The guy on the bike ahead of me had socks that said "REBEL" in an Olde English font. I had assumed he was a loyalist, until the fuzzy knitting on his ankles set me straight.

They looked warm.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I can't use Twitter.

140 characters just isn't enough for any coherent thought. I find that to say anything worth reading, I need 200-300. I need a setup, the story itself, and the punchline. If you leave out the intro and the punchline it's just a damned laundry list. Look, 315 characters in this paragraph and I barely said anything!

No, I don't want to edit it to make it shorter. I also don't want to rephrase it into iambic pentameter.

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81 Responses:

  1. intoner says:

    you could do multiple tweets. Set up. Story. Punch line.

    • jwz says:


      • jwz says:

        would read them

      • dmlaenker says:

        No they wouldn't. Most people who read twitter are aware of the order in which twittering occurs.

          • rapier1 says:

            Does it really matter? It doesn't change the fundamental nature of twitter which is full of the wrong. Sure, it works great for some people - rock on with your own bad selves. It's still wrong though.

            • dmlaenker says:

              Oh silly me! I thought someone had a genuine issue here and wasn't baiting for some kind of hipster wankfest about how twitter inherently sucks regardless of what you do with it.

              • jwz says:

                Why is it that you appear to be reacting to criticism of twitter as if somebody called your baby ugly? Let it go, man.

                • dmlaenker says:

                  Because saying Twitter sucks strikes me as kind of like saying haiku sucks?

                  I mean, if you're genuinely wondering why it is that I appear to be reacting this way. But whatev, I'll let it go.

              • rapier1 says:

                Wait, the hipsters don't like twitter? Man, you are way too clued into that scene if you know that. Either way, you're mistaken. I'm just a cranky old man who doesn't understand the inherent fucking beauty and joy of twitter.

            • My (limited) observation is that people are aware that LJ posts are sorted with the most recent items on top, but I don't know anyone who reads their friends page backward. They just read down, and comment on how amusing it is when they read the follow-up to someone's story before they saw the original. My suspicion is that most people on twitter would do the same thing, unless it made it really easy to find the last message you saw and scroll up from there.

              • sheilagh says:

                I'd really love to see some universal filter that makes it easy to read blogs/lj/twitter with oldest posts at top of page, newer as you go down.

              • elusis says:

                Er, what?

                I always load up the friends page, then step back page by page until I find the last post I've read, then read forward.

                Reading backwards is absurd for reasons beautifully illustrated by jwz above.

                • Okay, now I know that I do know someone who does that.

                  When you say that you go back pages, that suggests to me that you go quite a while between checking your friends' posts. Perhaps folks who check frequently don't run into reverse-chronological issues too often, so they don't see it as worth addressing, whereas people who check infrequently are more likely to have multiple posts by the same person in one reading, and do find it worthwhile to read from the bottom up.

                  • elusis says:

                    If by "quite a while" you mean "every few minutes when I'm on the computer and not otherwise distracted," sure.

                    Some days I'm busier than others and by nighttime I have 100 or 120 posts. Then there's that inconvenient sleep thing.

                    Regardless, I always scroll back, find the "end," and work forward.

                  • It seems your friends list is similar to mine in size, but a good deal more active. In any case, I'm sorry about the incorrect assumptions. I probably need to go to sleep.

        • maxmin says:

          But you can't help but see the punchline first, which still ruins it.

    • dmlaenker says:


      Also: here's two clients that will do it for you.

    • vebelfetzer says:

      He's right, you horrible old man. People don't read Twitter in archive form. They read it when it's posted, or not at all. The exceptions to this are few.

      Therefore, the Twitter couplet is a good format. It allows you to utilize a fourth dimension of storytelling. Observe:

      Nightmare: gave birth to a mutant baby without eyes. The father was delighted; I was just mortified that I hated the lumpy little horror.
      7:40 AM Jul 14th from Adium

      But there was a happy ending. Woke up to find myself cradling a still-warm Potato Burrito from Bellingham's own Casa Que Pasa!
      7:40 AM Jul 14th from Adium

  2. poly_scott says:

    And really, why bother? Everyone and their brother seems to have their twitterings linked to all their other social media. I don't need twitter - I have facebook. I get the twitterings of all the people I even remotely give a shit about there.

    • dmlaenker says:

      Ah, but who needs Facebook when Twitter isn't constantly trying to load idiot applications into your page devoted to giving you shit you don't want in exchange for information you don't want to give them?

      • poly_scott says:

        People who:

        A: Are smart enough to block the application rather than the person, thus eliminating the need to ever do it more than once per app, and
        B: People who want to be able to say more than what 140 chars. will allow.

      • maxmin says:

        Twitter beats Facebook if all you care about are making short text/url posts. Facebook beats Twitter in all those other things people use social media sites for.

        Of course I don't particularly like either, I'm an LJ partisan, but I find Facebook far more useful for my purposes than Twitter.

  3. cow says:

    On the other hand, you can parrot a lot of incoherent thoughts in 140 characters or less--that seems to be its true use, not "saying anything worth reading".


    $ echo 'On the other hand, you can parrot a lot of incoherent thoughts in 140 characters or less--that seems to be its true use, not "saying anything worth reading".' | wc -c

    Heh. Even my unoriginal reactionary attitude doesn't fit in 140 characters.

  4. jwz says:

    Host not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)
    Host not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)

  5. derrialbook says:

    you're supposed to be exterminating coherent thought. get on that. e.g.

    • dmlaenker says:

      I love how the masses of self-promoting assholes that aren't worth reading on Twitter (but that everyone reads anyway for some reason) actually hate the people who are worth reading.

      I'm specifically thinking of when Ashton Kutcher responded to the protests in Iran by saying that it's all a CIA plot anyway so nobody should really give a shit.

  6. g_na says:

    Death to Twitter.

  7. "Bike ahead of me guy's socks said REBEL in Old English font.
    Assumed a loyalist but fuzzy ankle knitting set me straight. They
    looked warm."

    Wonder if I can make some money doing this ..

  8. unwoman says:

    There are some people who really make the short format work (see, but I don't think there's any reason people have to give up blogs for it.

    • nzchrisb says:

      Use one of those rss -> twitter things so that people know you've live journaled.

      • unwoman says:

        It makes sense to tweet important blog entries, but if you automatically tweet each one you're as bad as the people who put their twitter digest on their LJ. Let people subscribe to what they want to read.

    • sheilagh says:

      The faux christopher walken dude was funny, twitter suited the disjoint walken style of rambling quite well. Too bad it wasn't really him :(

  9. strspn says:

    Twitter isn't so that you have to edit your prose shorter, it's so that everyone else will learn to edit their prose shorter. :D

  10. rane500 says:

    "Guy on bike ahead had socks that said REBEL in Old Eng font. Thought loyalist - fuzzy knitting on ankles set me straight. Looked warm"

    "140 char not enuff 4 any coherent thought. I find 2 say nething worth reading I need 200-300. Need setup,story,punchline. If u leave out intro+punch its a damn laundry list."

    Twitter only works if you sacrifice spelling, grammar, and good sense. I certainly can't do that - it almost caused physical pain to write the above.

    • sheilagh says:

      "Thought loyalist" parsed wrong, the first time I read it. He was a loyalist to some... thought? No, t'was meant as "I thought him a loyalist, forsooth" or some such. That's why twitter largely fails me, trying to parse the lazy crap into something coherent.

      • rane500 says:

        To be perfectly honest, it gets even worse - for some reason I thought Twitter's limit was 144, not neither example even works. Oh well, chalk that up to avoiding it like the plague and not having any clue how it works.

  11. ladykalessia says:

    I'm waiting for someone to write a quick twitter extension or something that will scan for contractable word pairs (and triplets) and remove excess spaces and punctuation. And I don't mean making "you're" into "ur"; I mean in the "not giving up the ghost of the English language" way.

  12. lionsphil says:

    Correct answer, thank you. Please also resist any temptation to abuse LiveJournal for "microblogging", i.e. "ADHD diary-keeping".

  13. quotation says:

    Just as Livejournal filled the void left by usenet, so too does Twitter fill the void left by IRC.

    Twitter certainly isn't "microblogging" or "social networking," at least so much as those terms should be defined. Twitter is useful only as streams of conversation that you dip in and out of.

    Sure, the spammers and MLM slimeballs found it, but they're easy enough to avoid once you've learned the norms.

    It also helps to interact with Twitter properly. Only talk to friends, and give a twirl.

  14. vebelfetzer says:

    The challenge is getting a beautiful set of sentences down to 140 characters EXACTLY, and without pidgin. I get a little frisson each time.

    When I started my Twitter account I was obsessed with hitting 140 characters each time. I'd cheat with spaces occasionally, but that was it.

    There was even a bot that was tracking who got 140 each time, and kept score. It shut down not too long ago, so I gave up. I would have won.

  15. shephi says:

    it's the haiku of modern life.

  16. lirpa_j says:

    Disabling javascript works. (just tested it)

  17. allartburns says:

    twitter is for two things, imo:

    1) Lookit this cool URL I found!!11!!
    2) I pooped and it wasn't bloody!1!!!

  18. ciphergoth says:

    Twitter works because it forces people to be brief, so there has to be a character limit, but yes 140 is too short - 300 would be about right. Still, it's a useful discipline.

  19. cnoocy says:

    I suspect Twitter is a totally different medium in Chinese. Further, one could write a twitter client that encoded much larger ASCII tweets by exploiting the full Unicode character space.

  20. mcity says:

    I maintain that the day I don't have time to Livejournal is he day I need to reevaluate my life.

  21. pmb7777 says:

    Is there some requirement that all mediums support the same messages? I like twitter for hearing more about the lives of friends I don't see often. I don't care for discussions, or even topics worth discussing, on twitter.

  22. earle says:

    The rider on the bike that drew ahead
    Bore proud a motto garish on his sock:
    "REBEL". I dwelt on what this motto said.
    Loyalist, no doubt. Until to my shock
    I caught a sight of how his ankle stood
    Within a shell of knit, soft strands around.
    My thoughts were sent on a new track for good:
    They looked quite warm. How wonders doth abound!