Was Summly The Best Choice For Yahoo?

Posted on Apr 30 2013 - 10:50am by Robby S.

Summly Yahoo

Yahoo has started to roll out summaries produced by Summly in its mobile app for IOS.  We aren't impressed.  Granted we are biased, we have strong ties to Stremor, the makers of TLDRStuff.com, which is an alternative to Summly.  8 guys in the desert should be no match for the great and powerful SRI International, the creators of SIRI and the real brains behind Summly's tech.  We expected Stremor to get crushed.  We knew what we expected to see when a 20 year history of language processing and hundreds of millions of dollars of research went up against a few guys without degrees in English, Linguistics, or MBA's.  We expected it to be brutal. In that, we were right, but in this case David beat Goliath.

We compiled a few screenshots of the summarized feeds from Yahoo and placed the same links through the TLDR Plugin. Here are the results side by side, so you can make your own assessment.

The images below are screen shots of both Yahoo/Summly on the left (with pretty colors) and TLDRstuff.com on the right.


Summly vs TLDR sample 1

The Summly version doesn’t tell you who is saying that the Steelers are grooming Landry, nor does it tell you anything about Roethlisberger.

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Summly vs TLDR sample 2

The Summly version never mentions the name of the company that is “the company bringing natural gas to truckers” and starts off talking about trains.

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Summly vs TLDR sample 3

The Summly version doesn’t give you anything more than a description of what Pandora is.  If you don’t already know what Pandora is, this article probably wasn’t interesting to you.  And, dealing with the general public, you can never assume anything.

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Summly vs TLDR sample 4

This one is interesting because both technologies created the same summary.  My guess is because of the long sentences.  The summary is made up of only two sentences total.

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Summly vs TLDR sample 5

TLDR has random text toward the end of the summary – see the "Please follow" bit.  This is related to following The Wire on twitter and facebook.  While this shouldn’t be in the TLDR summary, I still prefer the summarization over the Summly version.

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Summly vs TLDR sample 6

Summly has random text in the middle of the summary – see the "Also read" bit.  It appears Summly is dependent on Readability and doesn't have that quite perfected.

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You can run your own experiment by installing the TLDR Plugin or TLDR Reader App from http://www.tldrstuff.com.

Since Stremor makes its API for summarization available for other developers to build apps on, it seems like Yahoo should have just paid for the API. $30M would have bought a lot of summaries and of higher quality.

9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. nightOWL April 30, 2013 at 1:33 am -

    I now have both installed. I like both. Try using the tldr plugin (firefox is what I have) on a long web email. works great!

  2. Elan April 30, 2013 at 11:40 am -

    Thanks for the tip on the TLDR app it works great 😉

  3. BA-20 April 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm -

    agree with you on the summly sucks part. most summaries are a tad flawed. so why wasnt stremor or tldr bought by yahoo?

  4. tim tran April 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm -

    The tldr app is nice but the plug-in is freaking awesome.

  5. drakaal April 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm -

    I’m the CTO at Stremor. Glad you liked the plugin. Thanks for pointing out the bug with the Merideth Story. We’ll take a look and figure out why that Follow text made it in.

    Content Extraction is tough, and Yahoo does some weird things with their page layouts and markup, but we’ll make a fix shortly for that.

  6. dtanikawa April 30, 2013 at 3:04 pm -

    Voodoo I say. Very neat and works great to get the cliff notes of just about anything. Go Stremor!

  7. Shonuff April 30, 2013 at 3:41 pm -

    I’ve been using TLDR a lot on my work documents through Chrome and it has saved me a lot of time. The mobile app also works flawlessly. 10/10 would recommend.

  8. Zalgo April 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm -

    Summly duped Yahoo out of 30 Mil, TLDR did not.
    Summly founded by a Justin Bieber clone, TLDR is not.
    Summly was ripped off SRI, TLDR was not.
    Summly got money and PR from Yoko Ono, Ashton Kutcher, Stephen Fry and many others, TLDR did not.

    Summly sucks, but man they can hustle! Somewhere in here, there is a lesson.

  9. Paul_inNYC May 1, 2013 at 9:02 am -

    I’m an agency art director and have been using the TLDR Plugin since it was released for Chrome, and then the iPhone app. I was always impressed with the “just enough” design aesthetic of the TLDR plugin and more so for the app. Summly introduced an over-designed UI for the sake of showing of design at the expense of ease of use. The most useable tech products exhibit a restraint in design. TLDR is in that category. OH — and the summaries are really good also.

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