In 5406 chars: Twitter is f*&#ing things up

Twitter is experimenting with changing the character limit to 280 chars. This was announced by this:

A verbose, meandering piece of prose, that with a little thought needn’t be.

I took the liberty of removing some of the fluff, I think it gets the same point across 🤷‍

This is a small change, but a big move for us. 140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit. Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence!

So why the change?

Whether the 140 character limit is a “real problem” is definitely questionable. Considering it’s been the main differentiator of the platform from the get-go, I’d say it’s probably one of the more distinctive features the platform has.

Since the release I’ve noticed the quality of my timeline has definitely gone downhill. Trolls can take up entire screens with a single tweet, brain farts take twice as long to read, and the stream isn’t as scannable.

Generally, it’s ruined away the one feature Twitter had going for it: succinctness.

What is a problem that actually needs solving?

Adding another 140 characters strikes me as a solution looking for a problem.

Today longer-form text is shared inside of images. This is often in the form of a screenshot of some other content, which the tweet then references.

The concern with this is twofold, firstly the text is stuck in that layout, so it can be really hard to read on mobile. Secondly it’s impossible for blind or vision impaired folks to read the contents of images, because they need real text in order for screen readers to read.

The attached tweet is a good example. It contains an image with a graph, a tweet containing commentary on the image, and a text caption as part of the image. It’s worth nothing that the new 280 chars doesn’t do anything for this scenario, because the text still won’t fit, and also wouldn’t make sense as part of the tweet.

Perhaps a better approach would be adding alternative text to images. Or more realistically another type of text attachment in addition to the 140 characters, which could be expanded like a media card. The options are limitless, tbh. I don’t pretend to have the solutions.

Then there’s the nazis

So overall I don’t care for this change. It feels a bit useless, and in practice it’s made it far more difficult to read & filter out the noise. I’ve blocked three people today for abusing it, and it’s made me break my blogging drought to have a whinge. 👴📣☁

Also while all this 280 business is going down, the rest of the platform is still a mess of nazis, harassment, filter bubbles and push alerts from that clown in the oval office that I can’t seem to fully disable. I love Twitter, but unless there’s some clever strategy behind this I don’t get, it doesn’t give me much hope for the platform.