- Internet & the Web
Summly App for iPhone Saves Search Time
Nick D'Aloisio and Summly test new iPhone App
Now a generation of young people are growing up not remembering a time without Facebook, Twitter, and mobile information access, we can expect the digital information age to speed up even more. The more easily we access information, the longer it takes us to sort it all, and we still only have 24 hours a day and many things to do besides watch the computer screen. Does it ever make you want to throw the device through the window and perhaps even long for the old days of pens, papers, typewriters, erasable bond paper and carbon copies?
But wait! We don't need to be Luddites to find more time for quiet downtime to meditate, muse, imagine, or pursue activities that really increase productivity and quality of life.
in his bedroom at home in South London, 16-year-old Nick D’Aloisio has come up with a solution that thousands of people already love. His Summly iPhone app almost instantly condenses content of web pages and search results into simple, three or four paragraph summaries. Download Summly app here.
His idea for Summly iPhone app came while reviewing for a history test last June, 2011, when he noticed how long he was spending with articles that came up in search engine results Google or Safari searches. This was distracting, because often the sites were long, or in fact interesting, but not the main point, so with an eye to his deadline, he knew he was wasting time.
He had some experience designing apps from playing around with his Macbook, which he had received at age nine. His earlier experiments developed apps to share music and interpret moods on Facebook posts, which taught him the technical tools he needed to work with algorithms, the basis for his current idea. In a September, 2011 interview with Forbes staff writer Parmy Olsen, Nick D’Aloisio explains how his linguistic experience from studying Mandarin and French in high school gave him the sense of how to use keywords to summarize text and set parameters on language. Building on that, he used technical information culled from Apple’s SDK, and from books like Steven Kochan’s Programming in Objective C, to learn programming basics, and Erica Sadun’s iPhone Developer’s Cookbook, to understand how to work with the iPhone interface. From this course of independent research, he developed an algorithm that uses a method of genetic programming to “train” itself to summarize text like the way a human language speaker would. This was the first iteration of his app, which he called Trimit.
Six months ago, his earlier app TrimIt, the first version of Summly, had 100,000 downloads, reports journalist Om Malik in his Dec 13 interview with D’Aloisio . TrimIt clearly found a niche with people who, like D’Aloisio, agree that current information searches are inefficient time-wasters and foes of productivity. These results had been noticed by Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong billionaire and one of the world’s wealthiest people. Ka-Shing controls private equity investment firm Horizon Ventures, which had previously invested in Skype, Facebook, Spotify and Waze.
Horizon Ventures invested $250,000 seed capital in his app and www.summly.com was up and running.
It is available from iTunes to download for free onto your IPhone. Its current design can summarize search engine results, or users can cut and paste a URL from Twitter or other social media function, then ask for a summary. It works not only on content in English, but also in many other languages.
Summly search engine simplifies web content
Nick D'Aloisio is 16 years old and still working hard in high school. This articulate, mannerly youth has many life interests in sports, social life and his academic work, apart from his computer interests. His parents are a lawyer and an investment banker and the family lives in South London.
He is taking a leave from school in January 2012 to meet with backers in San Francisco, work on the app to refine and develop it further. In a BBC Interview with Jane Wakefield he suggests Summly’s ability to quickly distill information has potential for simplifying information-sharing on Twitter and Facebook, as well as for summarizing e-books and emails (Wakefield, 2011). It can condense reference pages, news articles and reviews and is targeted for those of us with pressured schedules who get our news in five minute bullets in breaks between other duties.
The Summly app in less than a minute converts the longer texts into three or five short paragraphs like bullet points. Unlike Google Instant Preview, which offers an image of the page, the Summly app gives a summarized content preview so researchers can decide which sites or news stories are worth the time it takes to turn for more details to the original site. Despite Summly's convenience, there are some legitimate concerns that its process may involve unfair and uncompensated use of other web writers' content. Publishers and webmasters who suspect there may be Digital Millenium Copyright Act infringements here and wish to protect their content from applications like Summly that profit from other writer's work and may result in loss of traffic to sites can learn more about ypraise.com's incipient Summly action group for publishers.
Summly launched in mid-December and in the first week was downloaded 30,000 times. At last, here may be a practical way to use artificial intelligence to manage information overload, and leave the humans time to slowly eat, sleep, play and converse with each other again.