It’s always comforting to discover that you’re not alone in holding a particular belief or opinion, especially when it’s unpopular. So, hearing
Lee Mack spewing bile at Charlie Brooker on the subject of Twitter
really made me feel better about not understanding Twitter. It also nearly caused my bladder to let me down when I heard it. But what really struck me about it is that Lee Mack seems genuinely irritated – it even appears to take the other guests on the show by surprise. How can someone get so angry about some stupid web application? Well I completely understand where he’s coming from. When you hear lunatics like Glenn Beck or Michele Bachmann saying ridiculous things with a straight face it’s one thing, but when someone you like and respect says “well she’s got a point there, if we remove the minimum wage that would be the end of unemployment” it’s like a punch in the face. Rather than copy Lee Mack’s passionate rant, here are some other reasons to despise Twitter:
Someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea if twitter users could mention other users by their twitter username – all that they need to do is prefix the username with an ‘@’ sign, so that Twitter knows it’s a twitter username. Now this is arguably a good idea but with one problem: why in the holy name of Unicode did they choose the ‘@’ symbol? It’s already doing a great job in email addresses, and furthermoreit doesn’t make sense!. It’s read as ‘at’, which is why it was selected for email addresses because the address consists of a user AT a place! That’s logical! But what does it mean here: @mylamearsedtwittername1971 ? Nothing! It’s stupid! Now the poor @ symbol has been besmirched by an involuntary association with a badly thought-out social network. Couldn’t we choose a different symbol? it’s not like there’s a shortage!
Re-Tweets, #HashTags and other bodges
It’s far too easy to take someone’s crappy tweet and “re-tweet” it. Within seconds the whole internet can be trolled by a viral tweet – and to let you know it’s a retweet, Twitter cleverly puts ‘RT’ and the username (complete with the overloaded ‘@’ prefix) at the beginning of the content! Obviously they could have achieved this “out of band” by marking the tweet as a retweet and keeping track of it internally…but no…we all have to see that extra crap at the beginning of the tweet. Not only that, but we have to see the various pointless and irritating hashtags that the user thought would be a clever way to alert other people to their tweet. All of this extra baggage is not only ugly, but it cuts into the precious…
Twitter is a “micro blogging” site. This means it’s exactly the same as a blogging site but it restricts what you can say at any one time to a pathetic and dumbed-down limit of 140 characters (including all of the extra crap mentioned above that could have been engineered as metadata if someone at Twitter had a fucking clue). This is a blatant admission that nothing anyone writes on twitter will contain anything of actual substance. Oh but wait, that’s not fair! People can post links (to actual content) whichareof substance. Yes indeed. that brings me on to
Proliferation of URL (URI) shorteners
Owing to the inexplicably meagre limit of 140 characters, most URLs will not be tweetable. Consequently users are forced to use URL shorteners such as bit.ly. These things are certainly handy tools, but they are inherently EVIL! There’s another essay to be written on this subject, but in a nutshell
- They remove the semantics from URI’s – one of the main intentions behind the creation of URI’s in the first place.
- They are temporary. The lifetime of each shortened URI is in the hands of whoever owns the shortener app. Bit.ly is a classic example of how dangerous this is. You know what the ‘.ly’ in bit.ly stands for don’t you? Libya! Yes, that stable, friendly, reasonable, ally of the US. What happens if they decide to reclaim that particular domain and re-purpose it? All your domain are belong to Gaddafi.
- They break referrers and all kinds of other good Internet technologies that existfor reasons more valid than those behind the decision to create URL shorteners. Big Bruce Schneier
is, once again, seemingly the only person on the planet who uses them properly: in his newsletter he publishes the real URI, with all its semantic goodness and longevity, next to the conveniently shortened version.
The result: a spreading disease
All of this nastiness has become so widespread, twatters think it’s normal! People use hashtags, and precede other peoples’ names with ‘@’ when they’re not using Twitter! It doesn’t work! Stop filling my life with unnecessary, ugly, ineffectual crap. We don’t need an at in front of our names! It’s obviated by a thing called “syntax”. If you’re using Facebook, as a random example, you don’t need the ‘@’ to let someone know you are talking to them. In fact, if you do add an ‘@’ it will break Facebook’s far superior parser that will recognise the person’s name automatically
without the need to pollute the text with bogons like superfluous ‘@’ signs!
Alright…it’s out of my system now.