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The Old Reader Adds Speed Reading Tech from Spritz

Spritz 3027008-inline-56tvouk[1]has been wowing many bloggers and pundits with glimpses at their new take on an established speed reading technology, but it wasn’t until today that anyone could make real use of it.

The Old Reader announced on their blog on Thursday that they had added a new reading option. This news reader service has partnered with Spritz to enable their users to quickly read blog posts and news articles.

The new reading option requires a free Spritz account, and it is available to both The Old Reader’s free and paying users. Users will need to enable the option from the settings menu, and then open a post and press I. This will bring up a popup with either the Spritz window or a prompt to create a Spritz account.

It will look something like this in use:

spritz the old reader

So far as I know, this is the first widespread practical example of the tech (the static demo with Oyster notwithstanding). I had asked Spritz to point me at other apps or services that make use of Spritz’s tech and they were unable to do so.

As you may know, the Spritz tech is based on an old idea called rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). It works by flashing a single word in front of you at a time, at speeds ranging from 250 wpm to 600 wpm. RSVP been around since the 1970s, and it has seen mixed results.

For example, it’s quite easy for readers to miss vital information, and studies have shown that a reader’s ability to retain and comprehend what they’re reading drops as their reading speed increases. In fact, new research is showing that backward glances (saccades) over already read text may be the key to comprehension:

All of this suggests that, although saccades may not make for the most efficient means of ingesting words, they’re often critical for the comprehension of sentences. And as the length and complexity of an article or book increases, the number of places where comprehension can go awry grows accordingly. "Removing eye movements from the reading process is precisely the fatal flaw in such speed-reading apps and the reason why they will not be useful for reading any text that is not extremely easy or short," the authors conclude.

That research is based on a study with only 40 test subjects, so I don’t know how much weight it should get.

But I do know I’m not planning to use Spritz again. I signed up for a The Old Reader account just to try Spritz, and after about a minute I decided I don’t like it. I’m too afraid to blink, look away, or fidget in fear of missing a key word.

That forced concentration just won’t work for me; even a moment’s distraction might make me lose my place.

But that’s just me; what do you think of it?

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Thomas May 15, 2014 um 3:32 pm

The sample is the corner gives me a headache to look at it.

Valentine May 15, 2014 um 3:50 pm

That’s what I like about reading. Data at your own pace.

I can’t even stand videos anymore, I’d rather look at the transcripts, gloss over uninteresting parts and reread the important ones.

Nate Hoffelder May 15, 2014 um 4:04 pm

This is why I do not like podcasts or audiobooks.

I can watch videos just fine, but then again I don’t try to use them as sources of information. They’re just entertainment.

Nate Hoffelder May 21, 2014 um 8:10 pm

I tried the feature in The Old Reader and it started to give me a headache, too.

lead August 5, 2014 um 7:58 pm

There is no way to read fast if you can’t concentrate.

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