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February 10, 2011

Should You Tweet Cheat?

Card hand with 5 Aces

Update below. No, I’m not talking about using Twitter to cheat in a relationship.  (Answer: No, if for no other reason than nothing is ever as secure as you think it is.)  I’m talking about whether you should cheat Twitter’s 140 character limit and use extended tweets.

Ever since Twitter started, the 140 character limit has been derided by those unfamiliar with the format.  “How could anything worthwhile be said in 140 characters?  Twitter must be superficial garbage.”

By the way, that opinion was expressed with 94 characters, demonstrating how much you can say within 140.  Typically, once people get the hang of Twitter, they realize the 140 character limit isn’t that limiting.

Want to say a paragraph-worth about something?  Use more than one tweet.  Want to say several paragraphs?  Write a blog post and tweet the link.  Most importantly to writers, Twitter is good practice for writing tight prose, training us to get rid of filler words like: that, just, only, actually, very, etc.

Some people still chafed at the limit, so add-on applications starting offering the ability to type more than 140 characters.  The normal-length tweet ended with a link that people clicked to take them to another website to read the rest.

I ignore these links unless they’re in a tweet addressed to me.  After all, I’m a known Firefox tab junky (240 tabs open at a time is not unusual for me), and I don’t want to add to that count just so I can read another word or two.  It takes time for that tab to load, and if I didn’t read it right away, it’d soon be buried under other tabs.

Does Anyone Pay Attention to Links for Extended Tweets?

I did a quick survey of my Twitter followers: How often did they click on those “continued” links?  The answers correlated with my own experience.

  • @Jessica_Anne_CA: Never. To me the point is 140 characters. Write a blog post if you want to say more.
  • @DocHousel: Only once, actually. But I’m one who appreciates the brevity [of] Twitter.
  • @jeffekennedy: only if I get tricked!
  • @KristenLambTX: No. Learn brevity. I’m lazy.

Repeat the “never” response a dozen or so more times and you get the idea.  (Thanks to all my followers who responded!)

The only people who didn’t have a negative impression of extended tweets were those who use an application that displays longer tweets, such as the Plume app for Android (recommended by @authorcesmith), or those who are very picky about who they follow, and thus give the benefit of the doubt that the information must be worth clicking on (such as @CMStewartWrite).

Does the TweetDeck Upgrade Change the Rules?

The latest version of TweetDeck, one of the most popular applications to use with Twitter, changed the game.  Now, TweetDeck includes longer tweets from other TweetDeck users right in the main application (for Desktop, Chrome, and Android versions).

This sounds great—longer tweets without having to click somewhere else—but it works only for other TweetDeck users.  Someone using HootSuite or the Twitter webpage must still click the link to read the rest.  In fact, TweetDeck now makes it too easy to cheat.

The rules haven’t changed.  Anyone who isn’t on TweetDeck still sees only the link, which we’ve just established is rather worthless.  And after my first day on the new TweetDeck, I’m already annoyed by seeing the longer tweets in my stream.  I hope TweetDeck will allow me to turn off that function and go back to the links so I can ignore them.

(Edited to add:  Yay!  TweetDeck listened.  Go to TweetDeck and download the newest version (just posted in last couple hours).  Run the update and open TweetDeck.  Click on the little wrench icon to enter Settings and unclick the check box for “Use Deck.ly for sending long updates.”  This will revert TweetDeck back to the bright red cut-off for long tweets and will show only the “read more” links in your columns.  No long tweets messing up my stream. And as a bonus, if you click on a “read more” link from another TweetDeck user, the extended tweet will show up in TweetDeck itself rather than a browser.)

Why is the update such a problem?  The new TweetDeck setting allows for unlimited characters.  That’s right.  Someone could post their whole blog post into TweetDeck and fill up my column.  (Yes, I checked and this post would be around 4500 characters.)  I’m going to say this once:

If you post long tweets, people will unfollow you.

Consider This a Twitter Public Service Announcement

Do you see those quotes above?  People like the brevity of Twitter.  Cheating the limit doesn’t work.  At best, those extended links are ignored.  At worst, you’ll annoy the users of TweetDeck and get yourself unfollowed.

I would much rather see 2 or 3 (or even 4 or 5) tweets from someone than have to deal with links or a messed up tweet stream.  And if someone has more to say than that, I’m more than happy to click on a blog link, as my tab count confirms.  But please, do not abuse the whole point of Twitter.

(If you need help getting started with Twitter, check out this by @MarianSchembari and this by @mashable, as well as my posts here, here, and here.)

Do you like the longer tweets?  Or do you hate them?  Do you ever click on the links to read more?  Would you rather see an extended tweet or a thought spread over a couple tweets?

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What do you think?

44 Comments on "Should You Tweet Cheat?"

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Katrina

I HATE the new feature. Maybe I’m too anal, but it bugs me that it makes TweetDeck look messier and shoves other messages further down. Just like I unfollow people who tweet every three seconds, I fear I may have to unfollow people who overuse deck.ly. It makes it harder for me to see updates from other people I like.

Another thing I’m not a fan of, and for the same reasons: when people post a long update on Facebook and it automatically posts on Twitter. But because it’s so long, I can’t read the whole thing. And I’d have to click through to FB to see the rest. Just, no. I’m on Twitter to build relationships, not to be lured elsewhere to have a conversation. I like Twitter-style conversation: pithy and succinct. I’d really hate for Twitter to lose that.

Elena

I haven’t seen any of these longer tweets yet, but I agree that the whole *point* of Twitter is the brevity. Changing the format of Twitter just makes it Facebook. What’s the point? I like the challenge of having to edit, edit, edit.

Piper Bayard

I think they just fixed something that wasn’t broken. Did they just not have any real problems to address? Thanks for the post.

Kelli
Kelli

When I first started Twitter, I was tricked into a few of these longer tweets with links. I even used longer tweets once or twice, but I didn’t like it. As writers, we have to be creative with our tweets anyway. If I can’t creatively tweet in 14o characters, what does that say about my creativity in writing? 😉 Great post Jami.

Michele Shaw

I am already hating these long tweets (yes, they are filling up my column) and I balk every time I go over 140 and it lets me. I adjust my tweet to fit 140. You are right, there will be unfollowing!

Murphy

Ha! I’ve gotten so comfortable with the 140 characters that’s all I need. And too, I love to use hashtags so much – I forget when I’m writing a regular email or text and have been known to do them tweet style on occasion. Who knew?

So, for me? No longer tweets. My motto: Sweet, neat- tweets!

Great info, Jami!

Murphy

Jami's Tech Guy

Great post Jami!

Very frustrating decision by TweetDeck. If you have to click, it’s a URL and not a tweet.

The beauty of Twitter is that you can quickly and easily have near real-time conversations with people. Having to click to read extended tweets breaks that flow. I hope my friends don’t give in to the temptation of longer tweets.

*Putting on my hacker hat*
I wonder if the extended tweet links are permanent. I like that tweets eventually expire.

I bet that the extended tweets are a way for TweetDeck to monetize their software since they give it away for free. It doesn’t even have an ad bar or similar. So there’s no way for them to make $.

With the new extended tweets, they have people visiting a URL where they could easily put ads and thus create a revenue stream for themselves. With so many other features being asked for with greater volume, $ is the only reason that makes sense for them to do this.

*hacker hat off*

-TG
@techsurgeons

Karla

I don’t like the longer tweets. The first one I saw in my stream was twice the size of the other tweets–at first I thought it was some sort of freak glitch. Bleh! Keep it tight, people 🙂

Amanda Bonilla

My short game sucks, so I always have a hard time keeping my tweets short and sweet! I haven’t seen many of the extended tweets yet, and I never follow the links. Maybe I better start! 😉

CMStewart

As you mentioned, I don’t mind the click-through tweet. 🙂 I don’t see them very often, and when I do, I go ahead and click through because I am clicking on blog and article links in other tweets as well. I do *a lot* of research via Twitter and mostly follow a limited number of writers and scientists. It’s what works for me. Too much info and I get ADD. 🙂

Jeffe Kennedy

Glad you pointed this out on the new Tweetdeck, which I *just* downloaded this morning. I despise cheaters. This is like adding extra syllables to Haiku. Must watch that +/- counter carefully…

Erica

AMEN, sister! I won’t click. People who want more than 140 characters should find another platform.

Clay Morgan

Great points. I have never once clicked to see the rest of a tweet. I’ve never found a reason to do so.

Jessica Anne

You already know where I stand on the extended tweets. (Thanks for the mention : ) ) I don’t use TweetDeck, but having extended tweets messing up my stream would make me consider changing to one of the other applications. And if they started placing ads in there, I would definitely change.

Pam

I have been on Twitter since the beta. No you should not ‘Tweet Cheat” not only is it annoying if you need to say more there is other micro-blogging software out there to do that. Get a Tumblr. Twitter Purists (web developers mostly) believe you shouldn’t chat, post links to your own blog articles or feed in other stuff either.

Todd Moody

Hi Jami,
While I appreciate your fervor over this issue, it’s a non-issue to me. I didn’t start using tweetdeck to cheat, and won’t purposefully look to cheat, but if it happens that’s OK with me. I can ignore it or like someone else said, I’m used to clicking on links to other stuff in Twitter all the time. Hope we can still be friends. =)

leslie (crookedstamper)

This post is perfection! In fact, I think I’ll tweet the link! 🙂

Rachel Firasek

Awesome post as usual. I prefer the shorter tweets. My attention span is short which is why twitter is so great. lol.

Tahlia

Definitely, keep them short. I like straight to the point. Bit of an Aussie thing that too.

M.E. Anders
M.E. Anders

Please, PLEASE, P-L-E-A-S-E don’t Tweet Cheat. I prefer people to write one tweet with a link to a longer post. I tend to un-follow those who take up my Twitter feed with numerous tweets.

Great post, by the way.

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Kerry Meacham
Kerry Meacham

No need to overcomplicate it @JamiGold. 40 words 🙂

Linda Faulkner

Amen.

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