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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
By Paul Ford
This morning Anil Dash and Marco Arment published blog posts that detail why they've agreed to become advisors to Readability, a service created by Arc90, based on Arc90's Readability toolkit. Both posts do an admirable job explaining the service.
Readability both re-formats long-form editorial for easier reading (especially on mobile devices) and makes it easy to pay content creators. It's the combination of these two functions that makes it worthy of close study.
Here's why it's interesting, in video form:
And here's why it's interesting to me, in a few paragraphs: Readability seeks to strike a balance between the needs of readers, writers, and publishers. The current situation, where reader experience is in opposition to publisher needs, all so that advertisers can have their day, is painful at best.
While publishers are hashing out how to survive, a passionate community of people dedicated to long-form writing is emerging—people who use tools like Instapaper or the (old) Readability, and the patrons of Longreads.com, Longform.org, and other journalism aggregators.
There's a lot of creativity here, and a real opportunity for everyone to meet and work together to a common goal. Anything that seeks to dig us out of the current model, especially a company that hopes to make a profit doing so, is worthy of attention—as long as, like Readability, it shares that profit with the people who do the publishing in a totally transparent way. (Goods and services, exchanged for money—it's worked before, and it can work again.)
I'm 36 now, and I've been writing for the web since I was 21. I've written for other media, but this right here is my medium of choice and I love it the most, even if I've been pretty lousy at updating Ftrain over the last few years.
In those 15 years I've learned that the web has countless ways to say “no,” or to say “meh.” It has fewer ways to say “yes.” Readability looks like a way to say “yes” to people doing hard work—whether they're journalists, essay and fiction writers, publishers, editors, fact-checkers, illustrators, photographers, proofreaders, circulation specialists—or the people who write the checks. The web needs more “yes.” That is why I've thrown my hat into the ring.