Or… why my TL;DR section tells you everything you need to know about the article.
A TL;DR section is included in every article so that you, as an informed reader, can decide whether this article of interest. Why? Simply because that is what I would want as a consumer of articles.
too long; didn’t read: used in response to an online post, text message, article, etc., that is thought to be too lengthy, and usually taken as a rude comment, or used by the writer before a summary of lengthy text.
There are just too many articles on the Internet that just take far too long to get to the point, this, coupled with annoying click-bait titles that are designed to draw you in — just wastes time and leaves the reader with this sense of despair.
And it just gets worse, advertisements, modals, multi-page articles, all vying for your attention to interact with the site and disturbing you from getting the information that you need. This has become such a problem, that there are mechanisms that strip back all of the unneccesary noise;
- Outline.com is a website that does this for you,
- Browsers provide a ‘Reader mode’ that does exactly this
So, here, I decided to put in a TL;DR section, giving you the outcome of the article, and then you get to decide whether you would like to linger a little further and read through the reasoning.
Sounds fair, right?
Now off you go and read some other articles…
Why the TL;DR…
A TL;DR section is the crispest, most condensed sentence (or two) that can be articulated to give you, the reader, the main outcome of the article, and therefore you may decide whether it is worth your time to read it.
Despite the fact that the Medium platform encourages read time, I am not interested in linger time over the pages. I am interested in challenging thoughts and beliefs, through the medium¹ of text.
With everything pushing people towards “read time” the TL;DR is a section that I intoduced so that you, the reader, can get to decide whether this is of interest — your time is valuable, please don’t let me trick you into wasting it — that provides value to neither of us.
Isn’t that dangerous…?
Possibly, yes, if you think that in order to challenge someone’s beliefs then you should take them on a journey through the thought process.
- If the TL;DR section gives away the entire purpose of the article — why bother reading?
- There is confirmation bias here — if the TL;DR section either confirms or challenges your belief, why bother reading it? (if it confirms — then no need to read, as you already agree. If it challenges your beliefs, why would you want to go through the possible painful process of altering what your thoughts are?)
- Even if the article is not read, but a seed of a thought is planted, then this is a desired outcome.
- I would much prefer people to follow the train-of-thought of an article to come to a conclusion that they are interested in, rather than skim through hundreds, or thousands words of text to possibly find what they are looking for.
I decided that the titles would be succinct, and factual, and that the overview (TL;DR) would be presented up front, and let the reader decide whether it is worth their time to read through the rest of the article…
And do you know how I came up with this conclusion?
Simple — as a consumer of articles, that is what I would want.
If you want to know how this started…
I was searching for a recipe on Mushroom Risotto and on one site that I found, the article breakdown is as follows:
- 15 words —Title and sub-title
- 22 words — Blurb about what it is, and how easy it is
- Large image, which was taller than the screen
- 229 words — How this recipe changed the author’s life (including a medium sized image)
- 115 words — discussing whether risotto is a rice or pasta
- 461 words — ‘handy’ hints for cooking the risotto, including 2 large images
So, 842 words and 4 images later, I get to the recipe¹
And, if you are interested…
Here is my recipe for Champagne and truffle mushroom risotto²:
- 400g carnoli (risotto) rice
- 300g unsalted butter
- 2 banana shallots
- 1.2l porcini mushroom stock (best made the night before)
- 125ml champagne
- 150g grated Parmesan
- 80ml double cream
- Black pepper
- 25ml truffle oil
- Piecing mushrooms
- Make the porcini broth
- Melt 200g of butter and soften the shallots
- Add the rice and stir until covered with the butter and starting to become transparent
- Add the champagne keep stirring until evaporated
- Add the broth a ladle at a time.
- Just before the rice is ready to serve, add 100g of butter and the 150g of cheese and cream
- Serve quickly
- drizzle with truffle oil
¹ Not to be too hard on the site from which I calculated these statistics, I am sure that there are people out there that would get value from some of the sections, but still, there was a lot of scrolling to find the information.
² Yes, I realise the irony of getting you to read 738 words before you actually get to the recipe — but this is still better than some other sites — and, to be fair to myself, this is also not the topic of the article.