month. But somehow my heart no longer bleeds for her.
I could do a lot with $5,000 a month for housekeeping.
I could do a lot with $5,000 a year for housekeeping.
Isn’t it galling as hell that someone with a monthly income of $20,950 is attempting to declare bankruptcy? Wouldn’t it take big balls to try and claim that? Has Dionne been cross-dressing all these years?
(Not that there is anything wrong with cross-dressing. It only upsets me when men in drag are more attractive and sexy and well-groomed and better-dressed than I.)
But I am just another lazy disgruntled resentful 99%er who failed to make it big. The world needs ditch-diggers, too.* Dionne, for example, needs to employ $5,000 worth of them every month to balance her budget. I knew long ago I was doomed to be a Geisha sort of girl. I make more than 50 cents an hour now, but it sure ain’t no $5,000 a month. I wonder if Warwick is hiring?
But I digress. Too many words here, too much to read about a yesterday’s-news pop idol. I need to apply that new app.
Poets are said to be the best writers, since they pare the language down to absolute essentials. Perhaps the English algorithm boy is a poet at heart. Me? I like to wallow in words, as if they were melted chocolate marbled with caramel or, on savory days, a four-cheese fondue. No fashionable thinness here, no bare bones, and no short sound bites destined to go viral. I am heedlessly disobeying all the rules of how to write a successful blog.
And I don’t care! I’ve spent half a century trying to please everyone. Defiance is great fun.
*yes, I’m quoting Caddyshack. This balances out any high-brow allusions that may previously have put you off your feed. I really do want to please you, despite my brave talk. Despite writing too many words.