Media Social Web Useful stuff

When 140 characters are not enough to rant

One of the big pieces of “news” in the last few days is that Twitter may stop counting links and images in the 140 characters permitted for tweets:

While there is other news, this one seems to have the media in an absolute frenzy. Bloomberg reported the news in an article titled “Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit“. The key paragraph is this one:

The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment.

Largely unsubstantiated speculation

Read that carefully. What Bloomberg said is the following:

  1. Some anonymous person said Twitter will stop including links and images (well, image links, effectively) in the 140 characters limit.
  2. This might happen in the next two weeks.
  3. Twitter declined to comment.

While all of this might happen, this news report is pretty much unsubstantiated speculation (well, aside from the “person familiar with the matter” who could be a guy who passed an open window where someone who looked like a Twitter employee said something about 140 characters and links).

This speculation has then been reported as pseudo-fact by a variety of other publications. The Verge, for example, reported this:

Twitter is planning on letting users craft longer tweets by not counting photos and links toward its 140-character limit, according to a report from Bloomberg today. The change may happen in the coming weeks, and it would remove one of the more annoying product hurdles that has persisted on Twitter for years. Links and photos currently hog 23 and 24 characters respectively.


I’m not quite sure what to make of this. For one thing, seeing so much copy written about a lot of speculation, especially after the whole 10,000 characters fiasco not too long ago which probably had more credibility because Jack Dorsey made some obscure reference to the possibility.

Secondly, Twitter reportedly declined to make any comment. In other words, Twitter either won’t confirm it because –

  • it’s just another rumour about something Twitter is still thinking about;
  • Twitter isn’t going to make the change; or
  • Twitter is being coy because it thinks this sort of frenzy might just convince all those Facebook users to switch.

Lastly, surely this sort of “news” isn’t worth all this attention? We’re literally talking about roughly two dozen characters where people either post multiple tweets to express a whole thought or do what Dorsey did back in January and publish an image of a lot of text. To add to that, a lot of people even publish thoughts that can’t be contained in 140 characters in those things we old-timers call “blogs” (it’s a real thing and it’s in the dictionary).

It might happen

If this change comes to pass, it will be a good thing. Twitter shouldn’t be counting links and media in the already constrained character limit and commentators have been calling for this change for years.

It won’t change the tweetstorms, tweets attaching images of longer texts and other stuff. It will just mean that users can probably avoid publishing multi-part tweets when they happen to be a word or two over the limit and still want their tweets to be intelligible.

Making this change won’t bring about peace in our lifetime; fix global warming or make the wifi on my train work any better. It really isn’t that big a deal, people.

Design Mindsets Mobile Tech

The number 1 reason why you are crazy to buy an Apple Watch

Apple product fans are usually pretty loyal and have Apple Koolaid coursing through their veins. They flock to every new Apple release. Nothing new there. That said, the hysteria around the Apple Watch is just amazing. Its as if the Apple Watch is a cure for every technological failing and the only question is which one to buy, not whether its better to skip this version?

When I think about reasons to buy the Apple Watch, the biggest reason why you would be crazy to buy an Apple Watch is pretty simple: it is a 1st generation device! Do you even remember the 1st generation iPhone or iPad? They were exciting when they came out but they turned out to be pretty mediocre when compared to subsequent generation versions.

Nilay Patel, The Verge’s editor in chief, has a great video review of the Apple Watch which you should watch (excuse the pun) before rushing off to buy one of these devices:

If you still feel like you absolutely #need the Apple Watch after this pretty balanced review then you probably either have far too much disposable cash than perspective on more important things to spend it on or you are one of those pseudo-hipster Apple fanatics who just can’t resist rushing to waste money on a first attempt smart watch you’ll upgrade next year anyway.

Really, it is a first generation device. The only thing compelling about it is that it is new. Apple will produce a much better version next year or the year after that. You won’t #die if you don’t buy one now, just use your iPhone 6 to tell the time and do other stuff.

Image credit: Apple Watch Sport by Yasunobu Ikeda, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0


Business and work Events and Life Mindsets

Mostly Bullshit

I’ve rethought a lot of my life in the last 6 months or so since I was diagnosed as diabetic. It wasn’t so much that my diabetes was so out of control that I was facing imminent doom (at least I realised that when I got over the initial surprise and learned more about it) and that sense of my looming demise forced a rethink of my life and general direction. No, it was more that my diagnosis prompted changes in my lifestyle which necessitated different approaches and perspectives which led to further changes. It was a cascading series of changes. In the process my life changed fairly profoundly and continues to change.

I have been thinking about a number of things during this time that I have realised are mostly bullshit. Those things include the almost religious zeal with which many of us (I include myself in this insular group of tech- and digital-aware pundits with too few substantive challenges in our lives or who lack the appropriate perspective to recognise the real issues) approach consumer tech. Another item on this list is commercial banking which we allow to totally screw up our financial wellbeing.

The consumer tech rant

The consumer tech obsession isn’t new. It’s been going for ages and I have made a small contribution to it in my brief time blogging about it. I still obsess about aspects of it, mostly social services like Google+, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as part of an externalised series of thought experiments. I still find myself getting caught up in new shiny things from time to time and that annoys me. I have been reading posts about recent new devices and the commentary is pretty much the time. The difference is that specs change.

The commentary is generally that some device is the death of another because of its size, screen resolution (aside from whether a device looks good to you as an individual, do you really care precisely how many PPI you can squeeze onto that screen?) or some other arbitrary factor. I use an iPhone and I upgrade to the new one every other year or so. I largely do it because I want more capable devices (better camera for better photos on the go, faster processor so my phone runs my apps more effectively and so on). Yes, Google’s software is pretty good and, yes, many non-Apple devices have multi-core processors and other features that seem better on paper or in a multitude of virtually identical reviews (which is why I don’t do gadget reviews anymore) but I like my iPhones and they work for me.

Unless you are a tech journalist or blogger who gets caught up in specs for the sake of it, most people probably use the devices they use because it is what they could afford; because it works for them or because it was probably the best of a selection available to them when they upgraded their contract. Tech specs and the extent to which one device’s screen has worse white balance compared to another (insert comparative gripe here) are largely bullshit. Each of us have a preference for a device or range of devices based on what may appeal to us at that point. Tech bloggers and journalists are basically spoilt sales people who hype new tech based on meaningless criteria (at least for a substantial number of people). All this talk of devices being iPhone- or Android-killers is about as meaningful as, well, it really has no meaning in real terms.

I don’t know what the solution is. For me, at least, being amused because I still have an iPhone 5 when there are any number of bigger, brighter or newer Android/Windows Phone/Blackberry phones out and asking why I haven’t switched is pretty idiotic. If I really cared about the new thing, I would have changed over. What I have works for me and the same thing probably applies to most non-tech bloggers and journalists.

Oh, one more thing on this rant: I noticed a newish trend for tech journos to write really cynically about new tech. That newfound cynicism is just the flip side of what most be totally old fashioned fanboyism. It is still bullshit, just negative and oxygen-sucking bullshit.

The bank rant

We had a time in the last couple years where banks were falling over themselves to show us just how cool they are and how much they innovate. Many of us consumers were rushing to switch to one or more of these banks because we completely bought into the hype.

That new and shiny smell has worn off and we are still stuck with much of what we had at our previous banks, although service levels have benefitted somewhat from the competition. The flashy banks that offered us manufactured status, perks and loyalty programs have become victims of their success. They are overwhelmed and can’t meet the service expectations they created. They almost never call you when they say they will and their offers to support you with seemingly fantastic products and services have very fine and contradictory print.

What I realised about banks is that they sell lifestyles. At least, the money they loan to us in substantial quantities is justified by co-created visions of better lives (we are just as much to blame, we aspire to be more than we perceive ourselves to be) made possible by higher credit card limits and overdraft facilities. This problem tends to be exacerbated by most of us buying into this very early on, usually when we start working and are just happy to make a break with relatively poor student years. Once we are caught up in that world, it just becomes progressively more expensive until we find ourselves in our 30s and 40s and in obscene debt.

The people who keep their costs down out of university and save as if they may need to pay for cars and houses with their own money (imagine being able to do that!) are the ones who have living expenses at a fraction of everyone else’s, much higher disposable income (which they probably mostly save) and who retire at 65 with a smile on their faces.

The rest of us are fools. We start off buying into the promise of a better life and wind up pursuing it because we just want to go on that one holiday or survive the month before the next payday. Although these banks are our best friends and @-mention us on Twitter when we are first dating them, we are eventually reminded that until we generate substantially more income than we did at the beginning (and merit more attention), we are economic slaves in tough economic times. All that advertising and all those benefits of switching from one bank to another are also mostly bullshit.

What really counts

Twitter co-founder, Ev Williams wrote a post a while ago in which he sets out his Formula for Entrepreneurial Success. Two of the items stand out as truly important things in life (they all are important and meaningful, so read the whole post):

3. Take Care of Yourself

When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers.

Love those Close to You

Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationships is.

It is easy to get caught up in bullshit and I still do it far too often for my liking. Developing a healthier perspective on that stuff takes work and it worth the time and effort. When you do, you begin to reintroduce more meaning into your life which becomes more your life the more you do it.

My diabetes diagnosis is one of the best things to have happened to me as an adult (after meeting and marrying my wife and having our children). It has become a metaphor for how I manage (loosely) my finances and even how I perceive attitudes to my work. I have more thoughts and questions about so many aspects of my life and far fewer answers. How about you? How conscious are you of the cruft in your life? Assuming you’re living your life, of course.