(yes I know, quite an ambitious title)
What if Facebook only allowed you 75 friends?
The continued rise of Twitter.com has been attributed to many things by many people. Beyond the ambient intimacy, portability, business uses, networking, simplicity, etc, is one thing that may not have been blogged about quite as much: In a bandwidth-is-cheap storage-is-cheap development-is-cheap world, setting limits can create freedom.
Twitter.com limits all conversation atoms (a unit of measure for posts, replies, direct messages) to 140 characters. That’s it. No exceptions. This forces atoms to be succinct, without artifice or flowery stuff or suckuptitude or any of that capital-m-Marketing that more freedom allows.
Turns out that setting limits is a pretty effective way to get people to say what they want to say and then sit back. I’d be very interested to see what effect putting the 10 minute time limit on YouTube videos did for overall creativity, usage, and density of videos created over time. (paging Mediaeater, can Trendrr demonstrate that).
Being social network fatigued as I am (seriously, if one more site asks me to enter my email address, then upload a photo, then shout at my gmail contacts, I’m quitting the internets.), I hope this trend will expand. Another site that is doing something interesting with this paradigm is 12seconds.tv, which is exactly what it sounds like: Create and share videos, each limited to 12 seconds. From their FAQ:
Why only 12 seconds
Because anything longer is boring. The scientists here at the 12seconds dodecaplex have conducted countless hours of research to determine the precise amount of time it takes for boredom or apathy to set in during typical Internet video viewing. Our patent pending Electro-Tear-Duct Prongers have determined that exactly 12 seconds of video is the ideal amount of time to keep anything interesting.
Note to people with pre-existing sites:Imposing limits where users are USING a particular feature set is a BAD IDEA. Don’t do it, and if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So there you have it, sports fans. If you’re thinking of launching a new site with community function or content creation abilities, maybe you should think about using a limit as a feature.