British teenage designer of Summly app hits jackpot

I’m not sure Nick D’Aloisio has “hit the jackpot” but he’s come up with an interesting app for iOS devices. He built it to speed up his own use of the web for study and research. The BBC piece is mostly focused on the fact that he’s young and has built a potentially useful app that’s gotten quite popular and gotten him some venture backing to build out the project.

Summly crunches the content of a web page and offers it up in more easily scanned form: it makes shorter executive summaries of web pages.

The app uses an algorithm to recognise what category of information a webpage contains by using “ontological detection” to identify its nature which in turn determines which set of instructions should be used to provide a consolidated summary of its text.

Or to Summlyfy this in Mr D’Aloisio’s own words: “It can detect different genres or topics of webpages and apply a specific set of metrics to them.”

So, for example, an article categorised as business news would trigger a different set of summary guidelines than those applied to a lifestyle feature.

The interesting question is whether using something like this will lead to better and deeper reading and research (one eventually ought to read the articles it summarizes) or even shallower research because of a scanned headline. I really like the fact that he’s experimenting with trying to make a process that’s cumbersome less so, but it may be that real learning requires the inefficiencies (and slowness) of the (old) study process.

I’m going to give it a try (it’s free). Let me know if you do too: Summly in iTunes Store.

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