|I stumbled upon this while reading messages via Twitter, the revolutionary service that requires users to limit their communications, or Tweets, to 140 characters. I'm fairly certain that Twitter will fail because its creators have fundamentally misjudged the attention spans of core users.
To explain it in lay terms: a single message of 140 characters is one thing, but after a full day in which you've sent several hundred Tweets and read at least three or four written by other people, you've actually had to deal with what earlier generations referred to as "correspondence."
My new system, known as Snit, will solve that problem by limiting entries to 14 characters. Typical messages will read: "im bored" (7 characters). Multiplied by millions of messages per day, this will save enormous amounts of time and energy.
Many current Twitter users, including some celebrities, have already mastered the brevity of thought needed for Snit. Following the NFL Pro Bowl game, for example, Giants' quarterback Eli Manning flashed to his followers: "pro bowl was fun" (13 characters).
To further streamline things, I've assigned numbers to many common communications. Text-messagers are already using numbers for a few things, such as: 831, "I love you" (8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning); 121, "private chat" (one-to-one); .02, "my two-cents worth."
Snit takes this to a new level. For example, "1478357" means, "Don't call my cell for the next half hour because my battery is low and I'm going over to Starbucks to plug in." And "1139433" means, "I'm three rows over in Section 23, look to your right, I'm waving at you, and I just took a great shot of you with my iPhone."
This breakthrough is based on my examination of the radio codes used by police departments. Such communications usually start with the universally accepted "10-" which means "don't tell anyone." This is followed by a specific message such as, "22." So, 10-22 means, "Don't tell anyone, but Mike and I are not wearing underwear today."
Snit users will get better over time as they master the subtleties of communicating deep thoughts through coded numerals, while limited to 14 characters.
To update a story so old it was first told when people still used pencils and paper, three Snitterers are sending jokes they all know well enough to recognize by number. Someone Snits "11," and everyone laughs. Another posts "42," and there are howls of laughter. Then the new guy Snits "28," but no one laughs. "What happened?" he direct-messages his friend, who replies: "You didn't tell it right."
I noticed that George Stephanopoulos of ABC News conducted a "landmark" interview with Sen. John McCain using Twitter. It began with Mr. McCain's Tweet: "hi george im a little slow." It went pretty much downhill from there. The interview was followed by a raft of Tweets from followers, including one from "Curt," who posted: "OMG! What a massive waste of my time. I can't believe I got sucked into reading this silly twitstuff between two silly men. Shame on me."
That's where my system comes in. Instead of wasting so much of Curt's time, McCain's first Snit could have been: "hi im slow." And Stephanopoulos could have replied: "k. bye."
But here's the secret ingredient that will make Snit far more successful than Twitter. I've designed the program so that entries don't actually go anywhere. Unlike Twitter, which sends messages to the Followers of each user, Snit sends messages nowhere.
This is based on my research about how and why people become addicted to micro-blogging. It's not that they want to know what others are thinking or doing. It's because they want to declare their every waking thought - no matter how shallow or bankrupt, and they'd like to do it in as few characters as possible. btw (by the way), rmm (reading my mail) is s2s (sorry to say) zzz (boring).
The beauty of Snit is that it allows users to communicate with their inner selves without bothersome feedback.
I'm sending the world's first Snit message today: "667704012009." Roughly translated it means, "What hath God wrought on April Fools Day?"
© Peter Funt. This column first appeared in The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate.