Trapped by TL;DR

via Seth Godin

TL;DR is internet talk for “too long; didn’t read”. It’s also a sad, dangerous symptom of the malfunctions caused by the internet tsunami. (Here’s a most ironic example of this paradox…)

The triathlete doesn’t look for the coldest bottle of water as she jogs by… she wants it fast and now. That mindset, of focusing merely on what’s fast, is now a common reaction to many online options. I think it works great for runners, not so well for learners.

There’s a checklist, punchline mentality that’s dangerous and easy to adopt. Enough with the build up, wrap this up, let me check it off, categorize it and quickly get to the next thing… c’mon, c’mon, too late, TL;DR…

Let’s agree on two things:

1. There are thousands of times as many things available to read as there were a decade ago. It’s possible that in fact there are millions as many.

2. Now that everyone can write, publish, email you stuff and generally make noise, everyone might and many people already are.

As a result, there’s too much noise, too much poorly written, overly written, defensively written and generally useless stuff cluttering your life.

When we had trusted curators it was easy. We read what we were supposed to read, we read what we trusted, regardless of how long it was, because the curator was taking a risk and promising us it was worth it. No longer. Now, it’s up to us.

One option is to read incisively, curate, edit, choose your sources carefully. Limit the inbound to what’s important, not what’s shiny or urgent or silly.

The other option is to assume that you already know what you need to know, and refuse to read anything deeply. Hide behind clever acronyms, flit from viral topic to flame war, never actually diving in. It appears that this is far more common than ever before.

Here’s what I’ve found: When I read in checklist mode, I learn almost nothing. It’s easy to cherry pick the amusing or the merely short, but it’s a quick thrill with very little to show for it.

Judging by length is foolish. TL;DR shows self-contempt, because you’re ignoring the useful in exchange for the short or the amusing. The media has responded to our demand by giving us a rising tide of ever shorter, ever more amusing wastes of time. Short lowers the bar, but it also makes it hard to deliver much.

Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)

Perhaps a new acronym: NW;DR (not worthwhile; didn’t read) makes more sense. We’ve got plenty to choose from, but what we need is content that’s worth the effort.