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Twitter’s 280: ReTweeting to Improvement

Twitter’s 280: ReTweeting to Improvement

Twitter’s increased maximum character limit has had mixed receptions from its users. Apart from making retweets longer though, the additional characters have the potential to help develop several fields when seen through the prism of different world practices.

The History of Retweets

On September 26, 2017, Twitter took a bold step and doubled their maximum character limit from 140 to 280. The decision did not come immediately.

In fact, the choice to increase the character limit started in 2015 when they were mulling the idea of introducing 10,000 character tweets. However, the company strayed away from the idea, opting to not encourage long rant-like content as seen on Facebook.

In a recent blog post, Twitter explained that their research drove their decision. Their research revealed that about nine percent of all tweets today ended at exactly 140 characters.

They continue by saying that when people are not confined with just 140 characters and still have some to spare, people retweet more. It isn’t that hard to see the immediate benefits that these additional characters add.

For years Twitter users have begun to master the art of brevity. Sometimes though, it was at the expense of a few things. It’s not hard to see the impact and benefits of Twitter’s 280. Here are a few:

Longer sentences. As is obvious, more characters mean that people can retweet longer phrases and sentences.
Detailed stories. The additional characters allow for people to add details to previously rushed stories. More context can be added to certain situations as well.
Better grammar and writing skills. An article previously written by Telegraph documented how social media sites like Twitter affected student’s mastery of the English language. The new character limit may be able to wean students off the shortened “meta-language” and encourage writing in proper English.
Links, lists, and quotes. Whether people are using Twitter to garner followers or for entrepreneurial purposes, the increased limit allows them to add more links and lists. They may also use the additional space to quote longer phrases and even add context to why they like it.

While some people may see these improvements as unnecessary, these changes – and Twitter as a whole – have the potential to affect larger parts of the world. Not just followers and advertisements.

The Retweet Potential

Most beings in the Twitterverse see the social media site as a platform where thoughts snippets of thoughts, stories, and insights are shared. Truthfully, they aren’t wrong. This is why so many people buy retweets on their tweets, it generates a massive increase in visibility.

However, looking past the initial function of Twitter reveals what each retweet is: an expansive amount of data that can be applied to numerous fields. Here are just a few things that retweets are currently used for.

Retweeting For Disaster Response

Researchers from the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) has begun investigating innovative ways to harness Twitter’s data for faster disaster response.

Most disaster monitoring systems focus on either before or after the event. With Twitter though, the researchers found that retweets could be an effective tool for real-time monitoring.

Their research is hinged on people just retweeting about their everyday lives. The researchers compared the tweets sent out during the devastating Hurricane Sandy to the power outage information provided afterward by the utility companies.

Afterward, they isolated retweets with terms like “power,” “outage,” and “electricity.” Upon organizing the tweets by the hour and compared to the information from the utility companies, they found moderate to strong correlations.

With more characters to tweet with, there are more words that act like meaningful pieces of data. It is the hope of the IST researchers that in the future, these retweets can be used as potential energy to support communities when they need it the most.

Human Behavioral Patterns

Much like the previous point, scientists are finding pieces of data from retweets that allow them to map out and act on human behavioral patterns.

Microsoft spearheaded this branch of research. In their research, they focused on the retweets of pregnant women. From those retweets, they analyzed emotional cues within them. Using an algorithm that they developed, they were able to predict women who were at risk for postpartum depression.

The increased character limit can greatly benefit this cause. The previous 140 limits paint incomplete pictures with broken ideas and sentences. Not all of what a person feels may translate to only a few words.

More words mean more expressions. These, in turn, translate to more data for human behavioral patterns to be analyzed from.

Scientific Advancement

Twitter’s influence on scientific citations and article impact has been validated by research conducted by the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The study found that if an article was tweeted by many people, it was 11 times more likely to be highly cited than those that few people tweeted about.

Alexis Madrigal from the Atlantic spoke about the implications of these results. He said that normally, it would take months or even years for papers to be cited by other scientific publications.

With Twitter though, it is possible to see whether or not an article will have a real impact on any given field if a lot of people retweet about it.

This research though has been challenged. It has been suggested that publications send out automatic retweets for when a paper first appears, as well as for the top articles of the month and even most viewed.

Despite that, lead researcher Gunther Eysenbach states that it does not change the impact of the study’s conclusions.

In much the same vein of the previous two points, the maximum character limit does nothing but improve the capacity of scientific advancement on Twitter.

The End

The Twitterverse’s reaction to the new 280 character limit was mixed. While others revealed at the ability to express more in complete sentences, others were either confused or just plain negative about having to read more.

Nevertheless, the increased character limit has the potential to impact a number of fields and industries with every word tweeted.

All people have to do is continue using Twitter for its purpose; to express their thoughts, ideas, and stories in their everyday life. With every character and word tweeted, a new piece of data emerges to help the world.

Published on: 9 October 2018
Posted by: Rich Drees
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