Categories
Internet

Twitter bankruptcy: skipping unread tweets

My weekend was busy: a bike ride down a remote mountain canyon, riotous with fall color. Delicious meals shared with family and friends. Home projects to prep our cabin for the winter. A mile-long hike to waterfalls, interrupted repeatedly by toddler discoveries (and potty breaks).

Good things, every one of them. But the weekend’s activities left very little time for checking Twitter. By the time we settled down last night, I had fallen a full day behind my timeline, and I was too exhausted to wade through the 500+ tweet deficit.

For some people, that’s no problem; just skip past the older stuff to the current tweets, right? But that’s tough for me; I’m a Twitter “completionist”—i.e., I try to read every tweet in my feed, and I hate jumping ahead. Skipping a Twitter backlog feels like a loss: what clever observations will go unobserved? What news stories will I never even hear about? What blog post ideas will go uncaptured and unwritten?

But although I hate feeling out of sync, Twitter debt provides several benefits:

  • That high unread count indicates that I’m staying active. I spend too many weekends comatose on the couch, checking Twitter so frequently that I’m always caught up.
  • Twitter backlogs remind me to follow fewer people. If my timeline’s unread count skyrockets every every time I disconnect, I’m probably following too many people. Twitter completionists must ruthlessly cull their follow lists, dropping tweeps who overpost (or underdeliver).

Even being forced to declare “Twitter bankruptcy” can be good:

  • People get the priority. It shouldn’t be difficult to choose between reading strangers’ tweets and being present for loved ones. My daughter won’t be two forever; she won’t always chirp, “Come play?” When I skip unread tweets, it feels like I’m prioritizing what really matters.
  • Good content tends to resurface, anyways. Even if I miss an amazing tweet when it’s first posted, chances are that someone else will retweet it later. If it doesn’t come around again, it probably wasn’t worth my time, anyways.

This morning, I finally let go. With some reluctance and a bit of grief, I tapped the status bar, then watched Tweetbot scroll past hundreds of unread updates. After a moment of respectful silence, my unread count silently started ticking upwards again. ■


Categories
Internet

A long sentence vs. a short paragraph: on Twitter’s character limit change

Last night, Twitter began public testing of a long-rumored, controversial increase to its character limit, doubling the quota from 140 characters to 280. It’s the most significant change to the service since its debut over a decade ago—the difference between a quip and a quote, between a thought and an idea, between an objection and an argument.

To illustrate this, I’ve pasted a few familiar quotations below; each of these fits under the new 280-character limit; the struck-through text would have been cut off under the old 140-character rule.

Winston Churchill, address to the House of Commons, June 1940

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg address, November 1863

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation… can long endure.

Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement address, 2005

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death.


It’ll be fascinating to see how user behavior changes once the longer quota goes live. Until yesterday, every tweet was understandable at a glance. Now, browsing your timeline will require require actual reading (heaven forfend). Will Twitter still feel like Twitter? ■