Web Service Summarizes Long Text Into Twitter-Sized Precis


Today I've spent a little time playing with a fascinating new web service called Summarizer, which claims to be able to summarize a chunk of text of any length into just a couple of sentences.  Or 140 characters, to be precise.  Which is, of course, very handy if you want to upload the summary to Twitter.

If you want to try the service for yourself, it's at http://www.summarizer.info/index.html.   It's very easy to use.  Just paste in some text, press the button, and your summary appears in just a second or so.  

The people behind Summarizer claim that it's the result of decades of research from a leading university, so I've been trying to put it to the test.  I started by asking it to summarize some of my own text.  For example, I fed it 10,000 words of a document that I wrote for a client about Microsoft SharePoint.  What it produced made perfect sense, but I was in two minds as to whether it really represented an accurate summary of my 15 pages.  But could anything do any better?  How can you summarize 15 pages into just 2 sentences, and still retain as much of the meaning as possible?

I decided to try a different tack.  I gave Summarizer some text that I'd never seen before.  A story from the BBC News web site about the current situation in Rwanda.  I know nothing about this topic and so, instead of reading the article on the BBC site, I asked Summarizer to precis it for me.  You can see both of the pieces of text below.

Having read the summary, I then read the full BBC story.  And I have to admit, summarizer had actually made a pretty neat job of it.  The summary contained only 1 sentence, but it had certainly pulled out one of the most important facts from the entire story.

Give Summarizer a try.  It's fast, fun, free, needs nothing but a web browser, and is nothing if not fascinating.




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