Saturday, 24 April 2010

is brevity my sister?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand people who constantly talk on their mobiles. Back in 1995, Bill Bryson wrote in his Notes from a Small Island:
These people are getting to be a real nuisance, aren’t they? This one was particularly irritating because his voice was loud and self-satisfied and littered with moronspeak, and his calls were so clearly pointless: ‘Hello, Clive here. I’m on the 10.07 and should be at HQ by 1300 hours as expected. I’m going to need a rush debrief on the Pentland Squire scenario. What say? No, I’m out of the loop on Maris Pipers. Listen, can you think of any reason why anyone would employ a total anus like me? What’s that? Because I’m the sort of person who’s happy as a pig in shit just because he’s got a mobile phone? Hey, interesting concept.’

Notes from a Small Island
Then a few moments of silence and: ‘Hello, love. I’m on the 10.07. Should be home by five. Yes, just like every other night. No reason to tell you at all except I’ve got this phone and I’m a complete fuckwit. I’ll call again from Doncaster for no reason.’ Then: ‘Clive here. Yeah, I’m still on the 10.07 but we had a points failure at Grantham, so I’m looking now at an ETA 13.02 rather than the forecast 1300 hours. If Phil calls, will you tell him that I’m still a complete fuckwit? Brill.’ And so it went on all morning.
Fifteen years later: what has changed? Clive got a smartphone, learned how to text and tweet, even how to post hideous photos at Facebook, but the gist remains the same.

Maybe that was the reason of my initial dislike of Twitter? Of course, it’s not Twitter’s fault that most tweets appear to be as semantically rich as blather of Bryson’s “Vodaphone Man”. On the other hand, the 140-character limit poses quite a challenge. If you have anything interesting to say at all, say it in a few words. Because the papers, patents, grant applications, grant reports, CVs and associated documents, like “teaching philosophy”, even blogs (including this one), all suffer from logorrhoea. I’m sure both authors and reviewers will benefit from shorter, um, whatever.

Imagine a grant proposal in a tweet. Sounds interesting — has value. Boring — goodbye, end of story. As an experiment, I’ve created a Twitter account, ecologicalniche, just to see what it may look like. I promise not to fill it with my daily minutiae. Just with some silly ideas. In a faint hope that one sunny day somebody agrees to fund them.