Also on Boing Boing is BuddyBuzz. It’s a fascinating experiment to aid in reading on small screen devices. Only one word appears at a time, and they flash by in rapid succession. The software automatically increases the screen time for longer words, and pauses slightly at commas and periods. It’s an attempt to get around the problem of reading on small screens, which is rarely a pleasant experience. There’s a demo in Mark’s writeup here.

I put the software onto my phone, and it really works! I’m amazed. You can control the overall speed of text with the up and down buttons, and after a few seconds to adjust I found it actually quite easy to read. Perhaps it’s something to do with just seeing the isolated word, but I found I only needed a fraction of a second for comprehension, and I never became confused in the midst of long sentences. You can skip back to the beginning of a sentence if you do miss something. The only problem is that the screen backlight turns itself off without any user input. This is irritating, and it’d be great if the software could override that somehow. Currently you can only read articles from BuddyBuzz affiliates, but I’d love to see it become a general purpose reader. Plugging an e-book into BuddyBuzz would be very interesting. They claim it’s possible to read (and understand) 700 words per minute with a little practice. As it says in the article, that’d get you through the average novel in an hour and a half.