I’ve become a somewhat avid twitter user over the last several months. It’s helped me to stay in contact with existing friends and to get to know a few people from Refresh Phoenix, a local web design/development club. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s like LiveJournal, except each blog entry is limited to 140 characters, the friends feature works slightly differently, and it has good integration with SMS.
A couple of things I really like about it:
- The 140 character limit. Twitter has a strict 140-character limit on all blog posts (tweets in twitter lingo). I’ve found this to be a very useful constraint. It reduces the amount of reading I have to do to keep tabs on friends. It also reduces the amount of time spent writing. As long as I don’t follow too many people, and don’t follow those that post too much, I can avoid spending too much time on twitter.
I think it is also helping me to be a better writer and conversationalist. Trying to tell a story in 140 characters can be an interesting exercise. Inevitably, some details need to be dropped. Sometimes the story is not as good because it’s missing some interesting details, but often what’s left out is uninteresting. I had one such moment today.
Yesterday, I was hanging out with some friends and told them a story. About half of the people found it interesting, but most thought it was long-winded and the half who weren’t interested were bored by it. If I had been thinking like I am when I write a twitter post, it might have been better received.
I think the 140-character limit is a constraint people ought to embrace. There are a couple of ways to get around it — posting multiple tweets or dropping vowels and using lots of abbreviations and text-messaging-speak. I have a couple of rules of thumb. I try not to make a post that would make absolutely no sense to someone who didn’t read the other post. I also avoid shortening more than two or three words to make my post fit in 140 characters.
- Easy come, easy go. On Twitter, if someone follows you it sends you a friendly notice with the username of the person who follows you. If someone stops following you, it sends you no such notice. So, unless you’re constantly checking the list of people who follow you, you can’t give them a hard time about not following you anymore.
It might annoy some people, but it’s for the greater good. It encourages people not to break twitter etiquette, or else people might stop following them. It also makes twitter fun to use, because if one user is being annoying, you can quit following them instantly and not face immediate blowback, unless that person is a real jerk.
- Best Wishes. On twitter, the notification e-mails you receive when a person follows you end with the following signature:
A few times, that’s been just the thing to help me to have a better day. The people at twitter are wishing everyone using their service the best. It’s the best closing salutation ever, IMHO. Thanks, folks!