The 141 Character Dilemma
We’ve all been there…
It is the worst user experience in the universe!
Twitter is your soapbox and you have 140 characters to get your I Have a Dream speech heard by the masses. Many, of course, waste this pedestal on drivel and mediocrity (and I should know, I recently passed 3,333 tweets…). But for those with a real message, the soapbox is rarely free. Martin Luther King paid the ultimate price for his audience… but the effect of his words resonated. And the world changed for the better as a result.
So if you have a meaningful message, and it takes 141 characters instead of 140, why shouldn’t you be able to pay for that extra vowel?
“I hav a drm”, doesn’t quite hit home in the same way.
The Self-Policing Soapbox
Charging per-extra-character on everybody’s favourite microblogging website would also shake out the “bad” while retaining more of the “good”. The current system is finely tuned to the short attention spans, quickfire opinions and easily-alienatable egos of the MTV generation. People who want all of the information right now, but won’t want to listen to anything that goes against their beliefs. It is remarkable how fast these attitudes have now leaked into other pools of society and age groups.
The ability to Follow is important – without it, Twitter becomes a firehose of noise. Following allows individuals to filter a signal from all of that noise. To separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s not perfect and it isn’t fine-grained control, but that doesn’t suit Twitter – it’s all-or-nothing.
By allowing individuals and businesses to expand their posts to Twitter, unfollowing due to posts that are too long would become commonplace. This forces users to be considerate with their extended posts. Businesses would need to find the balance between getting all the information across and throwing essays in the faces of their users.
Those with valuable things to say will organically bubble to the top and get more followers, while wealthy blabbermouths with fade naturally out of the hive consciousness.
It isn’t a fundamental change of functionality or behaviour, it is simply another way for users to decide who is worth listening to.
Monetise Twitter – How would it work?
Let’s say you’ve just written a long status and gone over the limit, a prompt would appear next to the character counter:
Clicking this would do one of two things. If you’ve never bought characters before (there’s a weird sentence…) you would be prompted to hand over your credit card details to Dick Costolo. These details would then be used for all future purchases of extra time on your soapbox.
If you had previously entered your details, you’d then see a breakdown of what you’re about to pay (in your local currency, of course):
And in this case, I would obviously hit Cancel, then sort out my issue with verbosity.
So, in short, MTV-generation-friendly headlines:
- It would be self-policing
- It would allow a little bit more freedom
- It would be a great way to avoid an unnecessary user frustration (while earning Twitter some cash)
- It would put pressure on Twitter to be more reliable – no more Over-Capacity errors – we’d be paying customers!
- It would prevent the need to drop into txt spk when you get near 140 characters
- It gives Twitter a revenue stream from potentially all of its users. Not just the business accounts.
- It is a scalable
- It is reasonably inoffensive
- It is optional (more pain, more gain)
- It is inobtrusive
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
And if you’re American, welcome! You’ve spelled monetise properly! 🙂