James Governor's Monkchips

Somebody shot the president! Twitter: Nothing To See Here, Get Back To Work.

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I am a 30-year-old guy, and I do not use Twitter. Actually, I do not text either. I do not care what you are doing unless I happen to be your boss and I suspect you waste a lot your work time on Digg, Orkut and of course, twittering with other people. Therefore, I have had enough of twittering; let us get back to work now.

Pramit, New Delhi

Unlike Pramit RedMonk makes $$$ blogging, at least indirectly, (blogs are the most powerful consulting practice marketing tool ever devised), so its natural for us to look at other related toolsets and methods.

Library Stuff put me alongside a comment from an MSNBC article, Twitter Nation: Nobody cares what you’re doing, which argues “Twitter is always on, always looked at, and at a 140 character limit, doesn’t have the capacity to be either deep or meaningful.”

That is one of the weirdest anti-Twitter themes to my mind: the idea that 140 characters can’t convey meaning. If that isn’t evidence of the verbosity of our culture I don’t know what is. How many words wasted on Paris Hilton? Indeed. I would rather dismiss a PH reference in a 140 character missive than a five page article.

“I love you” is one of the most powerful statements anyone can make. 10 characters

“more” – when my son says that its certainly meaningful to me. 4 characters

As an ex-journalist trained in the English manner I might argue the other way: if you can’t say it in 140 characters its not meaningful. The pyramid style of reporting begins with a topline that talks to the who, what, where, when and why.

American journalism however tends to use what Wikipedia calls the “anecdotal lead,” which begins the story with an eye-catching tale rather than the central facts.

Lets go back to pyramid style and Wikipedia, though, which cites this example of pyramid style reporting:

This evening at about 9:30 p.m. at Ford’s Theatre, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris and Major Rathburn, was shot by an assassin, who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.

The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theatre.

The pistol ball entered the back of the President’s head and penetrated nearly through the head. The wound is mortal.

The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now dying.

To my eyes the first line is still too verbose for a strong opening. I think you could just say this:

lincoln opening

That line twitters nicely (18 characters still available), and I think you’ll also find that plenty of information has been conveyed. Vote for brevity. Vote for Twitter. It may not be what you think.

Special bonus update link from Seth Godin, linking this post,and the notion of brevity, with this one. Apparently Rupert Murdoc was quoted so:

“I’m sometimes frustrated by the long stories,” Rupert Murdoch says about the Wall Street Journal.”

Yeah that will be those anecdotal intros. Perhaps Rupert will get the Wall Street Journal reporters twittering in order to teach them brevity….


  1. Ha! When I got that twitter I wondered what you were on. Now that I have read this blog entry it makes perfect sense.
    The good stuff keeps coming out of redmonk.com.

  2. Great post, this one deserves a link on the wikipedia entry for twitter, which had better be short.

  3. Hmm… A long post arguing for brevity…

    Twitter has its place, but conveying complex thoughts isn’t it. Yes, you can say things like “Tree fell on house… make hotel reservations” but I think what really hurts Twitter are the “taking out garbage, watching TV” Tweets. And yes, I;ve seen that. And no, I really DON’T care if you’re taking out the garbage.

    Twitter’s just another arrow in the quiver – those who argue it’s useless miss a point as do those who feel it will replace blogging.

  4. George Bernard Sahw apologized to a friend for writing him a long letter – sorry I did not have the time to write a short one

  5. Of course, there’s something to be said for silence, too, and my sense is that the main effect of Twitter will not be to get people to speak more concisely but to speak when they really should just keep their mouth shut.

  6. I like knowing what people are doing when they are interested in letting me know. I know if they are available to communicate with and it helps personalize them.

  7. I can rephrase pramit:

    “I do not use tools that are not obviously tied to revenue. I do not care what you are doing unless it happens to be on my critical path for the next quarter. I suspect you waste a lot your crunchtime on talking to other other people when you could be heads down getting us over the line. Therefore, I have had enough of these toys; let us get back to the crunchtime”

    Pramit has my total respect. I absolutely understand where he’s at, Unfortunately he will always be there, That’s the essential problem with 65 day vision.

    New Redmonk tagline: 66 days later.

  8. Nick: “my sense is that the main effect of Twitter will not be to get people to speak more concisely but to speak when they really should just keep their mouth shut.”

    Yep, it’s one of those enabling technologies stakeholders keep claiming they want,

  9. James…a good lesson…thx
    Nick…your comment is 179 characters (without spaces)…need more brevity

  10. Part of Twitter’s growth surely comes from the fact that the barrier to writing/broadcasting is sufficiently reduced that Twitterers can easily fill time by trailing a stream of weather-, lunch- and commuting-related messages behind them. I love and hate it.

    However, http://twitter.com/twitterfiction is making a decent stab at fitting brief content to the form, and Ernest Hemingway might have found it the ideal pipe for his “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” story.

  11. From someone who writes much too much … yes.

  12. Words, Words, Words…

    Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
    Hamlet: Words. Words. Words.
    – Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii
    I’m not normally prone to quoting Shakespeare – more of a Modernist and Americanist by (academic) training and by inclination. But a few blog mems this w…

  13. […] several posts today extolling the virtues of twitter. “if you can’t say it in 140 characters its […]

  14. Not exactly the WSJ, but Murdoch’s NEWS.com.au rolled out Twitter coverage for Australian Fashion Week last week. Including prominent display on the fashion week feature page

    Disclosure: I work there and I built this 😉

    And think that is very very exciting!

  15. […] I received notification someone called @yojibee is now following my updates on Twitter, the 140 character social networking service. As a general rule I go and check out anyone that is following me. That […]

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