How I Supercharged Web Reading with ChatGPT

The Beginning

Another night, another dense, jargon-packed article. There I was, squinting at my screen, diving into research to settle a debate with my girlfriend on the merits of liquid breakfasts (yes, I mean Ensure). Now, when I am reading on a subject I'm an amateur in, I lean on ChatGPT to decode such texts, breaking them down into bite-sized, understandable pieces. But that night, as I prepped to copy-paste and "prompt engineer", a thought hit me: "Surely, there's a smoother way to do this." Admittedly, you could call me lazy for wanting to bypass a few steps, and you'd probably be right. But this 'laziness' drove me to craft something that has supercharged my information absorption, and hopefully my next source of passive income: Simplify.

Interested? You can try 'Simplify' on Firefox or on Chrome. But first, let me share the story behind it.

The Realization: A Common Problem

I instantly knew that it's not just me. Since as long as I can remember, my friends and I were trying to get the Sparknotes. In college, when I had to read philosophical text, and finally understood what was being said, I would immeditately think to myself "Wow, they really could have simplified this." Even Philosopher Michel Foucault has admitted to making his text harder to read to impress his colleagues.

When I entered the professional world, things were no different. Time is of the essence, and who truly has the luxury to painstakingly sift through intricate documentation or extensive release notes? With the sheer volume of information flooding our world daily, it's impossible to know everything. But isn't is so human to want to? I firmly believe that most of the content I read can be shortened without losing its essence. In fact, I'd contend that a significant portion could benefit from such simplification or summarization. Maybe the solution to all this could have been more editors in the world.

Monetization: That Thing I Used To Skip (Until Now)

Okay, confession time. In all my previous projects, I had this nasty habit. I'd go all in, build the heck out of something cool, and then...just drop the ball when it came to making any money off it. The dopamine from the initial "heck, I did it!" would fade, and I'd be left with no clue (or, let's be real, no motivation) to figure out how to make profitable.

I recently vowed not to do this anymore by taking care of monetization first. Before I got lost in code or doodled a single design, I laid out the money stuff. Set up the whole payment upfront. No backing out, no post-project existential crisis of "now what?" I literally forced future-me into a corner where monetizing wasn't an option; it was the game plan. With the cash angle sorted from the jump, I could focus on the fun bits without that nagging "but how will it make money?" question.

The Development Journey

Crafting a basic browser extension to simplify text would've been relatively straightforward. But why stop at basic? I was inspired by advice from one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Mr. Beast: "With every video, improve one thing. Eventually, you'll have something great." Sure, he was referring to YouTube, but I think this advice is true for any creator. My past projects serve as monuments to lessons learned and, this time around, I was determined to put those learnings into practice.

Drawing from my past, I integrated critical features from the get-go: a robust onboarding experience, an accessible feedback channel for users, and very clear and engaging copy writing. However, the most valuable lesson was yet to come. Despite understanding its importance, I'd never genuinely embraced user feedback in my previous endeavors. I think my past ego shielded me from criticism, making me overly confident in my design decisions.

This time was different. I observed trusted friends, those candid enough to offer genuine critiques, engage with my creation. We did a several rounds of iterations until it was so polished that someone might mistake it for the work of a YCombinator, Venture backed, unicorn startup. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the point. Through these sessions, I grappled with identifying and distinguishing users' true needs, culminating in three distinct options:

The distinctions between the three options might seem nuanced, but they serve specific purposes based on the nature of the content and the user's intent. Imagine trying to decipher a densely worded legal document — that's where Simplify comes in, turning the cryptic jargon into plain language. Now, let's say you're diving into a new technology or concept, like quantum computing. You don't just want a brief overview; you need foundational knowledge. That's when Explain becomes your friend, offering a thorough understanding from the ground up. And for those long-winded articles where the author could've said the same thing in half the space? That's a job for Summarize, giving you the meat of the content without the fluff.

My Achilles Heel: Marketing

Earlier, I mentioned wanting to improve one aspect since my last launch. Scratch that. My ambition soared, and I wanted to make absolutely everything better. Case in point: the promotional video you see at the top of this page. While I'm aware it might not win any awards, I'm genuinely proud of it. And here's a little goofy aside: I didn't want to splurge on fancy video editing software, so I got innovative. I meticulously designed the HTML for my demo with ample whitespace and crystal-clear text. This proved ideal for screen-capturing, and my trusty Windows Video editor took care of the rest.

But beyond just refining my presentation, there was an elephant in the room I had to address: my hesitance in sharing my work with my personal network. For reasons I've yet to fully unpack, putting my projects out there for acquaintances, colleagues, and friends to see felt more daunting than sharing with anonymous users on platforms like Reddit or HackerNews. But I'm in a stage of my life where I believe I have to actively share more with the people I know in real life; presumably the people that care who I am. So, in a move that felt equal parts terrifying and liberating, I showcased my personal project on LinkedIn. I received a lot of love, which I knew I would, so I don't know why I was so scared. I guess I need to keep reflecting on why it scares me, but I'm really proud of myself for overcoming it anyway.

The Future: Hope, Excitement, and a Dream

You know, as much as 'Simplify' has been a project, it's also been a personal journey of growth, reflection, and, admittedly, some ego-checks. I feel like with every failure I'm getting closer and closer to something good. At the very least, even if my extension doesn't work out: I'm genuinely hooked on using it. I fire up 'Simplify' daily. Whether it's to skim through tech news, dive into a hefty article, or just to explore random topics. It's become an indispensable part of my online reading habit.

But beyond the immediate utility, there's this bubbling excitement within me about the potential of 'Simplify'. There's a dream, you know. A dream where 'Simplify' isn't just another project in my repository but something that creates genuine value for users and, in the process, gives me the freedom to keep on building. I love crafting, iterating, and launching products. And while I'm going to continue doing that, irrespective of success or failure, the thought of having one of my creations sustain my passion? That's gold. It'd be kind of magical if I could keep doing what I love without juggling it alongside a regular 9-5 job.

Now, all I have to do is figure out my niche 🥲

If you enjoyed this, try 'Simplify' on Firefox or on Chrome. Also, follow me on Twitter for updates!