I am a long-time user of Twitter. The microblogging platform has allowed me to connect with people around the world, learn new things and share my ideas. Although Twitter has struggled in recent years to grow, especially when compared to sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, it nevertheless maintains a solid base of users.
Twitter’s hallmark feature is that tweets are limited to 140 characters. People are forced to be pithy and to think hard about every single character they type. For example, the preceding two sentences consist of 161 characters, including spaces. They would not fit in a tweet.
A 140-character limit is less of an issue for character-based languages such as Chinese or Japanese. For example, the word “sophistication” consists of 14 characters. In Japanese, the word is only two characters: 洗練. (Please be right, Google Translate!)
That’s a 7:1 advantage over letter-based languages that use an alphabet. The Roman (Latin), Cyrillic, Arabic and Greek alphabets are examples of such languages. Most people in the world speak a language that falls into this category. English falls into this category.
In an effort to address the issue, Twitter is considering increasing the character limit from 140 to 280. In fact, they are already testing the new format with a limited number of users.
I am not going to lose sleep over the issue one way or the other. However, even if you welcome Twitter’s increased character limit, please resist the urge to follow suit when it comes to your slide presentations. Many presenters think that it is a good idea to add lots and lots of detail. Rarely is this case; in fact the result is usually a bloated, incomprehensible slide. Here is one extreme example. And here is another.
When it comes to slides, follow the “old” Twitter philosophy of brevity. Keep your slides simple and clean. Design them like Pablo Picasso. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of slides can be tightened, sharpened and improved by removing material instead of adding material.
Indeed, one could say the same thing about Twitter’s new, longer tweets. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, sent out the following tweet about the new format.
Brian Barone, another Twitter user, decided to edit Dorsey’s tweet.
Well, what do you know! Shorter, tighter and better.
Even Jack Dorsey had to admit it.