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Faster. Faster. FASTER!
October 19, 2009 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Spreeder is a free speed-reading training tool. Paste in your desired text, tell it how many words per minute, and hit play.

The basic principles at play in speed reading are (a) "chunk" text into groups of multiple words and teach yourself to absorb each of those chunks as a unit instead of individual words, and (b) quit vocalizing words in your head as you read them. (There, I just saved you hundreds of dollars on books and courses.)

A few ideas for things to paste into the app.
posted by jbickers (47 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
And please, please, don't turn this thread into a "Reading should be done slowly and savored!" rant. I agree, but the app is genuinely helpful for people who have to get through a lot of business reading, for instance. It's a valuable skill to possess.
posted by jbickers at 12:42 PM on October 19, 2009


I used to have this on my Cybiko and on Windows. Indeed, I could read much faster with it than on paper, but I couldn't do it for longer than 5-10 minutes without my eyes getting tired. Speed-reading with the necessary breaks seemed to be a wash with reading the normal way.

That's not to say I don't wish I could speed read. I read more than most people I know, but never really got past reading-aloud speed.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:55 PM on October 19, 2009


what the hell is this, reading souhld be slow and savory
posted by Greg Nog at 12:56 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


what the hell is this, reading souhld be slow and savory

Typing, though, could be outsourced to chimps.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:02 PM on October 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


Thanks to this site, I know now that 300 wpm seems to be as fast I read when I read quickly. But a lot of the time, if it's a good story, I'll slow it down a bit.
posted by grubi at 1:09 PM on October 19, 2009


That was a terrible experience.
posted by HumanComplex at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2009


I personally like my reading hot, fast and sweaty. And a sandwich afterwards, maybe?

/1200 wpm, 6 words per chunk was too slow. I self-taught myself how to speed-read at age 5 and it took me another 10 years to figure out that other people generally don't read like that.
posted by Aquaman at 1:16 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is so awesome. I just 'read' Infinite Jest in two minutes.
posted by trueluk at 1:16 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


New pony found! Read the askme archives in twenty minutes!
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:20 PM on October 19, 2009


Not many people can speed read effectively after eating a stick of butter. (source)

Goddamn it, don't you tell me what I can and cannot do after eating a stick of butter!
posted by ford and the prefects at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2009 [13 favorites]


Reading should be like love-making: over as quick as possible, unsatisfying for all involved, and followed by a lot of gentle sobbing.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:27 PM on October 19, 2009 [13 favorites]


Reading should be like love-making: over as quick as possible, unsatisfying for all involved, and followed by a lot of gentle sobbing.

Have you ever read Theodore Dreiser?
posted by ford and the prefects at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I can read the word "a" at a speed of approximately 45,000 words a minute.
posted by jeremy b at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder whether I could read faster if the words were presented as a moving "tape" instead of in "chunks?"
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


over as quick as possible, unsatisfying for all involved, and followed by a lot of gentle sobbing.

That's how I felt after I tried to read Harry Potter.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2009


what the hell is this, reading souhld be slow and savory

That's why I always sprinkle my books with MSG.

When I was a little kid sounding (like in kindergarten/1st grade) out words, I remember being told by a teacher that eventually, I would start reading whole words at at time, and I actually started doing that pretty quickly. The result: total inability to spell. If you think I'm bad now you should have seen me in elementary/middle school.

My spelling has actually improved a lot, mainly because of doing tons of writing, and in particular writing into systems with real-time error highlighting, like word and now Firefox.
posted by delmoi at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I read about a thousand words a minute, for non-dense fiction text. I hate the way it chunks, though. Arbitrary chunk sizes suck, and sentence-length chunking is much too small when the sentences are short.

It's a handy way to measure reading speed, though.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 1:40 PM on October 19, 2009


previously-ish
posted by niles at 1:42 PM on October 19, 2009


If you set the speed to 10000 wpm and feed it a dictionary, you can pretend you're Johnny 5 from Short Circuit.

(this has totally made my day.)
posted by Chionophilia at 1:43 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


genuinely helpful for people who have to get through a lot of business reading, for instance.

Business reading must not involve actual comprehension of the material.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2009


Business must not involve actual comprehension.

FTFY.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:47 PM on October 19, 2009


I just ran this thread through it and it was great. This'll make for a lot more time on the blue. Only problem was the [+] kept rolling by too fast and I couldn't click any of them.
posted by barrett caulk at 1:51 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are there any scientific studies that even suggest that speed reading works?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:53 PM on October 19, 2009


When I was younger, I thought speed-reading was the only way to read. It took me years to realize that comprehension is not found in quickness.

That said, when I was like thirteen, I'd read the collected works of Stephen King and Clive Barker, tons of Golden Age science fiction, all the Dragonlance in the library, and other things which I do not remember.

Also, speed-reading allowed me to proclaim victory in the middle school AR contest; I, a chubby sixth-grader, bested the eighth-grade librarian's son (no joke), and received fifty dollars for the mall.
posted by past at 1:54 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


genuinely helpful for people who have to get through a lot of business reading, for instance.

Business reading must not involve actual comprehension of the material.


You could say that business reading contains at least 50% fluff, and you're not missing much, but that would be a hypothesis based on conjecture. When reading under time constraint, "skimming improved memory for important ideas from a text but did not improve memory of less important details or of inferences made from information within the text."

On the flip side, "Speed reading courses which teach techniques that largely constitute skimming of written text also result in a lower comprehension rate (below 50% comprehension on standardized comprehension tests)."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:58 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


tl,dr
posted by longsleeves at 2:17 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I tested in the 99th percentile for reading comprehension (and overall did incredibly well with all the reading and verbal tests) in the more than six hours of diagnostic testing I had to do to determine whether or not I had ADD.

But I also have the working memory of an intelligent goldfish (I put this down to the ADD). This means I can't do mental math, even simple addition, because the numbers in the equation disappear before I finish working on them--allow me to write down the equation and I can do the rest in my head just fine. Same goes for spelling a word, though I can usually get away with "writing" it with my finger on some surface as I go.

It means that I have practically no buffer, no capacity for storage when trying to write down things someone is saying to me. I get five words into the sentence and they're already on another and I've already forgotten both.

The same seems to hold true for speed reading; I just used it to speed through an article on Afghanistan. Something about elections? I don't recall. I couldn't remember what the beginning of the sentence was talking about by the time I got halfway through it.

That said, it seems like it might be a nifty tool for when I need to force myself to speed through articles or other bits of writing when looking for certain information, but I doubt I'll use it for this purpose.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:23 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I pasted this thread into Spreeder. My eyes hurt after about 30 seconds.


tl;dr.
posted by miyabo at 2:29 PM on October 19, 2009


> Business reading must not involve actual comprehension of the material.

Business reading usually involves developing pattern awareness so you skim over the parts of the 80-page contract document that don't concern you. This way you don't have to spend two hours searching the couple of sentences that could screw your department over.
posted by ardgedee at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2009


Love this! Thanks...
posted by LakesideOrion at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2009


Well, I don't know that I would ever use it for its intended purpose, but I have long idly wondered how fast I can read an unfamiliar text and still follow it. The answer (I pasted in a short story) is that somewhere around 1500 wpm I start to get fuzzy on who is saying what and what is happening. At 2000 wpm, I am in a hailstorm of verbiage and looking around for an awning to cower under.

My own speed-reading story: Many years ago I saw The Hunt for Red October on video, and found that just as with my first viewing on the big screen, it was a pretty engaging action flick. The take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf at the hostel where I was working had a copy of the Tom Clancy novel, so I picked it up and read it. To my chagrin, I found myself sucked into it. I was burdened with the knowledge that this kicked off a series about Jack Ryan and that the rest of the books in the series also reposed on that book shelf, but I found the military porn aspect of the books pretty icky. However, I was queasily enjoying the political machinations. I read the seven or eight books then in publication, with a combined length of roughly eleventeen thousand pages, in just over a week.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:51 PM on October 19, 2009


Here is a fancy speedreader I made with NodeBox (free python drawing toy for Mac, nodebox.net): Fancy Speedreader.

Instead of centering a bunch of words, it takes a paragraph of text and slowly scrolls it from left to right, having the text move a little when reading, so eyes don't have to stare at the same point for whole time. The next paragraph will be a bit lower than previous. Basically it maps every word of the text to begin at some pixel at 500 x 300 grid, step size depending on length of the paragraph and amount of paragraphs in text. The position of text gives a hint of how far you are in the text. It may sound complicated, but it is clear when you see it in action. It also has a little pause at the end and beginning of paragraph to allow eyes move back to left side of the area, and keyboard shortcuts to pause and move around.

You'll need NodeBox (Mac only) and a text file. The first line s=10 gives the nodebox framecount, 10= 10 frames per second = 1 word per frame = 600 words per minute, minus linebreak pauses. Change that to find the right velocity for you.

Speedreading is good for shooting up Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs or other evocative skullduggery.
posted by Free word order! at 3:01 PM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Perfect with Book 12a coming out for the Wheel of Time I can reread the entire series in the next hour.
posted by tehdiplomat at 3:06 PM on October 19, 2009


I find myself speed reading when faced with studying for my mechanics tests. Then I realize I'm not absorbing anything and settle down to work some problems out on paper.
posted by rubah at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2009


I read the seven or eight books then in publication, with a combined length of roughly eleventeen thousand pages, in just over a week.

Note: your Typing Chimp® is trained to communicate in human words, but will from time to time insert nonsense. In the event that anyone notices, we at ValuSpeek™ have prepared these useful phrases to explain the mistake:

1. "It's common slang with [my demographic]. Get with the times, gramps.* "
2. "My spell-checking program must have gotten corrupted. I will soon be replacing it with the latest ValuSpeek™ application."
3. "I believe that is a word from the Scrabble® dictionary. You are correct, that is not a real word, and Scrabble® is an inferior product. I will be upgrading to a ValuSpeek™ WackyWords® game post-haste."

* This phrase is not only for your biological grandfather, but anyone perceived to be older than you
posted by filthy light thief at 4:25 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


And for fans of books on tape, the audio version.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:40 PM on October 19, 2009


And for fans of foreign films (or any movie with subtitles): find a DVD player that supports displaying subtitles at 2x speed or higher, and cut the runtime of any movie in half or more.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:08 PM on October 19, 2009


And for fans of foreign films (or any movie with subtitles): find a DVD player that supports displaying subtitles at 2x speed or higher, and cut the runtime of any movie in half or more.

Many DVD players have a fast forward function that plays the signal at about 1.5x the proper speed, but keeps the audio going as well. It makes every movie sound like it is being performed by a cast of 1940s newsreel announcers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:07 PM on October 19, 2009


Are there any scientific studies that even suggest that speed reading works?

Yep. Check Google Scholar. I just found a bunch and skimmed through them all in about five minutes. I'm not sure if they supported the idea or not though...
posted by Avelwood at 6:38 PM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I put in a news story from CNN and got the jist of it at 1000wpm. I think this is my new tool for reading assignments.
posted by Taft at 7:05 PM on October 19, 2009


good luck with it. research shows that people can read faster with this type of presentation--but they hate it because it's so unpleasant.

Speed reading = skimming.
posted by cogneuro at 7:37 PM on October 19, 2009


"It's about Russia."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:54 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh cool, I was using Cornix 12 years for some content of websites
I built 12 years ago. I thought it worked fairly well.

Cornix seems to be long gone now. Last trace I can find via
Google is 1997.
posted by rmmcclay at 12:27 AM on October 20, 2009


Hmm. Well, maybe as a tool for training you to not subvocalize but definitely no for me as far as 'chunks' go. Chunks are for the aid of comprehension (For instance those in parentheses where in my head I lower the tone and volume, speed up the pace and mentally map as a spur line) and come in a wide range of sizes as well as sometimes being non-linear (In english peripherally peeking ahead to see the question mark) and frequently defy any physical characterization as well. I am in favor of chunks but the machine chunks fuck with my chunks and address how I comprehend only in part. If you read at a level where you are interested in speed reading then you likely already make your own chunks to suit your own personal method for comprehension.
If anyone wants to loan me a couple of pre-literate kids I would be happy to experiment though.

Mechanically breaking written communication into
groups of X number of
words and therefore training yourself
to break them into similarly
sized chunks is likely to
interfere with, rather than to
assist, comprehension. IMH
O.
posted by vapidave at 2:42 AM on October 20, 2009


Speed reading is recognizing (1) at a glance (2) the difference -- (3) for your purpose -- between important information, merely relevant information, and the rest, and then (4) adjusting the amount of time you spend on each bit accordingly. A good reader, in short, discriminates, and does so quickly. The speed comes from at junctions (1) and (4).

One of the problems with discussions of speed reading, or indeed regarding any kind of reading, is the subtle vagueness of the verb "to read."

Reading for a 10-year-old involves largely decoding words. For simple text, that suffices to equal comprehension.

At some point, say roughly sixth grade, the material morphs, and students are not told, that to understand the material, they will need to do more than simply decode individual words, but actually begin to think about the material.

The skills involved in "reading" a road sign, a cookbook, Paradise Lost, Pride and Prejudice, The Da Vinci Code, and Feynman's Lectures on Physics are very different.
posted by adamrobinson at 4:52 AM on October 20, 2009


A good reader in fact "reads" more slowly than someone less skilled over important information because he or she spends less time on unimportant information
posted by adamrobinson at 4:55 AM on October 20, 2009


I read slow. But I probably have ADD. My mind, it wanders. When I notice, I go back and find where I stopped paying attention to the words. I may read the same line 3 times, if it is important, tricky, or I simply like it. But speed reading? blech.

I took a course in college. I can read fast, and score high comprehension. At the same time, I don't even know why I know the answers to the questions. I may not be able to discuss what I read, at all, or even remember what it was.

But, having read the thread and considered things, I definitely do speed reading of some kind, when I have to deal with contracts. So much is standard baloney anyway, and another chunk is standard 'screw you' stuff about which one can't complain, because it's normal practice. So you have to skim those, to find the stuff that's important and needs to be negotiated. But I hate doing it, there's always something that gets my knickers in a twist, yet is considered normal.
posted by Goofyy at 9:04 AM on October 20, 2009


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