Lets Talk About Twitter’s 280 Character Trial…

So if you look around Twitter this morning you may well notice reaction to the latest Twitter trial, much of which seems to be pretty negative from what I have seen so far. Twitter is running a trial with a small number of select users who can now tweet with 280 characters instead of 140 characters.

I mean for me, the real question is — why doesn’t Twitter do what is in the best interest of the user experience? This is just one of several instances where you look at Twitter’s decision to update something and think…yeah but what about tackling the real issues on the platform head on?

(Important to note here that the change to 280 characters at the moment is a trial. It is not final and it may not be rolled out to all users should Twitter reverse their decision to go through with it)

Part of the beauty for me is 140

Part of the “magic” of Twitter has been getting it done in 140. Doubling the limit opens up more room for a lot of unnecessary shit. I mean lets have a look at some modifications to Jack’s tweet on 140 characters.

280 gives more room for people to angrily vent at others, it opens up more room for trolls to abuse people in a single tweet and who knows what kind of chaos Donald Trump could create with 280 characters.

I mean hands up if you are excited for brands and media publications to get their hands on more room in your timeline! Anyone? No? Good tweets boil down to the essential stuff, the good stuff. Headline…bit of detail…maybe a link if you want to really dig into the topic more…thats it.

When big news breaks it breaks on Twitter because of the speed at which the platform moves, Twitter becomes a collective live blog constantly being updated in a major event and there is nothing wrong with a tweetstorm when this happens.

I recently fell back in love with the magic of Twitter again after I really audited who I was following and cut thousands of those people out. Agencies, businesses and people who I just never interacted with or don’t interact with anymore. It gave me a blend of news and comedians with a splash of photographers and social media friends, it has been a refreshing change.

Not once have I wished there was more room to tweet, and I haven’t seen hoardes of people screaming out for this change to take place. With 140 you have to get your thoughts and ideas out there concisely. You have to get to the point fast to keep that attention. However 280 characters gives you room to ramble, this is such a pointless update to be trialing you get the impression that even Twitter may not be fully on board with it.

140 also adds to the wit of the platform something which I greatly enjoy and appreciate.

Now I know there will be people who say “well you don’t have to use 280 characters you know!” Yeah fully aware of that, I don’t have to use 280 and I won’t be using it either. I don’t want to read tweets that are 280 characters long either.

So what are the issues that I think Twitter should be focusing on? You can see how I feel about 280 characters but what should they be doing instead?

Harassment and trolling

Seriously, we shouldn’t be talking about this anymore. This is something that Twitter should have knocked on the head a long time ago. They haven’t though, they have failed to make the right moves and take a firm stance in the right places which gives rise to this sentiment.

And its bang on too, Nazis, misogynists and trolls are running around the platform abusing and harassing users on a daily basis. Making things worse is the fact that we hear of new reports filed every week on Twitter where a user has been abused but Twitter fails to see where the problem is.

Several celebrities in recent years have left the platform citing the abuse they received as the determining factor in the choice to go. Twitter has even acknowledged that they suck in dealing with these issues but still they can’t get on top of the problem because they seem to be concerned with the wrong issues.

  • Round buttons
  • Round profile pictures
  • Longer tweets
  • A bloated Moments feature
  • “Tweets you may have missed”

Sure there are some people who may like the move to this kind of stuff like getting more room to tweet but judging by the reaction this morning, most people are not in favour.

“This will reduce the number of tweetstorms which is great!” Really? Meanwhile Twitter’s stance on the most controversial user of the platform just stinks.

The Donald Trump dilemma

Users have been calling out for Donald Trump to be banned from the platform. Why? Because he has breached the terms of service of the platform, simple as that.

He has threatened leaders of countries, he has threatened entire countries and when you jump into the comments on any of his tweets you see the dark side of Twitter exposed in broad daylight.

The tweet clearly violates the rules of the platform so many people have been wondering why it wasn’t removed and why the account wasn’t suspended. That is generally what happens when something like this takes place on the platform. Twitter’s response? Because it was newsworthy.

So hold on. The man can spew hate and vitrol, divide the country over the NFL and threaten leaders while belittling them but its all good because it is considered to be newsworthy? No shit, water is wet. He is the president, anything he says is newsworthy but why should it be tolerated?

Jack Dorsey has defended Trump’s tweets in the past saying:

“I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors”

Heres the thing though, if your average user on the platform tweeted in the same manner he did then they would face the consequences and would be suspended for it. So what we have really now is a set of rules for one guy and a set of rules for the rest of us.

Twitter as a business

Twitter can take the line of — ‘we think it is important to have these conversations in the open’ and they can brag as being the platform of free and open speech all they want.

The simple fact is they are a business and they are chronically unprofitable. That is why we have to put up with all these tweaks such as round buttons, round profile photos and longer tweets. They will tweak anything in the hopes that it will kick them into generating revenue. That is why the platform is bloated with the “Moments” tool, “tweets you may have missed” and more features that we just never asked for and never wanted.

That is why Twitter refuses to ban Donald Trump, not because his tweets are newsworthy but because banning him is bad for their business. If they cross that line and do the right thing they will no doubt be worried that the president will go somewhere else and lots of users could follow him.

Twitter is a niche platform, it is never going to be Facebook or Instagram and it shouldn’t try to be either. All that we will be able to do now is watch how their trial goes and should it be rolled out to users, how bloated with the platform become because to me 140 characters felt like the perfect balance for a platform that moves so fast.