Why Twitter needs more than 140 characters

I express my thoughts and ideas on my blog so my output stream on twitter is limited to two things:

  • sharing links to content
  • sharing quotes

Often I combine the two: I quote great content and include a link to it. Unfortunately this requires me to slaughter the quote.

Case in point, I recently found a post by Kevin Anderson that compared old media's response to Twitter to their response to the rise of the internet (and how well that faired). The post included some excellent quotes by Douglas Adams on the internet and I found one I wanted to share.

Now witness the slaughter:

  • (317 char quote from Adams) What should concern us is not that we can't take what we read on the internet on trust - of course you can't, it's just people talking - but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV - a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make.
  • (149 char heavily edited quote; lacking attribution or link) [it's] not that we can't take what we read on the internet on trust [but]… that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing… newspapers or… TV.
  • (Actual 140 char post) Douglas Adams "[it's] not that we can't take… the internet on trust [but] the dangerous habit of believing… newspapers/TV" www.bit.ly/1HMSZ2

Note that the final, horribly crippled quote lacks any attribution to Kevin Anderson for providing it and is sadly not retweetable since it has maxed out at 140 characters even in it's current, sad state. Also, if you go to the original quote, note that the ellipsis are single characters (not the proper way to do them on the web); so they may not be valid characters for everyone viewing, but it saved space so it's a trade off.

Also note that I changed http://bit.ly to www.bit.ly, saving 3 characters (both formats are converted to links by twitter). As noted by others, there should really be a way to attach a link as meta-data and not have it count against your character count, but unfortunately twitter's remained unresponsive to that request.

Honestly even just another 50 characters would make a huge difference in the user experience, but multiplied by the number of tweets in a day it would take up a significant amount of bandwidth, so I understand why they'd be reluctant to do so. I think that one way to monetize twitter might be to charge a flat rate for an increase in characters. An extra 50 characters per message could cost 4$ a month, 100 characters for 7$. I'd definitely be willing to pay a modest amount for that bandwidth; unfortunately there may not be a significant number of people out there who would.

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