Summarizer: First Take

Summarizer: First Take

Summary: Online text summarising tools promise to help you digest large amounts of content quickly and efficiently. We test a beta service, with unconvincing results.

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TOPICS: Apps, Reviews, Software
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Information overload is a fact of everyday life for many of us: there's more information available, on a wider range of devices, more of the time, than ever. How do you find the time to digest it?

Various tools can help — you can try text-to-speech utilities, for example. But if you think that nuggets can be obtained without going through entire texts, then automatic summarising tools are available.

One example is Summarizer from Connexor. According to the company, the service uses 8 million lines of code to produce "an accurate and meaningful summary in seconds" and that it's used "across the world by companies ranging from Microsoft to Motorola". Summarizer is also currently available in public beta for free use.

Sounds like it's worth a shot.

The first and most obvious test had to be of the Summarizer press release, which you'll find here if you want to replicate my efforts.

Using Summarizer is easy. Paste what you want to summarise into the text box, choose whether you want a Twitter-length 140 characters or longer 250- or 500-character versions, and then click the big 'Summarize now!' button.

summarizer-1
Summarizer, currently in beta, is simple to use.

The original press release was distilled down to just its opening sentence on the 250-character option, while the 500-character option gave me the first two sentences.

This is hardly an inspiring opening gambit, as it's probably what most journalists would read before deciding whether to continue or move on to some new reading matter. However choosing the 140-character option fared even less well, telling me: "The text cannot be summarized. Too short text?".

Did it mean I was aiming for too short a summary, or that the source text was too short? Time to try something longer.

I moved on to an article from the UK's Guardian newspaper about the Team GB triathletes Alastair and Jonny Brownlee. It is 1,800 words long (10,000 characters if you count the spaces).

This time the 500-character summary picked out a few sentences from different parts of the article. They hang together, but don't really get across the gist of the article:

summarizer-2
500 characters, attempting to summarise 1,800 words.

The 250-character summary had very little relevance to the original article:

summarizer-3
250 characters: little relevance to the original.

This time I was able to produce a 140-character summary — but really, when the system is working from an 1,800-word original, you can't expect miracles:

summarizer-4
140 characters: a challenge too far for an automatic summariser?

On the basis of this admittedly limited test, it seems that you simply can't take a large number of logically argued words, push them through a 'black box' and get a useful degree of meaning, context and content from a much smaller number of words.

To have a chance at that, I suspect the human brain has to intervene in order to extract nuance, place information in context, and, quite probably, use words the original writer didn't in order to capture its meaning.

Still, why not try Summarizer for yourself and see what you think.

Topics: Apps, Reviews, Software

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3 comments
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  • Summarizer Check

    I've just checked it functioning with this article:


    Summarized text 140 characters

    The text cannot be summarized. Too short text?

    Summarized text 250 characters

    According to the company, the service uses 8 million lines of code to produce "an accurate and meaningful summary in seconds" and that it's used "across the world by companies ranging from Microsoft to Motorola".

    Summarized text 500 characters

    According to the company, the service uses 8 million lines of code to produce "an accurate and meaningful summary in seconds" and that it's used "across the world by companies ranging from Microsoft to Motorola". The original press release was distilled down to just its opening sentence on the 250-character option, while the 500-character option gave me the first two sentences. However choosing the 140-character option fared even less well, telling me: "The text cannot be summarized.
    Mez Kenzz
  • Keyword and key sentences presented as Visual Summaries

    Summarization is really an underrated filter to help us spotting the key ideas.

    Automated summarization chiefly relies on semantic and statistical methods to select the keywords and point to the most important sentences. In this sense, automatic summarization cannot produce the same results as human summarization. People often provide interpretation and additional information when they summarize.

    Automated summarization is taking larger selections of text and reducing them to their bare essentials: the gist, the key ideas, the main points that are worth noting and remembering.

    It strips away the secondary information and less important topics. It focuses on the heart of the matter. The programs find the key words and phrases that capture the essence of what we've read. Most of the time it capably captures the main ideas and the crucial details necessary for supporting them.

    Another tool which offers summarization as a companion to Visual Summaries is WebSummarizer (websummarizer.com). This tool offers short and full summaries but the focus is on identifying the keywords with the most important senteces presented as a visual map of the text.

    There is also a Tree View and Keyword Cloud view to help with quick understanding and visual presentation.
    Summarizer
  • From summarization to automatic text Synthesis

    Generally Summarizers lets the user read more text in less time and quickly obtain essential information in condensed form.

    In addition to the classic text summarization, "Essential Summarizer" permits the automatic text Synthesis with automatic translation of the summary or the synthesis.
    This is possible for 20 languages.

    Online tests are available at (www.essential-mining.com).

    Essential Summarizer took 18 years of research and development in computational linguistics.
    tryes