A distressing acronym came to my attention the other day. According to multiple sources on the internet, it has been in use for about as long as the internet has been around. It’s TLDR (also TL;DR). And I don’t like it!
When it comes to slang, Urban Dictionary is considered the equivalent of the OED, so I consulted them and their #1 definition for TLDR is:
A generic, and sometimes humorous, reply to someone who took way too much time describing something, while the description would’ve been sufficiently clear and complete with less words.
I learned from other online “scholars” that TLDR is used mostly in discussion forums, especially very opinionated ones, where people don’t feel like reading the entire thread. It can also work as a suggestion that the writer(s) consider abbreviating their writing. OMG! TLDR! 🙁
Now, I, as much as anyone, appreciate the art of compressing detail by storytellers and writers. But TLDR worries me. We do not need any more encouragement to read less. As Steve Jobs lamented back in 2008:
It doesn’t matter how good or bad a product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. 40% of people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.
While this buttresses my belief that I was smart not to become a novelist (lack of talent notwithstanding), Jobs’ point is underlined everywhere I look. When I was a copywriter, the debate was over putting long copy in print ads. The overwhelming opinion was that people don’t read the body copy in ads. Which I could, and still can, accept. They’re ads! But books, articles, even blogs, can deliver some fairly important information. Are we, as a culture, comfortable with encouraging the demise of reading?
I’m probably being a smidgen overly dramatic, and definitely already testing the TLDR premise. There are signs that some folks not only enjoy reading, they enjoy reading longer content. And there are also continual sings that reading blogs can be very rewarding.
Take, for example, longform.org. It’s a very popular site that contains curated long-form content. According to its co-founder, Max Linsky, in an interview with Audie Cornish on NPR, the site was created to help people find the best long-form content on the web. And, keenly understanding how more and more people are reading content, they designed their site so it could be easy to read on a phone or tablet.
We, at LawLytics, are huge proponents of designing websites with responsive technology. And using responsive technology so long-form content is easier to read on a phone or tablet is very smart. Still, there’s no denying that the masses want their web content short and sweet (or vicious, titillating, humorous, disgusting…).
So, if you, the reader, have made it this far without throwing the TLDR flag, I will give you a nice little reward. In it is an example of why it’s important to keep blogging in a world of less readers. It’s important because we can discover some very important, even inspiring writings. Reading leads to discoveries, like a terrific little blog I came across called herculesandtheumpire.com.
“Hercules And The Umpire” is a blog created by the Honorable Richard George Kopf, Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska. He writes about what it’s like to be a federal trial judge on a day-to-day basis. His writings are fantastic, especially considering he’s a District Court Judge. And they’re fantastic because they are so brutally honest. Case in point, a post on August 8, wherein he admitted to having had “terrible sentencing instincts” when he sentenced a man to 147 months in federal prison.
From Judge Kopf’s blog:
“Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck. When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison. My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk – all mouth, and very little else. My viscera was wrong.”
Shon Hopwood, went on to become a “jailhouse lawyer”. While in prison, he wrote appeals for many of his fellow prisoners. One of his briefs, a petition for certiorari, was granted review by the United States Supreme Court. No small feat. Now, Hopwood has served his time and is a law student at the University of Washington School of Law. On top of that, he has been hired as a law clerk for Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He has also written a book, “Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption”.
Hopwood’s story is remarkable. NPR did a piece on it. Understandably, the story is going viral. And I would’ve never found it had I not been engaging in my daily reading of blogs and reading them to the end. And I wouldn’t have found it if it had never been written by Judge Kopf.
Just because Marshall Mcluhan predicted books would someday become simply art objects, doesn’t mean people are destined to stop reading. Lawyers who blog can take inspiration from Judge Kopf’s candor and story of Shon Hopwood. And the effort made to share the story.
I try my best to keep my posts short. I respect that readers have limited time, and unlimited amount of material to peruse. But I refuse to believe people don’t read anymore. And while I’m sure many folks may balk at reading long blog posts, As far as I’m concerned, TLDR be damned!