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Now with More Characters

Posted by TestOut Staff on

There's a belief among many that almost everything is better when it's bigger. Take the Washington Monument. During construction, the builders initially ran out of funds. From 1854 until 1879, the memorial to America's first president rose just 152 feet. That's more than 400 feet shorter than its current completed height. Imagine if you'd made a special trip to the nation's capital in, say, 1875? What is even the point of a 150-foot memorial obelisk?

George Washington was the man!

So, yeah, OK, size matters. Certainly when it comes to memorials and monuments. The Great Pyramid at Giza, final resting place of the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu, was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. On the other hand, there are some things in the world that aren't necessarily improved just because of more largeness. Unless I'm the star of Man v. Food, I don't want to know about your five-pound burrito.

There's been a modicum of fanfare this week about the number 280. That's because Twitter, the social media platform of choice for President Donald Trump and millions of others, has increased the arbitrary number of characters allowed per tweet from 140 to 280. Boom, double-sized Twitter. It's bigger. And it's badder. No, it's actually badder. Not like in the Michael Jackson sense of being bad. It's just worse.

At best, it's meaningless. It doesn't matter. It is of no material benefit to anyone. People with more to say than they can spit out in 140 characters have been creatively dodging the limit for years now, whether by threading their tweets or tweeting screen captures or photos of large blocks of text. Twitter just fixed a problem that its immense and thriving user community collectively fixed years ago.

There is a valuable lesson here for the IT community at large. Making software better is a good goal to have both on a customer service level and for purely altruistic reasons, but "better" is a moving target. Twitter solved a 2006 problem 11 years after the fact. If they'd been listening to their users, for example, they'd have figured out how to include an edit function without compromising the company's admirable, if quixotic, commitment to editorial purity.

Certification programs frequently set out to improve their products. The fruit of such intentions, however, often amounts to doubling the character count from 140 to 280. Did you do something that actually provides increased value to the people who use your products? Or are you "fixing" something that wasn't really broken in the first place? Your customer doesn't have to be your king, but he or she should always be the No. 1 QA analyst.

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