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Scientists Offer New Way to Read Online Text

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the i'd-prefer-to-reformat-my-brain dept.


An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at a small startup called Walker Reading Technologies in Minnesota have determined that the human brain is not wired properly to read block text. They have found that our eyes view text as if they're peering through a straw. Not only does your brain see the text on the line you're reading, but it's also uploading superfluous information from the two lines above and the two lines below. This causes your brain to engage in a tug of war as it fights to filter and ignore the noise. The result is slower reading speeds and decreased comprehension. The company has developed a product that automatically re-formats text in a way that your brain can more easily comprehend."

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Dr. Seuss (5, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#19082943)

It's certainly very easy to read, and the formatting reminds me of Dr. Seuss books.

The only downside I can see (if this gets used in print) is the waste of paper compared to current methods.

Re:Dr. Seuss (5, Funny)

smittyman (466522) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083081)

You mean that we can use paper for printing letters and stuff? Does that come with many fonts and all?

Re:Dr. Seuss (1, Offtopic)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083183)

According to TALFTFS:

It breaks complex syntax into simpler syntax, which makes it easier for the brain to absorb the material.
The example shown (about cells) doesn't change the syntax at all. It just changes the formatting.

What might help with reading long lines - and be much simpler - is to print the alternate lines on a slightly different shaded background. But that would never catch on.

Re:Dr. Seuss (4, Funny)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083307)

People would take that as license to write purple text on a red background.

Then Myspace would have to be invented.

Re:Dr. Seuss (0, Redundant)

dmsuperman (1033704) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083477)

Not to mention the billions of other websites with black text on dark blue background or vice versa. My eyes hurt just thinking about them.

Seuss - No, it's Code Formatting! (5, Funny)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083433)

They just went and put an indenter on the English Language!

Now someone needs to invent a variant of English that requires indentation as a part of the syntax. It would be the Python of natural languages. Pyglish?

Re:Dr. Seuss (5, Insightful)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083539)

http://venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/ beforeafter1.jpg [venturebeat.com]

I noticed several things that make it difficult for me to actually evaluate the difference. First each uses a different font, then the one that is supposed to be inferior ends with an incomplete sentance "A cell is" - making it gramatically inferior, if you zoom in you'll notice that the inferior sample didn't compress well in the jpg, the fonts are different sizes, and finally live link labeling the new sample as "Section 1:" provides more contextual information making it in fact more informative. While these changes are subtle each by themselves they are all time tested methods for improving text. Don't blur the text, add contextual info, complete your sentances and use standardized grammar. If this is the standard output from their software then this is truly not impressive. Aside from these issues, haven't people used collumns for a long time too?

oooooo (0)

VoxMagis (1036530) | more than 6 years ago | (#19082957)

So we're offering them free advertising here? We have text in the format we use because it's been that way for (some big number) of years. That's all. I don't see me running out to buy something that makes it different just because the marketers of that product says it makes it better.

Re:oooooo (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083505)

This is news reporting. The fact that it's related to a commercial product does not inherently make it less news-worthy than if it's from a government or academic institution (though it's reasonable to do a bit of fact-finding, in either case).

Scrolling (5, Insightful)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#19082959)

The screenshot
    looks good.

It breaks the text down
  into phrases
  like poetry.

(It looks sort of
    like code.)

But, for anything
    other than a short document,
      you will be scrolling a long time,

Just up the css line-height to 2, and call it a day.

Re:Scrolling (2, Interesting)

hawks5999 (588198) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083025)

Yeah Lots of scrolling so the time saved from reading will be lost to scrolling I'll stick to block text.

Re:Scrolling (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083309)

ah but the
phrases are
so small you
can just wait
a second
or two and have
the page
down like
pressing the
down arrow button.

Re:Scrolling (1)

hkgroove (791170) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083315)

Read Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski.

Everything is formatted like this - it's not poetry but has a rhythm all its own. Not sure if that's an after-effect of the formatting or not.

Re:Scrolling (3, Insightful)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083441)

And did you notice how blurry the image was of the 'standard' text. Nice job there. "look how much easier the text on the right is to read compared to the old stuff on the left!". This is a SERIOUSLY flawed example.

Did they do such a shoddy job in the study? Why is there no link to a peer-reviewed study?

Re:Scrolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083639)

It's not only blurry; it uses completely different fonts and font sizes. They didn't even try to make the comparison objective.

The most likely explanation is that it's intentional. Why would they use such different fonts (even serif vs. san-serif) unless they were trying to trick the audience?

Who needs Live Ink? (4, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#19082985)

We could all
        just start typing
              all our messages
just like this!

Nah, that might
      be too annoying...

Re:Who needs Live Ink? (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083141)

Nothing like a shortage of research funding to spur a little novelty-hunting. Or possibly the low educational level of the scientists means they need simpler texts.

Re:Who needs Live Ink? (5, Informative)

byjove (567441) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083253)

I think you're missing the part about how the positioning of the words are determined. The algorithms used were inspired by spoken syntax: "The prosodic cues in spoken language are more complex than simple pauses at phrase boundaries; subtle variations in pitch, volume, and the duration of word pronunciation have been shown to convey hierarchical structures in syntax (Ferreira & Anes, 1994). When these prosodic-syntactic cues of speech are experimentally stripped away from audiorecordings of sentences, listeners' comprehension drops (Cutler, Dahan, & van Donselaar, 1997). This finding has important implications for reading because, when language is written down, many of these same syntactic cues are similarly stripped away" Also, according to the supporting paper, parsing sentences along these lines help support the goals of the semantic web, helping online readers to parse complex expository writing.

Low tech workaround (4, Interesting)

SlayerofGods (682938) | more than 6 years ago | (#19082995)

I personally just highlight the text with my mouse as I read through an article seems to help me keep my place and read faster.
Of course it drives anyone reading over my shoulder nuts....

Re:Low tech workaround (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083573)

I do the same thing in any dense text that I read. Especially helps the eyes find the right spot after scrolling.

I also select and de-select icons or lines of text (double- and triple-clicking over and over) any time that I'm not actively working on something, like if I pause to think or to look at a picture. Annoys the crap out of people :)

Actually, I just caught myself doing that last thing as I was proofreading my post (blasphemy, I know). Heh.

Re:Low tech workaround (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083697)

I personally just highlight the text with my mouse as I read through an article
That's wierd! Still I suppose it's better than putting smudgy fingerprints all over the screen.

P.S. are you blonde, by any chance?

Really? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083001)

You mean they created columns?!

It may be easy to read,,, (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083003)

But I feel like I'm reading out of a child's book. I'll continue to take the hit in reading speed to keep my sanity!

Re:It may be easy to read,,, (1)

fitten (521191) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083301)

I agree...

Reading that

sample text is like

listening to a poor speaker

who stops

between every few

words to gather his


I read it in spurts... the places where text is, I read through quickly, then have a long pause for the space, then another quick spurt of text. Very annoying.

Ahhh, I See ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083007)

The company has developed a product that automatically re-formats text in a way that your brain can more easily comprehend.
It turns it into pictures? Maybe even into pictures of food?

And what does this say about languages like Chinese that are written vertically?

GNAA GPL Twofo Fist Sprot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083021)

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Re:GNAA GPL Twofo Fist Sprot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083323)

Why do I
          Keep seeing this
                  wall of text

So that means... (1)

grassy_knoll (412409) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083027)

                                    is now
                                well formatted

This is just an excuse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083061)

...for more page views.

If it was really better... (4, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083099)

...someone would have already invented this "new" method. Unfortunately, it's not better. The text is certainly easier to follow (which proves the research), but that's only half the battle. The formatting implies certain cues such as tone, volume, and emphasis. By reformatting the text, the software loses the original cues and accidentally adds new ones. The new cues may change the overall meaning of the text resulting in a failure to communicate.

Re:If it was really better... (2, Funny)

flynt (248848) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083531)

If it was really better someone would have already invented this "new" method.

What a bizarre claim! You're implying that there has been no progress ever, and furthermore, there can be no progress ever!

Re:If it was really better... (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083665)


Besides, poets have been doing this for 100s of years. Hopkins anyone?

Re:If it was really better... (2, Interesting)

n3demonic (1078953) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083671)

But what if the online text is mindless boring text, say an online history book. It's monotonous text which wouldn't be misconstrued if written in a different formatting. Wouldn't that help readers? Oh wait... they'd probably be sleeping anyways.

Saw something similar before (2, Interesting)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083115)

Years ago I saw a shareware program that was supposed to help you read text faster. I think they were basing it upon a different principle involving eye movement speed, but it would be a compatible idea to this approach. You would just look at a certain fixed point on a blank page and it would feed you one word at time at whatever speed you select. The words always showed up at the same position, so in terms of this article your "straw" would be in a fixed position.

I was able to read quite a bit faster, but I did not have the money to spend on it at the time. I also wasn't sure how useful it would be outside of novels.

Re:Saw something similar before (2, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083755)

I've been reading through straws (tubes?) since the early days of the Internet......I get most of my "news" online now (I use the term loosely because, well, I read /. afterall).


Slower reading speeds? (4, Interesting)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083119)

... uploading superfluous information from the two lines above and the two lines below...The result is slower reading speeds and decreased comprehension.

WTF? This is how I've always done speed-reading...

Re:Slower reading speeds? (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083389)

WTF? This is how I've always done speed-reading...
I always do my speed reading by skipping the article and just posting on /.

Looks Like an Ad or Poster (3, Interesting)

UCRowerG (523510) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083127)

Does anyone else see the similarity between the formatted text and what many advertisers and graphic designers have been doing for years?

Re:Looks Like an Ad or Poster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083707)

Does anyone else see the similarity between the formatted text and what many advertisers and graphic designers have been doing for years?

Of course because this is nothing but an advertisement looking for funding.

Thinking through a straw (1)

Anarchysoft (1100393) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083139)

Scientific research conducted by Walker Reading Technologies, a small Minnesota startup that has been studying our ability to read for the last ten years, has concluded that the natural field of focus for our eyes is circular, so our eyes view the printed page as if we're peering through a straw.

And a very bad-behaving straw at that, because not only do our eyes feed our brain the words we're reading, they're also uploading characters and words from the two sentences above and below the line we're reading.
Every time we read block text, we're forcing our brain to a wage a constant subconscious battle with itself to filter and discard the superfluous inputs. Reading is a novel form of playing back spoken communication. The bottle neck of reading comprehension is not seeing the words, but translating them into the thoughts they correspond to in the correct context. By seeing the words before and after, the understanding of the text's context is improved. This is also why it can be useful to very quickly skim or scan a text before reading it in more detail.

Less confusing? (5, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083143)

That's supposed to be LESS confusing? My eye jumps to the colored words first, which appear to be picked almost randomly. (It looks like they are actually the verbs of the sentences.) Then I have to force my eye back to the beginning of the sentence and try to ignore the different colors. Then, because there's a break between that sentence and the next, I have to do the same thing all over again.

And what's the difference if my eyes are pulling words from the previous and next sentence or the pieces of the current one? It's still giving me information that I don't need -right now- in the sentence.

And the additional poem-like formatting is also confusing, as special formatting usually -means- something.

Training myself to read this, which is only used online and only if licensed by this company, would be a hassle. And used very little.

Re:Less confusing? (1)

Trevin (570491) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083313)

I found the coloration on venturebeat.com's example very distracting as well. It actually slows down reading.

But the original page [readingonline.org] does not colorize the sample text. Personally I don't find it that much easier to read than the traditional block, but at least it's not less easy.

Re:Less confusing? (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083463)

That's supposed to be LESS confusing? My eye jumps to the colored words first, which appear to be picked almost randomly. (It looks like they are actually the verbs of the sentences.)

Yes, the verbs have the colors - I presume they do this because our brains tend to prefer actions over concepts, so by making "action" words more pronounced, we can more quickly grasp the meaning of the text.

Personally, I normally hate ideas like this (and I've tried a few, and found they all either caused massive eye strain after a few minutes, or failed to make the text easier to read)... And this one, I have to admit, I like.

I did notice on the first sentence the same problems you mention - But for the rest, I caught on to how you should scan it - Scroll your eye smoothly downward, with a once-per-sentence horizontal component going from the upper left to lower right (so a sawtooth-like pattern). Once I did that, I found I didn't even have to "try" to read the text, I just understood it from the visual scan itself.

And the additional poem-like formatting is also confusing, as special formatting usually -means- something.

With bulleted lists and some particularly annoying poetry, the formatting means something. 99% of the the time, formatting means "that many words fit between the margins before the basically-arbitrary start of the next line". So reformatting would only rarely lose info (in which context, you probably wouldn't use the suggested flow pattern).

This study subsidized by the paper industry (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083147)

When looking at their example [venturebeat.com] on how to "best" format text for comprehension, I was amazed at how much space it took up. Clearly a cabal of paper and timber industries are behind this study, hoping to produce widely space-inefficient books.

To add insult to injury, I found the new version to look like evil dada poetry, essentially incomprehensible. The bright red bold words made my brain hurt even more.

Summary (5, Funny)

norminator (784674) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083161)

I couldn't understand the summary... there is too much text there in one big block. Could someone please explain it to me... maybe reformat it so it's easier to read?

Re:Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083711)


Scientists...at...a...small...startup...called...W alker...Reading...Technologies...in...Minnesota... have...determined...that...the...human...brain...i s...not...wired...properly...to...read...block...t ext....They...have...found...that...our...eyes...v iew...text...as...if...they're...peering...through ...a...straw....Not...only...does...your...brain.. .see...the...text...on...the...line...you're...rea ding,...but...it's...also...uploading...superfluou s...information...from...the...two...lines...above ...and...the...two...lines...below....This...cause s...your...brain...to...engage...in...a...tug...of ...war...as...it...fights...to...filter...and...ig nore...the...noise....The...result...is...slower.. .reading...speeds...and...decreased...comprehensio n....The...company...has...developed...a...product ...that...automatically...re-formats...text...in.. .a...way...that...your...brain...can...more...easi ly...comprehend.

Wow. (2, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083179)

I guess there really is something to be said for haphazard scrawling of random broken sentences which trail annoyingly around the page.

It looks like there are quite a few Vogon-poetry hopefuls in sororities and coffeehouses to whom I owe an apology!

Great for... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083181)

online advertisting! If you thought an article spanning 10 pages was bad, wait till they become 40-50.

FAQs (3, Insightful)

Therlin (126989) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083195)

Of course their FAQs [liveink.com] are not posted in that format.

Re:FAQs (1)

Dolmangar (601769) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083717)

No one seems to have mentioned anything about security and privacy. From reading their FAQ:

"I closed ClipRead, and when I re-opened it, it showed the last thing I had submitted. Are you saving a copy of the text I submit?

No. ClipRead takes whatever is on your virtual Clipboard, and submits it to our parsers. Anytime you highlight and copy something, it is saved to your Clipboard, and it will remain there until you highlight and copy something else."

The key being that "and submits to our parsers". The way I understood their information you have to copy and send the text to them. Which means that they read everything that you read. Seems a little scary to me and my tin foil hat.

what we're used to (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083197)

I wonder if this really does help us in the long run. We're so used to reading blocks of text that any other form of text may well confuse us. After all if you're left handed for 20 years using your right hand to do the same task is very disorientating.

The example picture is also manipulated unfairly. It has colour changes in the text, which unfairly breaks the smaller blocks of text up, where as the single block is confusing because it is clearly not ment to be read in such a way. It is written like a children's book and so it has short 3-6 word phrases put together. Which does not make for a nice long readable sentence like the (mispelled) non-sense I am putting here.

Re:what we're used to (1)

tppublic (899574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083741)

It is written like a children's book and so it has short 3-6 word phrases put together. Which does not make for a nice long readable sentence like the (mispelled) non-sense I am putting here.

Good writing mixes long and short sentences, because writing entirely composed of long sentences can be hard to read. I actually think the point you are trying to make is similar to what others are also highlighting. AKAImBatman makes the point about emphasis [slashdot.org], which can be established in text by altering the meter of the sentences. The new format destroys this information. By using color changes and formatting to increase reading speed, the emphasis may be changed from communicating information to communicating data.


The paragraph I wrote above is crafted to bring attention to the short sentence: "The new format destroys this information". In fact, that's all I really want people to remember - the rest is for context. Certainly, the message isn't as strong as it could be (I'm writing this in a matter of minutes, not revising over the course of hours), but the meter creates the emphasis. Given the use of color and formatting to convert longer phrases into short blocks (thus eliminating meter), I am curious how well that summary message would be transferred if my paragraph were reformatted in the "Live Ink" layout.

compression (1)

0xDAVE (770415) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083227)

Block text may not be the optimal layout for readability but it certainly better for use of space. Is the cost of reduced readability worth it for the space compression achieved? I personally highlight bits while I'm reading, it helps me focus and read quickly anyway. I suppose it will be useful in advertising...

This is great... (4, Funny)

pointbeing (701902) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083233)

The company has developed a product that automatically re-formats text in a way that your brain can more easily comprehend.
Pictures of Japanese schoolgirls?

Damn (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083273)

This sounds like my (abandoned) Masters thesis.


I was working in the realm of CHI, and had come up with the concept that whatever you're looking at *now* is most important, so I had come up with the concept of "bifocal text windows", where you had a bifocal effect, making a part of the text larger.

Re:Damn (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083447)

This sounds like my (abandoned) Masters thesis.

That's a shame.


Had you stuck with it you could have been on /.

Ode to a Filter (2, Funny)

adamjaskie (310474) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083285)

I try to forrmat my writing In a way that is easy to read. But Slashdot has Lameness filtering That makes it difficult indeed.

Re:Ode to a Filter (4, Funny)

adamjaskie (310474) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083337)

I try to forrmat my writing
In a way that is easy to read.
But Slashdot has Lameness filtering
That makes it difficult indeed.

The preview button yells to me
"Use me! Use me!" I hear it shout.
Alas, my naughty fingers flee
A bit to the left; I've lost this bout.

Paper vs. Screen (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083293)

I always found that my main problem is that reading from paper is STILL better than the light from a computer screen. My eyes get less tired, and I can focus better on what I am able to do. I wonder what the challenge is to create a computer screen that does a better job at simulating the reflected??(I Am Not a Physics Major)light from paper rather than the self-generated light from a computer screen.

Alas, I can't print out everything I need to read, as that would take too dang long and build up this stack o shredding material I have let lay too long.

Ever read poetry? (2, Insightful)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083299)

In poetry, this sort of formatting is common. But the formatting implies emphasis, inflection, and so on. All of the readers know this, consciously or not. So their perception of what the text says will be different. Block text adds little emphasis (although short paragraphs convey faster action).

Also, while it is true that people stumble on the text above or below a line, this effect can be helpful if you're skimming. It would be a pain to skim a ten (block paragraph) page of text in this poetry format. Not only would there be a lot more scrolling, but you can't just "image" a paragraph at a time to find the piece you're looking for. I'll admit, the modern way of formatting text may not be the best, but it is so entrained that'd be tough to change without all sorts of unintended consequences.

Biased images? Nahhh.... (4, Informative)

Carik (205890) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083333)

First impressions when looking at the image that accompanies this article:
1) The block text version is actually blurred. Compare the initial "M" from each side... there's a major difference in clarity of the image.
2) I find the "clear" version nearly impossible to read. It's a bit too randomly coloured and formatted.
3) The people who did this research are idiots.

OK, so two of the three are subjective. But I'm pretty certain about the first, and I think the third is pretty likely.

Add in the points other people have mentioned -- long scroll times, loss of standard formatting tricks to convey meaning -- and this all starts looking pretty useless to me.

Not surprising to me (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083343)

I've known for years that I could parse well-written code faster than the equivalent English.

Blocking 2 lines above and 2 below (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083417)

Ok, here is my Book Text Mark [mozdev.org] extension, it is used to mark a line where you are reading, so you can scroll to that line later or navigate to it through a supplied menu, you can even navigate to the page with a mark through the supplied menu. The mark itself can be dragged on the screen with the mouse pointer and the mark is not transparent, it will block a line of text. However I am going provide a choice in the next version to select different types of mark, I so making one that blocks 2 lines above and 2 lines below, while leaving 1 line that can be read in between should be doable. Would that help our 'primitive' brains to read better?

umm... leading? (1)

frazamatazzle (783144) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083425)

I don't see anything new in the findings about block text. Tweaking leading, done since Gutenberg, has always been a response to this well known issue. Live ink seems to remove the coherency of the text in my opinion. I'm gonna stick with Johannes.

Looks strangely familiar... (4, Funny)

shadowspar (59136) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083465)

seeing the article
text, strangely familiar
where have I seen it?

the light bulb goes on
a haiku generator
can it truly be?

Actually I understand this (1)

DCheesi (150068) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083511)

I've always been a slow reader,
  and what they're describing is a big part of my problem.

When I read,
  I can only focus on two or three words at a time,
  and I have to scan across to read a whole line.

I've always been amazed
  at people who claim that they can read a whole line at a time
  without scanning,
  even if it's just a narrow newspaper column.

And the succession of undifferentiated lines in standard block text
  makes it easy to lose one's place and have to back up a line.

So this idea makes a lot of sense to me.

Too bad it's so inefficient in terms of space.

But see, wasn't this easier?

E-Paper (1)

tecker (793737) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083563)

With E-paper and eBooks this could be really helpful. I have mild dyslexia and so does my dad. I learned a trick from him is to take a blank 4x6 notecard and run it below the line of text I'm reading. This helps a great deal with eye drift and comprehension.

If there was a way to do this with the new digital formats then waste will not be an issue.

Maybe it's just me... (1)

AndOne (815855) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083585)

but I find their solution harder to read. Too much white space, too much jumping around. Maybe I've just managed to train myself on block text by reading hundreds of novels since I was 10. Either way this is a terrible idea simply cause the information density sucks. Maybe if they threw in pictures of psychadelic kittens and badgers or something...

I think he has a point..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083605)

The text is easier to read. But the ideas transmitted are simple.

Let's see how this technique looks on the first page of Husserl's 'On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time'.

And another thing - our neurons are probably optimised for line translation now, so the advantage gained would not be particularly great.

Simple answer - just paragraph your writing appropriately!

700 Words Per Minute (3, Interesting)

rrhal (88665) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083623)

My uncle could read 700 words per minute. He would look a section of a page and grab part of 3 or 4 lines at once. He brain would be putting the lines back together while he was scaning the next section. He always read that way. He was a farmer - he almost no time for reading in the summer but long stretches in the winter. He could easily read over 100 books in that time.

In other words the effect that this process is fighting can be used to read much faster than most of us do. I can't do it for more than a few minutes but if you trained early enough or hard enough I think you could get there.

Anyone find it Slower? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083631)

I must admit, I found it slower to read, mainly because it's spaced out. I tend to read chunks of words in one go as I scan a line - they've tried to imitate this by breaking the text into chunks, but I found it more difficult to read my usual way as the chunks are often a different size to what I would see in one glance. This will probably change as it's hard to just abandon 25 years of reading habits in a few minutes, but on the whole their chunk is going to be smaller than my normal size. The colour coding was distracting as my eye moved to those words and not where my eye would naturally fall when reading the chunk, which meant I often had to glance twice at the chunk to read it.

Interesting idea and they're sort of along the right lines, but I'm not sure how they will be able to tailor this to everyone's reading patterns. For me, it slower and more distracting to read that usual text.

Old News (1)

asphaltjesus (978804) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083635)

I was lucky enough 25 years ago to go to an optometrist who specialized in learning therapy and explained reading to me this way. His program definitely made a massive improvement in my ability to learn and was primarily responsible for me (eventually) going to college.

This is really old news in the neglected educational development communities. No surprise though given the broad and deep benign neglect for public education.

Haiku anybody? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083663)

It seems to me that they have made a tool useful for composition of haiku poems.

But is it really efficient when reading fiction? The difference between reading fiction and reading a fact book is the flow of reading. In a fiction story the reader can make different picks and speed through some parts and concentrate on other parts without losing the story. In fact books each sentence is there for a reason. (sorry fiction-writers, that's the reality biting).

Anyway this doesn't mean that the parts that one fiction reader skips is what another reader will skip and each person has his/her own view of what the scenery is, so keep on writing the backfill anyway.

Someone Please Write a CSS + JavaScript script... (1)

littlewink (996298) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083713)

to do this to a web page or paragraph, please. So I can trigger and reformat a web page. Maybe a dynamic CSS + JavaScript would do it?

Doesn't look too hard to get close to their model.

Finally (1)

esobofh (138133) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083745)

It's always pissed me off how text is always mixed up, backwards and flashing weird colours. Oh wait.. is that just me?

Above and below the line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19083763)

"The company has developed a product that automatically re-formats text in a way that your brain can more easily comprehend."

Let me present DoubleSpacing(TM) ...

This would make an excellent teaching aid (2, Interesting)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083773)

At work, I deal with the software used to help kids who are struggling with reading a lot. Presently, all it does is give them a section of text, let them listen to recorded readings of it, and then have them try to emulate what they heard. It does work for a lot of kids, but it's slow going.

What I see in this new method of formatting is that the sentences are being being broken up very similar to how their natural spoken rhythm would flow, making it much easier for a struggling student to read aloud. It shouldn't be a crutch, but I can picture a kid being shown the entire written text, and then this version of it. Have the kid read the Live Ink version aloud into a microphone and play back the recording for him to hear how it sounds, then try to do that with the "normal" text.

This could really be something huge for education. I'm about to go talk to our special programs director about it, this looks like it could be very useful.

Sign of an Aliterate Society (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083779)

This sort of thing will come up more and more as western civ. slowly loses its ability to read. Already we have instructions created in diagram-only formats and even simple declaritive signs are reduced to symbols for "conprehension".

This is not to say that our schools are doing a bad job teaching reading or I.Q.s are dropping, but fewer and fewer people take the time to really read anything longer than a magazine article or a blog.

You may bash me when ready.

Prior (literary) art (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 6 years ago | (#19083787)

I seem to recall an old typographer's rule of thumb that a line of text should contain no more than 60 characters, including spaces. consequently, large folio volumes--like Gutenberg's 42-line Bible-- were printed in two columns, with hanging hyphens, and are surprisingly readable, despite the very dense Rhenish blackletter typeface.

I wonder how much of this research is language-dependent, though. In languages like German (and Latin) verbs often come at the end of a sentence. Line-breaking as shown on the site might make each word literally more legible, but it will also introduce a great deal more ambiguity and doubt grammatically.

On an unrelated note, the "poetic" form of the "new" formatting rules reminds me of the work of William Carlos Williams [poetryfeast.com]. Filipino poet Jose Garcia Villa [webmanila.com] produced a series of poems that reformatted news articles and the like. And Jorge Luis Borges [wikipedia.org] was also fond of re-formatting existing prose into poetical form (and, occasionally, condensing blocks of prose into dense "prose poems".)

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