Save 140 – Just Say NO! To

by Thomas MORADPOUR on February 5, 2011 · 22 comments

By far the worst thing to hit Twitter.

Since last month, users of the popular Twitter client Tweetdeck have been given access to a brand new service called In a nutshell, this new functionality enables Tweetdeck users to post long tweets well beyond the 140 character limit – what is new is that within Tweetdeck, all users will see the longer tweet in full, like normal tweets; users of other clients will receive the tweet truncated with a url link to the longer text.


  • Without the 140 constraint, lazy Tweetdeck users will feel no urge to condense their thoughts, sharpen their wits and be creative with the limits they’ve been given. Why bother trying to be short and sweet if you can just type away?
  • Tweets will lose impact, and streams will become harder to digest. Hell, it’s already hard to scan and filter a stream today with 140 characters per tweet – what’s the upside there of adding unlimited rambling space?
  • Boundaries will start to blur between blogging and micro-blogging. Twitter with no size limit starts to look dangerously like an RSS feed to me – what’s to stop us from writing 500 characters, 2,000 characters, 10,000 characters tweets now?
  • Eventually, it will make Tweetdeck gain market share, but might turn hordes of users away from Twitter altogether, as the platform becomes more confused, cluttered and complex to navigate.


    140 is not a “limit” of Twitter. It’s “the” core idea that makes it interesting: Twitter is not fun despite the 140 constraint, it is fun because of it.

    Sure, playing football with just one ball, or Scrabble with 7 letters gives players limits – it would be easier to just throw all rules out the window and makes games easier. But like Twitter, Football and Scrabble are interesting because of the voluntary obstacles that the rules create:

    • it’s because of the 140 limit that you twist your brains every time you want to say something, to say it with impact, humor and creativity;
    • it’s because of the 140 limit that you agree to receive this endless deluge of updates from hundreds and thousands of other users – at least they’re short;

    Rules matter because they force us to be more creative, but also because they bound us all together around common values, behaviors, and intents. Creating a two-speed Twitter with a larger podium on one particular client, is a bad idea because it risks breaking the shared culture that makes Twitter the true social network it is today.


    Don’t get me wrong here – I want to hear what you have to say beyond 140, and get deeper into your ideas and thought process. But that’s called a blog, or an email or a face to face conversation. Forums and channels abound where you can express yourself without space constraints.

    In Twitter, if you can’t tease and convince me to click on your link in 140 characters, you’re sure not going to get me in 280. The answer to a bad headlines is not long body copy, it’s a better, sharper headline.


    I’m having a hard time understanding how Twitter can let Tweetdeck undermine this core aspect of their platform – they probably should ban it altogether.
    Until then, let’s say no to – friends don’t let friends tweet beyond 140!

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    • Paul Biedermann

      I don’t know about but I’ve used TwitLonger and thought it was a great new tool for certain situations.

      I agree that Twitter is a powerful, smart, fun way to communicate largely because of 140, but there have been several occasions when a chat grows into something a little larger than regular tweets can handle. In these instances, the tool can be a godsend and infinitely better than the alternative: strings of multiple tweets ending in “…” to complete a thought. Compared to that, I’ll take a link to a full thought any day.

      In these cases, it would be impractical to continue through email as you suggest, because there are usually multiple people engaged with the thread on Twitter. And since it’s still a very fluid discourse, it’s nice to give others the opportunity to jump in and offer their perspective as well.

      TwitLonger is nice to have when you just need to go a little past 140. But please use sparingly! #beyond140

      • Anonymous

        I, too, like to bend rules a little bit – but you know what? it’s a slippery slope. There just is no reason to stop at a few well-defined situations, when a “cheat” is available. Better to stick to principles. One longer tweet here and there won’t make a difference, but I hate what will happen when the habit spreads.

        Plus, what really bugs me in, is the two-tiers it creates between TD users who will become used to and immune to the longer tweets desease, and rest of us who’ll suffer the “blandification” and clutter this will create. Tweetlonger is a lesser evil as it is still “extra-ordinary”, and does not tilt the playing field.

        Thank Paul ;-)

        • Paul Biedermann

          I’m all against clutter and if that’s what causes it’s no good. I’ve only used TwitLonger and have seen how it reduces clutter (when people string multiple tweets together to finish a thought).

          I know slippery slopes can be treacherous and are something to be cognizant of. But the way TwitLonger works by linking to a separate page seems just “annoying” enough that I think it stands a good chance of being used only when absolutely necessary. We’ll see. Hopefully, it will prove to be a useful tool without destroying the beauty of Twitter.

          • Anonymous

            I agree with you. Tweetlonger adds a layer of annoyance that keeps it in check – something removes.

    • Christopher Porter

      Before I found the twitter tribe #usguys , I would have welcomed this change to tweet deck, seeing it as a great way to continue the conversation beyond 140. But just as you say, you can use twitter to judge if you find someone interesting, and if they are worth listening to at greater length, and connect with them using already accepted mediums like blogs, skype etc.

      I do think there is plenty of room for growth with new technology. There could be a next twitter, founded on different constraints. But it I think that will be its own beast, having its own norms of communication, its own flavor.

      Before #usguys I was not aware of how often people take twitter conversations to other levels, and other modes of communication. Now that I have been interacting in that chat group, I see the power of twitter, and the power in connecting beyond twitter into other modes.

      Thanks for continuing this conversation on your blog. I look forward to getting to know you better through each of the modes we choose :)

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Christopher!
        I agree with all your points, and in particular how a “next Twitter” will have its own rules, norms and dynamics. I think you can’t change a key gameplay rule abnd expect the game to stay the same – especially if only half the teams play the new/different game.
        I also look forward to more connections with you here and there :-)

    • Ken Rosen

      When I first started on Twitter, 140 seems arbitrary, but not in a bad way. That is, as you and Chris discuss in the comments, it had particular rules leading to particular behavior.

      Then I got into chats as my preferred way to engage on Twitter. And while chats can seem chaotic and full of pure low-tech text, I find myself in wonder at how well tuned Twitter is for allowing an undefined number of people to show up and carry on any number of simultaneous conversations. 140 is enough to make a point (esp. if you work at crafting messages) and short enough to scan virtually every message even when pace is high.

      While I’m rather rational about design, my one metaphysical indulgence is I believe a design is on the right track when you find it satisfying requirements not part of the original specifications. And chats seems a clear case of 140 doing that.

      Cheers, Ken

      Ken Rosen
      Performance Works

    • Rufus Dogg

      Rules force creativity. Heck, comments should be 140 or less. (did this in 59!)

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    • Karen E. Lund

      Agreed! Before joining I wondered what the 140 limit was about. Now I know it’s about KISS: Keep It Short & Simple. Longer discussion are great, but not on Twitter!

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    • Howie at Sky Pulse Media

      I agree here Tom. Twitter is unique with the 140 Character limit. If you need more send me a freaking email.

    • ElizabethSmithson

      I couldn’t agree more! The whole point of Twitter is to refine and make sure it’s “the best tweet it could be,” I don’t want to have to shuffle through xamount of random mini-blog posts?!

    • Taariq Lewis

      Agreed. Deckly adds more friction to rapid communication. Down with friction!

    • Olga Leever

      I agree! Two weeks ago I’ve also written a blog about this item: ’140 is genoeg’ (140 is enough) in Dutch:

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    • Daniel Ferguson

      Currently, I am reading a book about interface design and tweeting interesting and useful quotes from it. The latest quote (#TheHumaneInterface pg.68) was something that could not be edited without losing meaning, so what is one supposed to do in that situation?

      I totally see your point in all this, don’t get me wrong. I always try to fit what I want to say in 140 or less (that’s part of the fun ;) . But like I said, sometimes that is just not possible. is meant more to help in this situation, not to circumvent the limit entirely. You should be more upset at those who use it for that purpose instead of the service itself.

      As long as’s been out, I’ve used it a grand total of 3 times (not counting the initial test post everyone did). Two were rants, one was a quote, all three things anyone could read the first bit of to get an idea if they cared enough to see the rest. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean I use it all the time and I don’t see how this changes anything for those of us who care about the creative limit.

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