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Does Twitter Need 'Fat Tweets'?

Dave Winer has a proposal for Twitter.

In case you missed it (I did – I was enduring an 8-hour drive back home from Devon), briefly last night a loophole in Twitter’s internal URL-shortener meant it was possible to create tweets of longer than 140 characters.

Much longer – here’s an example from Dave himself here. Dave has pitched Twitter on the idea of letting these ‘fat tweets’ be open to a select few over a period of seven days to see if they’re any better or worse than what we have now.

I’m hot and cold on the issue of longer tweets. I kind of like the idea of a blog-style ‘more’ button for anything > 140, with tweets below that number rendering as they do now, but I can just see this being really abused by, you know, idiots.

Last thing I want is one tweet per screen. Especially on my netbook. In HootSuite, I only get 4-5 as it is. Can you imagine an update of several huge tweets from different folks, all at once? Even if we applied a bigger limit – say, 500 characters – this would still be a problem.

Sure, you can unfollow people who abuse something like this, and maybe that’s the answer for some folks, but it’s a bit too either/or for my liking. For example, I follow a lot of writers. And writers like to write. That’s their prerogative, of course, but I’m not sure I necessarily want to see volumes when 140 characters will do. And retweets throw up another (potentially hideous) can of worms.

You could make this configurable on a per-user basis, like we do retweets on Twitter, and that could work. Or, as Dave says, make the entire thing optional – and if you opted out, longer tweets would have to link off somewhere. Would you read them? If you’re like me, probably not. I tend to avoid things such as Twitlonger like the plague – and this includes the links.

There’s something about the limitations of 140 that absolutely improve not only the way that you write and deliver headlines, but the way you think about them, too. It also makes you very creative with language. Less is more, and all that.

Maybe it could or should be a premium feature? Pay-per-character. 140 or less is free for everybody, but you go above that and you’re billed. That would at least give all but the richest of mass-marketers pause.

Another possible problem: if (pigs could fly and) Twitter agreed to do this, what happens to those fat tweets as soon as they switch everything back to the 140-character limit? Either they’ll have to be linked on to somewhere else so they can be read in full (kind of like this, which Twitter did yesterday) or they’ll just stop at 140 characters. Could be awkward, and perhaps a little mssy.

I suppose it essentially comes down to this – why tweet, when you can blog, and simply link to it on Twitter? Kind of like how we do now. Isn’t the short, bite-sized exchange of information slices really what it’s all about? And if it becomes something else, is it still Twitter?

I couldn’t give a hoot about protecting the tweet upper-limit so everything works in SMS text messaging on mobile phones – I’d like to see that archaic way of using Twitter buried completely, being totally frank.  If only because it would mean (really quite basic) add-ons like (proper) hyperlinks could be quickly implemented, but tampering too much with the character limit makes me a little edgy.

All that said, if (Hell freezes over and) Twitter agrees to play around with this, it’ll be absolutely fascinating. I’m pro the experiment. I’m just not sure it’s something that I want to see become a permanent feature.

(Image credit: Aleandros.)

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