Cell Phone Text: A New Approach

    May 9, 2005

Being a proud and dedicated early adopter, I read a couple books on my Palm when Palm-enabled books first became available.

I didn’t like it. The constant scrolling was particularly troublesome; it was sometimes downright nauseating. (I guess that could have been the book making me queasy, but I don’t think so.) The text was tiny; if I enlarged it, I had to scroll even more. I finally dismissed the idea of reading lengthy text on the Palm, and now that my Palm is integrated with my cell phone, the screen is even smaller and the notion of reading long articles or books even less appealing.

But I just finished reading about BuddyBuzz, and I’m willing to give it another try.

BuddyBuzz is a new service based on a technique for delivering text to cell phone screens one word at a time. This technique is called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation, or RSVP. According to the piece in the San Jose Mercury News, “it quickly flashes words on a screen one at a time. The streaming process lets you stare at the screen and just absorb the text, without having to shift your eyes back and forth. The technology also allows the typeface size of text to be larger because just a word at a time is on the screen.”

“At first, it seems kind of staccato,” Fogg said. “But once you move the speed up, to about 400 or 500 words (per minute), it feels like a stream. And it forces you to focus on that stream. And pretty soon that stream starts recompiling itself in your head as information. There’s this sensation where you’re just staring at the words and you get it.”

Learning to read in RSVP takes practice. And research on the technology is mixed. Some users find they can read more content with less eye strain. Others, though, don’t like losing control over the reading experience and not having the ability to jump around within the text.

I’ll report on it after I try it out. While it’s an easy install on most phones, there are some hoops to jump through on my Treo 650, so it may be a few days before I get it up and running. But I’m looking forward to the experiment.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.