140 Is Dead, 140 Is Dead! Long Live the 140!


Original video source: http://bestreviews.com#reviews

Many thanks to Ian O’Byrne’s G+ feed which pointed to a Lifehacker article on how Twitter helped the author become a better writer.  I agreed at first, but then I drew back a bit.  Is it really better for me?  Or has it just made me a different writer?

Here was my comment to Ian:

Twitter certainly made me a different writer.  All containers constrain.  Rhetorical containers are no different.  A piece of paper can only hold so many words.  Does that constraint make you a better writer? My first thought is that it doesn’t.  Constraints also have the nasty and predictable habit of giving you a gift with one hand and taking another away with the other.  The gift of less clutter in one’s prose might also be the curse of fragmentation in your longform works. The gift of brevity comes at the cost of concrete sense and image. Of course, any observations the Lifehacker author might draw are idiosyncratic and ‘sample of one’. I respect that.

Now let me Twitterfy that:

Twitter made me a different writer, but “better”?  Constraints cut both ways.  Maybe more versatile. Maybe more distracted and fragmented.

But if I want to include the url, then I have to take away 22 characters. OK. Done.

Twitter made me different writer,but “better”?  Constraints cut both ways.  More versatile but more fragmented,too. http://goo.gl/p87xYJ

Here is the embedded version of the Tweet.

I would have to get even more radical if I wanted to address some friends or add a hashtag or two.

I think in the end that Twitter has made me a different kind of writer.  Perhaps it makes me better because I need to reconsider and edit based upon a simple set of initial conditions, fairly rigid editorial guidelines like the 140 character limit. Perhaps it makes me better because it makes me write more then less then more again like the exercise above until I get it right enough.

It’s all moot since Twitter is hinting rather loudly that tweets will no longer have 140 character limits. I can imagine a world where we will have old school tweeters who keep to the limit and look down their noses at the undisciplined noobs who can’t function inside those editorial constraints. Others will look at twitter and say what makes this messaging so special? Forget about it. And others will roll with it all, using the new constraints to writer more and better and occasionally writing a “140”.   I also know that eventually everything I know is wrong.  Why should this prediction be any different?

Only time will tell. (No, it needs to be pithier.)

Time alone tells. (Not quite.)

Time tells. (Noun-verb and simple, but…)

Timetells. (Closer, but now it sounds like a science fiction title.)

#Tt. (Almost there.)

Tt (Yup, that’s it.)



  1. // Reply

    First off, I’ve seen your post on G+ and thought what a coincidence, but I kept it to myself, and perhaps I thought “he must have already read it himself”. After reading this I think I’d better share it just in case. Check the last paragraph in this post that Maha Bali wrote after last week’s #FacDevchat http://blog.mahabali.me/blog/faculty-development/reflecting-fast-collaboratively-epiphanies-from-facdevchat/ .

    As for your prediction (it’s more of an analysis of people’s preferences based on previous trends may be?), there may be a couple more variations: Loyal twitter users who like twitter and belong to several of twitter’s communities but who always looked for and used 3rd party tools to tweet longer. The last, a variation of your last type, users who like the challenge and the effect of the 140 restriction, who will continue following that rule unless it’s really better to expand. I think i fall under the last type and hope that twitter keeps the 140 as a base with an option to expand.

    I followed your # process and came up with #TwT 🙂

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