Should You Tweet Cheat?

by Jami Gold on February 10, 2011

in Random Musings

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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44 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Katrina February 10, 2011 at 6:39 am

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.

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 8:24 am

Hi Katrina,

Exactly! It might be anal, but I agree with you about the messiness of the column. I get behind in tweets, so I click through the column quickly to catch up (just one reason not changing your avatar too often is so important – that’s what I look for), and I get into a certain rhythm with seeing 4 tweets per click. I know how long that takes me to skim, so click, click, click, and I get through hundreds of tweets in a few minutes. When a longer tweet pops in, it throws that rhythm off and slows me down. *grr*

And good point about the long Facebook updates having the same “click through to read more” issue. You’re right, I don’t do those either. Twitter and Facebook are different animals and shouldn’t be lumped together. Thanks for the comment!

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Elena February 10, 2011 at 7:17 am

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.

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 8:26 am

Hi Elena,

Yes, it is a challenge to make things short enough sometimes, but like you said, I like it. It’s good practice for us writers (and makes it harder to shoot off a tweet without thinking about it 🙂 ). Thanks for the comment!

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Piper Bayard February 10, 2011 at 7:28 am

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

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

Hi Piper,

I think TweetDeck wanted to make their product an all-in-one for Twitter and they saw people using those add-on applications, so they decided to roll it in. As long as they let me turn it off, I won’t care. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Kelli February 10, 2011 at 7:44 am

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.

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 8:29 am

Hi Kelli,

Yes, exactly! I think Twitter can be great practice for reducing word count. Figure out how to say what you want to say in less words – what a concept. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Michele Shaw February 10, 2011 at 8:29 am

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!

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

Hi Michele,

Yes, I’ve already trained myself to treat that dark green background like the old red “stop” and adjust my tweet. Thanks for the comment!

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Murphy February 10, 2011 at 8:50 am

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

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 9:09 am

Hi Murphy,

Yep, I’ve been tempted to use hashtags in emails and blog posts too. 🙂 People have talked about wanting a special sarcasm font or symbol for years, and I think the # is evolving into that for sarcasm or asides. It’s kind of cool to watch the evolution. Thanks!

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Jami's Tech Guy February 10, 2011 at 8:59 am

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

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

Hi Tech Guy,

Oh, great point! Yes, this could very easily be used to slip ads into the webpages of the extended tweet links. Ugh, as if I needed another reason to dislike them. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Karla February 10, 2011 at 9:24 am

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 🙂

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 9:55 am

Hi Karla,

Yes, I thought so too. Unfortunately not. Thanks for the comment!

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Amanda Bonilla February 10, 2011 at 9:51 am

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! 😉

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 9:58 am

Amanda,

Think of keeping the tweets short as a game. It really is good practice for tight prose. 🙂 Or just use more than one tweet.

Of course, it’s entirely up to you to go longer, but know that virtually no one will click the link. *shrug* Thanks for the comment!

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CMStewart February 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

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. 🙂

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 10:00 am

Hi CM,

Yep, I figured this was just a public service announcement to let people know that most of the time their extended tweet links don’t get clicked. Thanks for the comment!

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Jeffe Kennedy February 10, 2011 at 9:53 am

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…

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 10:01 am

Hi Jeffe,

“Like adding extra syllables to Haiku.” LOL! Good analogy. Thanks for the comment!

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Erica February 10, 2011 at 10:00 am

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

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 10:02 am

Hi Erica,

Yes, leave Twitter for Twitter format and go elsewhere for longer rants – like this one. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Clay Morgan February 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

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

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 11:26 am

Hi Clay,

Yes, I think it’s important for people who do use the longer tweets to know that people don’t usually click on them. That way they’ll know not to put important things near the end of their tweet. Thanks for the comment!

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Jessica Anne February 10, 2011 at 11:34 am

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.

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hi Jessica,

Yes, luckily TweetDeck has already fixed the issue, so we can turn off those long tweets. Yay! Thanks for the comment.

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Pam February 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm

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.

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Hi Pam,

Interesting, we shouldn’t ? Oops. 🙂 I wonder how differently Twitter has evolved from what the developers expected. Thanks for the comment!

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Todd Moody February 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm

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. =)

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hi Todd,

LOL! Of course, my friend. I guess my point is more to let people know that if they cheat and use the links, probably at least 95% of the time, no one will see it. So go ahead and cheat, and I’ll just ignore it. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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leslie (crookedstamper) February 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm

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

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Jami Gold February 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Hi Leslie,

Aww, thanks! Glad I could help with the TweetDeck upgrade.

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Rachel Firasek February 11, 2011 at 5:31 am

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

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Jami Gold February 11, 2011 at 9:04 am

Hi Rachel,

LOL! Yeah, I think a lot of us have short attention spans. Thanks for the comment!

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Tahlia February 11, 2011 at 4:50 pm

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

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Jami Gold February 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hi Tahlia,

I don’t know, with as busy as everyone is, I think of it as more of a modern life thing. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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M.E. Anders February 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm

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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Jami Gold February 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Hi M.E.,

Thanks for the comment! Glad you appreciated the Twitter PSA. 🙂

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Kerry Meacham February 12, 2011 at 11:08 am

No need to overcomplicate it @JamiGold. 40 words 🙂

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Jami Gold February 12, 2011 at 11:11 am

LOL! Thanks for the comment, Kerry. 🙂

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Linda Faulkner February 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

Amen.

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