Brevity is the soul of Twitter. We don’t need 280 characters for that | Dom Knight

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s favourite social network for conducting diplomacy and insulting NFL players announced a major change.

Twitter is currently testing an increase in the character limit, allowing some users to type in up to 280 characters instead of the usual 140. And that was enough to inspire Twitter’s ever-vocal users to vent, 140 characters at a time – or, for the few lucky testers, 280.

Caitlin Kelly
(@caitlin__kelly)

139 characters pic.twitter.com/WkfdXL8oLh


September 26, 2017

This is a terrible idea. It took me just 24 characters to say that. And before I devote considerably more to why, I’ll acknowledge that as problems go, this is tiny. Well, twice the size as before, admittedly – but still, compared to the devastation in Puerto Rico, or the resurgence of the far right in Germany, or even Arsenal’s sputtering start to the season, this is the most first world-iest of first world problems since the kale shortage.

And yet, for those of us for whom Twitter is our primary interface with what’s happening in the world, it’s a major, highly undesirable change. If it becomes permanent, it will irritate many users daily, to approximately the same degree as those preachy requests not to print emails that make your email flow over to another page when you do print them. And that’s reason enough to argue against it.

CITIZEN KRANG
(@KrangTNelson)

true strength is knowing u have the ability to tweet 280 characters, but the wisdom restraint to only tweet 140


September 27, 2017

Brevity is the soul of wit, as Shakespeare told us. A curious claim coming from a man who wrote four-hour-long plays, admittedly – but brevity is definitely the soul of Twitter. A good tweet boils information down into what’s essential. You get the headline, and a little more detail. That’s it.

That’s why whenever big news breaks, Twitter is the best place to go. It’s almost always faster and more efficient than television, radio, newspapers, or any other source. I love the Guardian’s live blogs, but when something major unfolds, Twitter becomes a collective live blog written by the world’s best journalists (at least if your feed is well-curated). Brexit, Trump’s election, the recent hurricanes – all of these events, and countless others, unfolded in a more compelling way on Twitter than anywhere else.

It’s also one of the best mediums for humour ever invented. Famous comedians like Ricky Gervais are drawn to it, but Twitter has also turned hundreds of thousands of ordinary users into published wits, and their best lines reverberate around the world via retweets only seconds after the event they’re joking about.

Danielle Grace
(@danimgrace)

Take your husband’s last name. Take his first name. Take his social. Assume his identity. Hide the body in a closet. You’re the husband now.


May 12, 2015

Megan Amram
(@meganamram)

Our scariest president was probably Rushmore, because he had four heads


April 25, 2013

If you follow a lot of journalists and comedians, as I do, the resulting blend of experiencing and joking about life becomes intoxicating and addictive. You become accustomed to experiencing any moment in our culture – from the new Star Trek to the Super Bowl – as it happens. Anything from the joyous to the tragic is shared immediately. It’s like gathering in the town square, over the planet, in an instant.

None of this needs twice the number of characters. And of course, the longer tweets are, the fewer you can digest in a minute. Simply put, longer tweets means more flab. And watching those privileged few who’ve been granted the right to experiment with it today only illustrates how unnecessary it is.

Josh Call
(@_JoshCall)

Apparently Twitter has given me the power to tweet 280 characters for a period of time, with that being said, I understand that this is a huge responsibility. Ironically the guy who only tweets 4-5 times a month is given this great honor, but these expensive, these is red bottoms


September 27, 2017

Admittedly, the 140 character limit is an arbitrary one, imposed so that tweets could be submitted via SMS, with 20 of the 160 characters in an SMS reserved for the writer’s Twitter ID. The 160-character figure came from a designer whose exhaustive tests led him to believe that this number was “perfectly sufficient” for most messages.

And it is. If you want more words, blog and post a link to it. Write a Medium post. Screen shot from your Notes app. If you must, chain tweets together in one of those “threads” that have become so popular lately and I despise because they aren’t what Twitter’s for. Under no circumstances should you write longer tweets.

James Poniewozik
(@poniewozik)

The 280-character limit is a terrible idea. The whole beauty of Twitter is that it forces you to express your ideas concisely (1/47)


September 26, 2017

Any decent writer knows that cutting out unnecessary words is the key to potency. “Kill your darlings” is the watchword – pare back your message so that it’s as clear as possible. A 140-character limit forces tweeters to be concise and, simply put, that’s why Twitter’s so essential to its users.

The brevity of Twitter is probably why it appeals to Donald Trump, who apparently prefers to ingest his information in tiny, hand-sized chunks and has so little patience for writing that he tends to do it with a chunky pen. But despite even this, Twitter is still great the way it is – believe me.

I know why Twitter is doing this. It’s because the company is chronically unprofitable, and it will try anything it can to tweak it so it becomes a magic revenue generation machine like Facebook. These efforts have bloated the platform so now there are “moments”, “tweets you may have missed”, the “explore tab”, and all the other “features” that we addicts entirely ignore.

But it’s always going to be a niche platform: it delivers information overload, which is only enjoyable for some of us. It can’t compete with Facebook, and shouldn’t try.

So please, Jack Dorsey, just charge anyone who tweets more than once a day a dollar a month, and leave your brilliant creation the way it is. A modest fee would also help solve Twitter’s actual biggest problem, which is the appalling trolling and abuse that’s become commonplace on it. As one 280-character user wrote:

andrea grimes
(@andreagrimes)

Just
a
friendly
reminder
that@jack
and
company
are
still
totally
cool
with
Nazis
and
misogynists
harassing
people
on
here
mean
while
I
get
280
characters
to
post
this
endless
bullshit
whats
up
jack
wait
i
still
have
more
room
wow
seriously
unbelievable
ohttps://t.co/dKshQTS0Kz


September 27, 2017

Twitter is already great, and the last thing it needs is anyone trying to make it great again and again. Before we know it, the company will double the limit again to 560, and then they’ll remove it entirely, and then Twitter will become a crappy, bloviation-filled clone of Facebook that even Donald Trump doesn’t bother with.

In fact, perhaps that’s a sufficiently good reason to increase the limit. As you were, Dorsey.

Dom Knight is a writer, broadcaster and co-founder of The Chaser


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