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Twitter: Thoughts That Are Hard to Fit Into 140 Characters

What are the limits of expressing thoughts in Twitter?

Here’s a powerful but inefficient (when run) thought that can be expressed on Twitter, a quick sort in Erlang in 126 characters.

qsort([]) -> [];
qsort([Pivot|T]) ->
qsort([X || X <- T, X < Pivot]) ++ [Pivot] ++ qsort([X || X <- T, X >= Pivot]).

A lot of Perl one-liners can fit into a tweet – powerful and useful ones.

Haikus can be expressed in a tweet.

The answer to the question, “What form of body language do most FBI interrogators consider to be the most telling?” can be answered in a tweet.

A marriage proposal can be answered in a tweet.

You can propose the concept of a hash tag in a tweet:

hashtag proposal

However, there are many thoughts that seem to be difficult to fit into a tweet:

  • The Pythagorean Theorem and one of its many proofs
  • Anselm’s Ontological Proof for God’s Existence
  • Merge Sort in Ruby
  • Merge Sort in PHP
  • Why you should or shouldn’t outsource
  • What qualities make a great tech hire
  • Well-thought out political proofs
  • How to subtly tell someone something in an indirect way with the only others knowing being those in the know
  • A legally-binding, work contract – It would be amazing if you could!
  • The mechanism for how DNA works

Twitter encourages the laconic expression of thought which means plenty of affirmations, aphorisms, insults, congratulations, and reminders that can display any combination of sharp wit, pointed humor, and succinctness of expression. The mot juste becomes very important with the constraint of 140 characters.


A Quicksort in Erlang

qsort([]) -> [];
qsort([Pivot|T]) ->
   qsort([X || X <- T, X < Pivot])    ++ [Pivot] ++    qsort([X || X <- T, X >= Pivot]).

%% Let L be a list of unsorted numbers.
%% 2> L=[234,322,233,5,1000].
%% [234,322,233,5,1000]
%% 3> lib_misc:qsort(L).
%% qsort will return:
%% [5,233,234,322,1000]