This article by Farhad Manjoo, in which he suggests Twitter should double its 140 character limit on Tweets, got me thinking. In particular his observation that on Google+ there were more conversations, as a direct result of there being no imposed limit. The problem, as Manjoo observes, with having no limit is that this opens the possibility of unwelcome screed replies.
The argument for short messages is that they encourage creativity and thought. The counter argument is that, in a conversation, it is often not possible to summarise a complex idea or argument into a short message. It’s a common enough adage that brevity and clarity are bedfellows, but enforced brevity can be a barrier to clarity when u r forced 2 resort 2 txtspk.
The solution seems simple enough. Why not let each user set their own limit? When another user posts an unsolicited long message it appears truncated to my personal limit in my view with a ‘read more’ link (or perhaps I can choose to ignore long posts completely). When another user replies to my messages they are told that I have set a specific character reply limit. Of course my posts are subject to my own imposed limit too, and when I reply I am subject to the originators limit.
It’s important that each user is limited to their own imposed limit to avoid a situation in which users set very low limits on replies while allowing themselves all the room they want. Such an imbalance would not lead to fair exchanges and would soon frustrate the system into silence.
In order to keep things simple for people who do not want to set their own limits each account would have a default limit, say 500 characters (although that’s entirely arbitrary on my part), and a lower limit of 100 characters to prevent people setting silly lower limits (although I say ‘why not’ if you want to lock down to single character conversations, that’s your prerogative, stupid though it might be. But, we do have to consider the possibility that people are idiots and need to be protected from themselves).
Self imposed limits, or should we just let people write what they want and use the old fashioned method of ignoring long boring replies?