An ironic blog

Written on June 23, 2009 by
blog, memes

Since the first days of the internet abbreviations have been embraced and encouraged. I’m not sure how it got started, and because I’m refusing to do any real research on this I’m going to relay personal experiences and declare my words as fact.

Early on in the heyday of AOL, I (as a young lad of 10 or 11) would enter a chat room to foster relationships with complete strangers. Now the internet was young at this point and as you met people you would ask a lot of the same questions over and over again. This led to one of the most honored of chatting rituals: “ASL?”

ASL, for the uninitiated, stands for “age, sex, and location?” Nowadays you couldn’t trust that information to be factual in any way shape or form, but in an earlier time you knew that men were men, women were women and 14-year-olds that start conversations with complete strangers and provide way to much information were Chris Hansen. Ahh, it was a simpler time.

At any rate, the internet embraced the acronym. In fact, I remember playing a game known as Acrophobia, a game based around fitting words to random letters, and everyone getting excited when letters came up that internet acronyms already existed for. It became a key piece of the culture of the internet, to know this secret language.

One abreviation that borders on being a meme is “tl;dr”, or “too long; didn’t read”.


Undoubtedly, if you ever browse comments on news sites or blogs you’ve seen this acronym. Perhaps you’ve wondered what it means? Well I can definitively tell you it’s implied meaning is “the internet has made me too dumb/impatient to read something that can’t be compressed down to a 5 second sound byte.” But let’s break it down a bit further.

First, what qualifies as too long? Is it some defined word count? A number of sentences? Paragraphs? Is font size taken into account? I would like to argue that it is determined by a formula that depends on several variables. Let’s assume that the average person reads 250 words per minute (did that count as research?) and the average attention span is 15 minutes. Using this figure we could easily figure out how many words something would have to be before someone would consider it too long.

However, we’re talking about the internet. In the sub-culture that has formed within its incorporeal mass most people have been conditioned to receive instant gratification. Type a URL, see a website. Click a link, look at a funny picture of a cat (see above). Open the video attached to an email, hate Rick Astley just a little more. So with this spirit in mind let’s shorten that attention span to 5 minutes. (Also this brings us to the “didn’t read” portion of tl;dr, anyone who uses a contraction in an acronym while typing is clearly too busy for LIFE).

With all that in mind some simple math leads us to a 1,250 word article being too long, right? Wrong! Clearly we’ve forgotten to add in the variables that will shorten this even further. Here is a list of modifiers to the average word count that we’ve arrived at. For instance, if you are at work you multiply 1,250 by .25 to arrive at an acceptable word count of 312.5. Then take into account that you’re at work and on an hour long lunch break. So you have 1,250 multiplied by .25 plus 100 for a total of 412.5 words.

Working: .25
Actually Working: .1
Actually working and not lying about it: .01
Day off: .5 (you’ve still got better stuff to do!)
You’re a grammar nazi: 5 

(while working) taking a break: 25 words per every 15 minutes the break lasts
Tired: -100 words
Super tired: -500 words
Working on a paper for school: -1000

Sure it’s a lot of variables to deal with, but it’s math! And math doesn’t lie! It just gets slanted.

Feel free to add modifiers in the comments




1 Comment

One Response

  1. Britney Spears  •  June 24, 2009 @7:11 pm

    That was the most confusing thing I have ever read in my life. Even my lyrics make more sense than that…