I use Twitter. It’s a good way to check superficial references to things that people find important. I click on those references, and then I find something of value.
There are those, however, who advocate Twitter as a means of communication in itself. These are the people who like to say things like, “If you can’t express an idea in 140 characters, it probably isn’t worth sharing.” (Twitter only allows people to make entries of 140 characters or less.)
I was forwarded one of these tweet about Twitter today by FastCompany – a business publication that places some emphasis on communication with new media. The tweet ran like this: “140 characters used to be so little and now its exaggeratedly big. I don’t even need 140 anymore.” – @DVF talks Twitter with @jack #iuny13
A quick check through Twitter helps me to understand a few things about this tweet: @DVF refers to a brand of clothes. @jack refers to Jack Dorsey, who characterizes himself as “a sailor, a tailor”, but doesn’t have an easy-to-find separate web site to explain what he means by that. I suppose I’m just supposed to know that he’s fabulous. Research OFF of Twitter reveals that Dorsey is the original creator of Twitter. #iuny13 refers to the Innovation Uncensored conference, sponsored by Fast Company.
So, where does that leave me with understanding why this tweet matters? Apparently, the original writer is at the Innovation Uncensored conference, and heard someone from the DVF company talking with Jack Dorsey. One of them said that they don’t even need 140 characters to communicate an idea anymore.
If that’s really true, of course, we have to wonder just what the tweet author, DVF and Jack Dorsey were doing at the conference, giving and listening to long lectures. Why not just post the ideas on Twitter, in 140 characters or less, and leave it at that? Why do these people need to brag at length about their cultivation of brevity?
140 character tweets certainly are sufficient for some sorts of ideas – name dropping, for example, as seen in the tweet discussed above. Most of the “ideas” communicated about on Twitter, however, boil down to little more than “Hey, I saw something nifty you should look at: Here it is.”
A countercurrent to Twitter in the world of business communications is the idea that people think, remember, and make decisions in terms of stories. Stories aren’t 140 characters or less. They’re long collections of statements that develop over time. So, we don’t find many stories on Twitter. But, what if people tried?
Here’s what the most famous epics of the world would become, if their creators had followed Twitter’s ethic of succinct communication:
The Ramayana: Demon stole my wife. Monkey king and I got her back. Now I’ll leave her with a monk. #rakshasas @srilanka
The Mahabharata: Never gamble with cousins cut out of an iron ball. Just blow the conch, dude. @arjuna #pandava #kaurava
The Iliad: 1000 ships got launched, and we fought with the gods for years to get that woman back. @Helen, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
The Odyssey: @Penelope, my flight got canceled AGAIN! Can you send a change of clothes over to @Calypso? Don’t keep @Telemachus out looking. I’ll call.
Beowulf: Mists, blood and smelly @Grendl. Now, a dragon? WTF Denmark?
El Cid: Tie my body to my horse, so we can banish the Moors, and get on to persecuting the Jews. Order more thumbscrews. #Islamsux
The Ring of the Niebelung: Ever tasted dragon blood? Trippy chicks on flying horses are great for a while, but I’m not ready for commitment.
The Lord of the Rings: Look, a ring! @Gollum, is this yours? You can’t see me. Hey Frodo, can’t have it, @Sauron. It’s mine! Oops, lava. @myprecious