Twitter, Good Faith, Skepticism, and Open-Mindedness

Yes, this is anoth­er piece about Twit­ter. But it’s also not real­ly about Twit­ter.

Jack Dorsey all but con­firmed a report that Twit­ter are going to allow up to 10,000 char­ac­ters in tweets (like­ly as a kind of media item attach­ment):

We’ve spent a lot of time observ­ing what peo­ple are doing on Twit­ter, and we see them tak­ing screen­shots instead of text and tweet­ing it. Instead, what if that text… was actu­al­ly text.Text that could be searched. Text that could be high­light­ed. That’s more util­i­ty and pow­er.

I wrote a piece say­ing I thought it was a pret­ty good idea. Sur­pris­ing­ly, not every­one agreed with me; for exam­ple, @chiller tweet­ed this:

Things no @twitter user wants:
— Moments
— Non chrono­log­i­cal tweets
— Tweets from peo­ple we don’t fol­low
— Pro­mot­ed bs.
— More than 140 chars

I have a few quib­bles with that, not least that I do want more than 140 chars (iron­i­cal­ly, the author could have used the full word ‘char­ac­ters’ if more were avail­able). But that tweet has 6,800 retweets at the time of writ­ing, so per­haps I’m in the minor­i­ty.

Will Ore­mus wrote a piece for Slate say­ing that Twit­ter are mak­ing this change just because they want to keep peo­ple on the plat­form in a ‘walled gar­den’:

What’s real­ly chang­ing here, then, is not the length of the tweet. It’s where that link at the bot­tom takes you when you click on it—or, rather, where it doesn’t take you. Instead of fun­nel­ing traf­fic to blogs, news sites, and oth­er sites around the Web, the “read more” but­ton will keep you play­ing in Twitter’s own gar­den.

Who should we believe? Jack, when he says this is just stan­dar­d­is­ing user behav­iour? Will, when he says that Twit­ter are not doing this for users but as a land grab? Or @chiller, when they say that users don’t want this at all?

I don’t know. I sus­pect there might be a lit­tle bit of truth in all of those posi­tions.

Per­haps that’s fence-sit­ting. How­ev­er, there are two things that I think are impor­tant to remem­ber when we’re talk­ing about sit­u­a­tions like this: Cen­ny­dd Bowles’ plea for good faith, It’s Not What You Think; and Carl Sagan’s expla­na­tion of good sci­ence, The Bur­den of Skep­ti­cism:

It seems to me what is called for is an exquis­ite bal­ance between two con­flict­ing needs: the most skep­ti­cal scruti­ny of all hypothe­ses that are served up to us and at the same time a great open­ness to new ideas. Obvi­ous­ly those two modes of thought are in some ten­sion. But if you are able to exer­cise only one of these modes, which ever one it is, you’re in deep trou­ble.


Also pub­lished on Medi­um.