Broken Resolutions

Since the New Year, I’ve been thinking of ways to improve my life. Many people aspire to improve themselves so that they can tackle this challenging world they live in. Surely you must be guilty of this too. Have you ever resolved to lose weight, spend more time with family, get out of debt, or travel more? These promises are commonly broken the moment they’re spoken.

Millions of people fixate on trying to solve these problems. But, what if there was a way to help all individuals achieve their resolutions? That is, instead of augmenting our will to succeed, can we make the task less difficult?

Dumb It Down

How would this even work? Let’s take an example of a typical resolution that has been challenging in the past, but no more: Keeping In Touch. Eons ago, this required you to travel to see someone. Then came written word and the post. Then the telephone. And finally, the digital age of cell phones and Facebook. Staying in contact is no longer a technological challenge, but a social one, at most governed by an individual’s desires. The barrier to entry and sustaining has been dramatically lowered.

Resolution: Reading More

Something similar is happening with reading. The Internet, cell phones, and e-books have made literature a lot more accessible. No longer do you have to visit a library or subscribe to a newspaper to stay up to date. Yet, it’s still a common resolution to read more. Is there anything we can do to make text more readable?

Dumbing It Down

Let’s assert that there are two main reasons that people read. To be entertained. And, to be informed. In the case of entertainment, there really isn’t anything that can be done. The author presumably pored over each chapter, paragraph, sentence, and word to provide maximum entertainment value. They went with adjectives like blithely instead of happily to provide more depth and character to a piece.

For the sake of information, oh boy, that’s a whole ‘nother ball game! What are some of the things that can be done to make something an easier and quicker read?

  • replace difficult words with simple words (e.g. sullen -> upset)
  • remove repetitive sentences
  • summarize the information

With this in mind, I’ve decided to write a bookmarklet to perform this processing. It’s a work in progress, but I do welcome feedback and suggestions.