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If 140 is too little, what's the right number?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 by Dave Winer.

Jonathan Edman tweets: "I deeply understand how crippling 140c is, but what is the right number? Don't you run into the same problem at almost any num?" Permalink to this paragraph

Since my answer is too long to fit in 140 chars, I answered here. Permalink to this paragraph

Jonathan, I don't know what the "right" number is, but I have some ideas. Permalink to this paragraph

First, almost anything above 140 would be seen by power Twitter users as an improvement, and a cause for celebration. It would be a sign that someone is listening. And it would immediately give us relief. It's as if, in 1981, Apple found a way to give us 72K instead of 48K. There would be a burst of creativity like the Summer of Love. A picture named sidesmiley.gif Permalink to this paragraph

Now, here's what I would do first, to try to come up with the right number. Permalink to this paragraph

Read the feeds of the NY Times, BBC, and a few other professional news sources for a few weeks, and count the characters in the <description> elements of each <item>. Average the number. Double it. That's what I would go with. Permalink to this paragraph

The theory being, if professional writers can summarize a whole news article in, X characters, then the average person should be able to express an idea in 2X characters. Permalink to this paragraph

In my new River of News, I cut the intros off at 280 chars, arbitrarily, and it seems to work pretty well. Previous versions included full posts, and that was a problem, because some sites, like OpenLeft, write whole books in their posts. I also strip out markup. I'm tired of all the huge pictures people are throwing into the river. I see it as a gimmick to try to get more attention. I say let their ideas compete with everyone else's on a level playing field.  Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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