Attention spans are short these days, and some might even say the Web isn’t helping this phenomenon. Regardless, time is money, and people are ever-looking for more useful ways to maximize what time they have. Many have little tolerance (or time) for long-form digital content, and we’re seeing the proliferation of the “tl;dr” (too long; didn’t read) mentality as it sweeps the Internet nation. And, for those addicted to Twitter, content that comes in 140 character chunks is the norm, if not the preferred way, to express something shorthand. (Other than emoticons, of course.)
Enter the Trimit time-saver: Trimit is a 0.99-cent app for iOS that allows you to condense content into 1,000, 500, or 140-character summaries. Essentially, Trimit is a text auto summarizer designed to fit all those things you’re reading on a mobile device into concise synopses and share those over SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter in .txt form — all with a few clicks.
And this is pretty nifty feature: Trimit can summarize your text just by shaking your device — like the opposite of mobile boggle. No longer will your friends have to scan through your wordy Facebook status updates about your cats; just shake your phone to condense all those emotions into 140 characters. Apparently Apple likes the idea, too, as it just featured Trimit in the app store and mentioned it on Twitter.
Today, Trimit is also announcing a bookmarklet for the Web, (which is currently in beta and will be available for download within the week) so that you can get all the benefits of the app on your browser, too. For both web and mobile, text can be directly imported from any URL right from within the app using Trimit’s HTML parsing secret sauce.
The bookmarklet has many of the same sharing features as mobile, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as URL sharing with a shorter summary to Delicious, Digg, Stumbleupon, Reddit, and more. You can print and save as a .txt file, sync with your computer, and import files from other devices to get at that summarizin’.
Trimit Founder Nick D’Aloisio, a 15-year-old Australian transplanted to London, said that he, like me, can sometimes be a bit of a waffler, which is where the inspiration for Trimit comes from. And now, through his team’s app and bookmarklet, he’s bringing pithiness to articles and blogs, to email, text, and Tweet composition, and to the transferral of desktop documents to mobile. (Trimit would have been a huge help for those poor souls who had to read my thesis in college.)
In the spirit of text summarizing, I should cut it off here. But readers may be curious as to how the auto summary works, and to that end, whether it works well or not. D’Aloisio was willing to share some of the juice behind the app, so here’s a peek. If you’re a words dork like myself, you may just like this.
The algorithm uses a process of “extraction” to create a summary of the text to one of the three specified lengths. Without completely revealing the secret sauce, the algorithm scans the text using a precise keyword search to find prominent topics within its content. It disregards general words and fillers, like articles and linking words (“but”, “and”, “when”) and gives words and phrases that are signals of importance, like time and/or place adverbials (the where’s and when’s, like “in California”, for example) greater weight.
Trimit also uses what is called “verb stemming”, which allow particular verbs in different conjugations to still be counted by the algorithm, like “speak” versus “spoke”, for example. This makes sure that past conjugations stay that way and don’t somehow pop into the future. The algorithm counts the occurrence of key phrases as well, taking into account the position of those phrases in the passage, so that they remain in order when summarizing.
And though linking words are often dismissed, contradictory conjunctions like “however” are given more weight because they often are included in overviews, just as facts, figures and quotes are valued higher as well. As you may have guessed, it all works on a points-based ranking system, and the words and phrases that are ranked highest, show up in the summary.
I’ll leave it at that, but you can learn more about Trimit in the video below. The Trimit team is currently in the process of raising a seed round.