Posted by: kerryl29 | November 10, 2015

Thoughts on “tl; dr”

Since I started this blog, more than six years ago, I have invariably written on matters that deal with photography, either generally speaking or as pertains to my own specific experiences.  I have essentially avoided other subjects entirely–not because I don’t have thoughts on other matters, but because it’s always been my sense that regular readers of this blog come here to experience my photography and my musings about that subject–the good, the bad and the ugly–not on other issues.  If I want to share my thoughts with the general public about other things, I reasoned, the best way of doing so would be to start another blog.

With this post, I’m going to make a bit of an exception.  The topic I’m going to cover doesn’t really deal with photography at all, but it does deal with this blog, and its presentation, so–after some careful consideration–I’ve deemed it worthy of presentation, on a kind of “meta” level.  I have quite deliberately excluded images from this post as their inclusion would be entirely gratuitous, given the subject matter.

I hope this blog’s readers will indulge me; next time I’ll return to the chronological presentation of September’s trip to the Canadian Rockies.

*                                                  *                                                    *

I can’t remember when I first stumbled across the abbreviation noted in the title of this post, but it was at least several years ago.  If you’re unfamiliar with this moniker, tl; dr stands for “too long; didn’t read,” and it shows up routinely in comment threads on the Web.  Occasionally it shows up in response to posts of no more than a few paragraphs.

The movement toward increasing brevity isn’t new, nor is it entirely a bad thing by any stretch.  Some forms of communication positively benefit from limited length and not infrequently concise expression can actually assist in the process of conveying meaning.  So, this isn’t going to be a rant against writing relatively brief missives.  And yet…

Several months ago, the author of a blog that I occasionally read posted a piece in which he stated that he was going to limit future articles to 500 words.  He noted that, between conversing with some of his readers and after attending a seminar on effective tactics for growing a blog, that a substantial portion of potential readers simply wouldn’t deal with posts longer than 500 words–hence, the policy change.

The increasing trend toward brevity in written communications didn’t originate with the dawn of the digital age but it certainly has accelerated with the slow death march of analog platforms.  Whether it’s a cultural adjustment, the push of social media, the not entirely explicable difficulty many people have reading long-form writing on a backlit screen as opposed to paper or something else entirely, the direction is unmistakable…and extremely unfortunate, in my view.

The unintended consequences of what seems to be an ever decreasing collective attention span includes the necessary oversimplification of complex, nuanced ideas and the concomitant lack of understanding that comes with it.  Some ideas–many ideas, in fact–need more than 500 words to be properly described and thoroughly fleshed out.  Universally self-limiting oneself to an arbitrary threshold (140 characters, anyone?) strikes me as an inherently bad concept.

And, in short, I’m not going to do it.  I don’t post on this blog particularly often–barely 160 total entries in more than six years–but when I do, I’ve tended to produce fairly longish pieces, at least by blog standards (typically 1000-2000 words).  This has evolved organically; I didn’t start with the intention of posting missives of any particular length.  I’ve simply given myself enough space to say what I wanted to say, or felt I needed to say, in the best way I know how.  Hopefully that hasn’t caused too many people to beg off from reading–though conventional wisdom suggests that it almost certainly has.  Regardless, in the end, I feel that slapping an artificial limit on expression would almost certainly diminish the enterprise.  At the very least, it would do so for me, and since I’m the one producing the content, I think I need to keep myself relatively satisfied.  So in the future, I’ll continue to let the substance of each post naturally dictate its length.

If you have any thoughts on this matter, regardless of how critical they may be, please feel free to address them in the comments below.

I’ll plan to revert to a more conventional format beginning with the next post.



  1. Good writing is good writing regardless of medium. When words are crafted to address the topic in a meaningful way, the length is not of consequence. Readers will enjoy and appreciate a good story (either fact or fiction) that is well written and free from distractions such as spelling and grammar errors. If bloggers worried more about content than length, “tl; dr” would not be an issue.

  2. You’ve really opened a can of worms with this post! In the digital age, brevity is often used to generate more clicks within a website, hence more advertising revenue. That’s also one reason why blog posts are becoming shorter. The shorter your posts are, the more frequently one can post, which has the same net effect, more hits.

    Much of this has come about because the production people in Hollywood found that they can get by with paying talent less for quality, but still hold many people’s attention with shorter scenes in movies and especially TV, with rapid cuts to the next scene. That, and the more action, the better.

    I firmly believe that many people have the perception that their own lives are chaotic and fast paced, when they really aren’t, it’s because the media presents such a fast paced world to them. On the other hand, there are record numbers of people cutting the cord, and giving up on the media all together. It’s a fascinating subject that I’ve thought about too, but I’d better quit now, or I’ll be hit with the dreaded tl;dr. 😉

  3. I have come back to this blog regularly to follow the trips you have taken. I have thoroughly enjoyed the combination of photos and writing, and would recommend you not change a thing.

  4. You asked…..

    These quotes refer to speeches, but apply equally to good, concise, descriptive writing.

    “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

    “How long does it take you to prepare one of your speeches?” asked a friend of President Wilson not long ago.
    “That depends on the length of the speech,” answered the President. “If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”

    Your photos are fantastic but many of the details you include in your posts are boring and/or unnecessary to an understanding of what makes them great.

    • Hmnn. “Boring,” (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. And the remarks might be “unnecessary to an understanding of what makes them great” – to you. Yet others may need the explanation. And that is assuming the understanding what makes Kerry’s photographs great is why he writes what he does. 🙂

  5. The tragedy of a world where it feels like everyone’s talking and no one’s listening. Spend time crafting something worthwhile, then click over and see that a three-sentence cliche has ten times the readership. These special agonies of bloggers, inhabiting a strange space more substantial than twitter, but less respected (and more crowded) than articles. Well, if nothing else, it bothering you too soothes me a bit!

    And as for length, I’ve hacked my posts down to about 500 words for the last couple years, and your longer ones still get far more readership, and (even more tellingly) far more comments. So I’d say we like what you’re doing. But in the end, as I’m sure you know (and I’m sure you’ve reminded me) we only need to like what we’re doing ourselves. Others can share or scorn with snarky abbreviations to their fomo-ridden heart’s content.

    I enjoyed this post, and look forward to the next ones, however long they may be.

  6. Kerry, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments.

  7. I’m all for content and interesting dialogue, no matter the length.

  8. […] Been there, done that. Neither of them worked for me. I can’t say what I have to say in 140 characters […]

  9. I write long, and I like long posts when I have time for them. The problem isn’t long posts–it’s too many blogs to read and too many posts to write. I like details and don’t find them boring. I guess that’s why I like a good short story of a few thousand words or more.

    By the way, before you wrote this I was thinking about your blog. I wanted to thank you for being here and compliment your artistic ability in photography. I took photography in high school (black and white, darkroom work) for two years and for a variety of reasons I did not pursue photography as a career. But what you do is what I dreamed of doing. So thanks and I love your blog and your photos!

  10. I thought about this for a good while and realized that to me it’s more about content over word numbers. Quality over quantity. Your writing is excellent and instructive. I don’t mind reading what you have to say regardless of word count. I’m sure to find at least one useful nugget (or more) in each of your posts. On the other hand, I rarely have much text at my posts because I don’t feel I have all that much to say other than perhaps the where or when of it. My approach is more about “eye candy” to share with others. I imagine there’s room for both approaches.

  11. I have always liked your writing as it has told me what the photos couldn’t. If I am in a hurry, I just save these blogs until I have the time to peruse and give them the attention that is due.I am better informed and find it relaxing because it forces me to slow down. Good for the brain and the soul. Thank you.

  12. […] think that a follow-up to the previous post is warranted and, after some consideration, I decided that the easiest, most efficient way of doing […]

  13. Good topic, as I find myself in similar circumstances, both from a writer’s perspective and reader. Although satisfying, long is inversely proportional to getting common THINGS done – like being a “good” husband; being liked by my needy dog; preventing my house from falling into ruins; ditto for our cars; having and maintains friends; exercising… Etc. But I want it all and could read and write from sunrise to sunset, and visa versa. But, of course, I wouldn’t have time to travel or explore or take and process photos!!
    However, finding your posts incurable alluring, regardless of length, just elevates my personal time management anaxity.. AND, I’m retired! M:-) PS I’m reliatively new to your posts, and as your adventourous nature seems to resemble mine, I’ll be occasionally visiting – archives and new. PPS, it’s nearly dark, I’m hiding in the shed typing on my I-phone and apologize for grammar and spelling errors! M

  14. Not to limit myself to a set number of characters, syllables, or otherwise: It’s your blog; do what makes you happy. If you want to grow an audience, then a proven tactic includes regular, brief(ish) posts. If you want to blog for you and whoever happens to come along, do whatever you want. In my own blog, I write as much as comes out when I’m relaying my stories. I know some people don’t read, some skim, and some just look at the photos. That’s okay; I’m having a good time, and I’ll keep doing that.

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