140 characters – brilliance and limitations

“140 characters is the new container for ideas.”   Tom Foremski wrote an article on this in the Silicon Valley Watcher on March 3, saying:

“… when I became a ‘journalist blogger’ I realized that there was an interesting switch. Writing for a newspaper, where there was always a finite amount of space, I was often asked to stretch a story to fill the space. Yet online, where there was an infinite amount of space, writing less was always better.”

… “And if you want to go viral, expressing your idea in 120 characters or less is even better (so that others can retweet:)”

True!

On the other hand, micro posts have great potential to be shallow – at worst.  At best, they can only really direct or focus attention, or maintain a sense of intimacy.

Conversations where each entry is only l40 characters can’t do it all, even threaded conversations with a stream of posts using hashtags.  They can’t explain.  They can’t consider the alternatives.  They can’t arrive at higher truths.

Is this true?   What about brainstorming using a Twitter thread?  That seems possible.  But brainstorming is only the beginning of a really good conversation.

The trick is to more seamlessly combine micro posts with longer posts.   This is partially done by inserting tiny urls.   Is that the best way to do it?

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2 Responses to “140 characters – brilliance and limitations”


  1. 1 Michael Lewkowitz March 19, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Duncan, you hit it. The tiny url is essential. Twitter is not about the post. The post is too limiting. But it is enough – like you just did on twitter, to give enough context for the link that you inluded to have me click back to this post. Hash tags allow not creating threads of a multitude of micro-messages from a multitude of authors. The inclusion of a link is what allows this thread to actually thread the web around that topic. Every link is now carried in a light-weight contextual container that is relevantly connected to a thread.

    It’s a launchpad built, fully in the public, through permissionless participation. That is the magic.

  2. 2 duncanwork March 20, 2009 at 2:07 am

    Thanks Michael. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this emerges in what your team is doing. There is huge potential and challenge, and it will be fun to get it right.


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