Friday, December 7, 2007

The magical number 140 pops up again

Michael Hanscom, possibly independently of the tweeple-unfollow and club140-trapps discussions, has weighed in on Twitter:

So far, I’m a little unimpressed with the leading contender for a collective noun for ‘those people I follow/am following on Twitter,’ which appears to be ‘tweeple’. To my ears, it’s rather silly, and a rather glaringly obvious portmanteau.

I have to admit that I rushed to a dictionary for that one.

portmanteau - a new word formed by joining two others and combining their meanings; "`smog' is a blend of `smoke' and `fog'"; "`motel' is a portmanteau word made by combining `motor' and `hotel'"; "`brunch' is a well-known portmanteau"

Sorry, Michael, but instead of calling "tweeple" a portmanteau, I'm gonna be trendy (IANT) and call it a mashup.

But Michael's preferred mashup/portmanteau is to take "people" and "tweet" and get "peeps." Well, I'll be djwudi's peep, but I probably won't make a habit out of it. (Insert nun joke here.) I can see it now:

Yo, @biz, I b yr peep!

But Hanscom doesn't just talk about his valued peeps. He also weighs in on the impracticality of following and being followed by thousands. (See this post on Dunbar's number, for background; in this case, the number is 150, not 140, but the difference between 140 and 150 can be attributable to a rounding error based upon use of different computer processors. Heh. Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I’d be amused if, since Twitter imposes a limit of 140 characters for tweets, they also imposed a 140 ‘character’ limit for your contacts. Not sure if that should work out as 140 followers and 140 followees [280 total contacts in both directions], or 70 each, or perhaps just 140 total allowed and spread them out however you wish.

I could plunge into the details (if X follows Y and Y follows X, should both count against your total?), but I'd stick to the strategy. If Twitter connections (or LinkedIn connections, or whatever) were artifically limited/rationed, then two things would happen:

  • Certain people would campaign to be one of your "name" tweeple/peeps. "Hmm, do I have enough slots for Robert Scoble AND Guy Kawasaki AND Julia Roy?" (Actually, I dropped one of these people recently - and it wasn't Julia Roy. And, for the record, Guy Kawasaki got fewer votes in Dig a Tech Guy.)

  • You'd have more aggregation services, such as my fave aggregation service @oow that was used during Oracle OpenWorld 2007. (And no, I'm not labeling this as yet another openworld07 post on my blog. It's OVER, and the reference is pretty tangential.) In essence, you can get the views of multiple people by using just a single subscription slot.
Yes, it makes sense to ration cable channels (Jerry Jones, many people are saying "I *don't* want my NFL Network!"), but it would be truly odd if we rationed social connections. Yes, it's amusing, but Hanscom's point still remains:

Really, how many individuals can most people really keep track of full-time?

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