Tag Archives: skim for content

The Internet’s Thirty Second Rule

imageAs a blogger, I’ve long since made the observation that the Internet is a 30 second world. I’ve learned – if I don’t get a readers attention in the first 30 seconds – it’s over – it’s not going to happen.

The explanation is simple enough – the Internet has taught us not to read for content but rather; to skim for content. The Internet has conditioned us to believe – if it can’t be digested in 30 seconds or less, then it’s too involved to bother with. From a blogging perspective, I try to counter this perception by constructing a post using very short paragraphs.

Anecdotally, I know that the “30 second rule” is valid – based on my analysis of the “time on site” statistics on articles that simply don’t click with readers. But, there’s much more evidence than just my anecdotal experience with the “30 second rule”.

For example – Jakob Nielsen, over at Alertbox, reports on an academic study How Little Do Users Read?,  which focuses on how users read on the Web, that’s supportive of my personal experience.

Study Summary:

On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.

It seems to me then, that it’s no accident that Twitter tops out at 140 characters ….  it’s not just about economy of language (to placate the skimmers) – partially, it’s about attention span – or more properly – a reduced attention span.

It’s this skimming behavior, the lack of attention span, and the impact it had on two fellow bloggers, TechPaul from Tech – for Everyone, and Rick Robinette from What’s on my PC, which prompted me to post this article.


Paul crafted an article Just Say “No” To mylife.com, which was so completely misread by readers (who believed they were on the Mylife site, and registered their complaints accordingly), that he was forced to publish the following disclaimer:

Attention: I am not Mylife.com, I am not in any way affiliated with Mylife.com, And cannot help you with Mylife.com. So, I have turned off comments.

Rick Robinette:

Similarly, Rick’s article bing – Microsoft’s New Search Engine ran into the same problem – readers who were skimmers or, who had the attention span of a doorknob, believed they were on a Microsoft site, as indicated by the following typical comments.

“Cancel bing from my computer…i did not ask for it nor do i want it”

“Please cancel and remove bing from my pc. It showed up a week ago. I did not ask for it and I do not want it.”

“Get Bing off my computer! It is intrusive & I don’t like it!!”

i want you to respond to this asap i want you to tell me step by step to get of you you hijacked my computer without my permission this is against the law you big bully!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

get this off my computer now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s a couple of comments from Rick to his readers.

I think you think I am the inventor of Microsoft Bing. I wish I were… You need to contact Microsoft, not some poor blogger.

What it is proving is that people do not understand computers and will lash out at anyone. You should see some of the comments where profanities are publicly made that I have banned.

Sadly, Rick’s posted comment had absolutely no effect – the dumb comments continued to play out like a broken record.

Both these experiences add weight, I think, to my earlier comment – “the Internet has taught us not to read for content but rather; to skim for content”.

Little wonder that cybercriminals are so successful with downloading rogue applications onto victims’ computers, when the target’s common behavior pushes reading aside in favor of a quick click on something they choose not to read in its entirety.

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Filed under Cyber Criminals, Education, Interconnectivity, Online Safety, Opinion, Point of View, Recommended Web Sites