Tech

Why Twitter's Newest Tweetstorm™ Trend Must Be Stopped

Twitter's sanity depends on it.

Posted on

Here's a thing you probably haven't noticed unless you relentlessly follow a niche tech and tech media crowd on Twitter (and heaven help you if you do):

At some point this winter, entrepreneur, investor, and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen unleashed a peculiar new style of Twitter rant on his 109,000 followers. Beginning with a simple "1/", Andreessen began to launch off on blog post-length lectures, 140 characters at a time. Many are 10 or 15 tweets long and shot off in rapid succession. The diatribes can be quite frequent, sometimes appearing multiple times per day.

Chris Dixon, one of Andreessen's colleagues at Andreessen Horowitz, aptly coined it the "tweetstorm™."

Ps trying out the @pmarca tweetstorm™ Twitter strategy.

Chris Dixon@cdixon

Ps trying out the @pmarca tweetstormâ„¢ Twitter strategy.

11:27 PM - 25 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Multiple tweet screeds are nothing new on Twitter and transcend any specific group of users. BuzzFeed found the multiple tweet convention dating back to 2007 (there are probably even earlier examples/iterations):

[tweet 1 of 2] having to unplug. cannot content analyse four academic journals' table of contents for the last decade AND monitor twitter at

LEE HOPKINS@leehopkins

[tweet 1 of 2] having to unplug. cannot content analyse four academic journals' table of contents for the last decade AND monitor twitter at

02:39 AM - 25 Apr 07ReplyRetweetFavorite

The multi-tweet is, by all measures, a perfectly normal bit of Twitter behavior; sometimes an important thought or piece of news runs over 140 characters. There are even platforms, like TwitLonger, which allow users to attach a longer message to tweets to work around the 140 character rule. However, what sets Andreessen's tweetstorm™ apart from the conventional multi-tweet is any indication of anticipated length. Instead, a tweetstormer™ gives no real indication how long it's going to take and assumes that the reader is more than OK with this.

A tweetstorm™ will often start with a profound thought or open-ended question of some sort as a wind-up. The "1/" serves as the readers' only early warning, which one can read as a Jim Carrey-esque inhale before delivering a breathless rant. An example:

1/ Is the goal to solve problems or to try to solve problems? Ex: healthcare vs life extension, higher ed v direct brain/machine interface.

Balaji S. Srinivasan@balajis

1/ Is the goal to solve problems or to try to solve problems? Ex: healthcare vs life extension, higher ed v direct brain/machine interface.

11:14 PM - 6 May 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

In mere months, tweetstorms™ have become one of Tech Twitter's greatest scourges, not for their insights (which can be valuable), but for their ability to clog a timeline at a moment's notice — a phenomenon entrepreneur Anil Dash described to BuzzFeed as "timeline colonialism."

Reaction to the tweetstorm's™ rise has been mixed. Plenty are happy with Andreessen's return to Twitter and plenty in the tech world relish the opportunity to receive real-time impromptu lectures from well-known industry veterans (access to influential people, celebrities, and brilliant minds have always been strengths of Twitter). Others take issue with the fact that they're hard to follow and easy to miss all together in the torrent of information on Twitter (and they're right — they are!). "Get a blog!" they say.

@pmarca ever considered a blog? Twitter "essays" are shallow and incomprehensible, not sure it's the best way to get your message across.

MP Cadosch@MPCadosch

@pmarca ever considered a blog? Twitter "essays" are shallow and incomprehensible, not sure it's the best way to get your message across.

01:44 AM - 23 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

@pmarca loads of respect for you. But why try to get around the 140 limit with a barrage of tweets? A nice blog plz.

Sandeep P Todi@sandeeptodi

@pmarca loads of respect for you. But why try to get around the 140 limit with a barrage of tweets? A nice blog plz.

08:38 AM - 16 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Can't handle @pmarca's (excellent) prolific tweeting. @pmarca can we get you an intern to transcribe to a blog?

Harsh Shah@harshjshah

Can't handle @pmarca's (excellent) prolific tweeting. @pmarca can we get you an intern to transcribe to a blog?

12:04 PM - 10 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

@cdixon @pmarca Can't you guys afford to just get a blog?

Miguel Schwartz@MiguelinIsrael

@cdixon @pmarca Can't you guys afford to just get a blog?

01:37 AM - 26 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I wish @pmarca writes a regular blog like @fredwilson. Twitter Feeds get difficult to follow, and I miss reading replies. Disqus.

PJ@BeingPractical

I wish @pmarca writes a regular blog like @fredwilson. Twitter Feeds get difficult to follow, and I miss reading replies. Disqus.

10:52 AM - 26 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

To be fair, after one such screed in February about the future of media, Andreessen consolidated the tweets into a comprehensive, very readable blog post. It was widely shared in the circles that spend time obsessing over such topics.

The fundamental criticism of the tweetstorm™ goes beyond the simple "get a blog" mentality. At its root, the tweetstorm™ feels like an abuse of power/influence or, at the very least, a slightly inconsiderate, oblivious way to engage with people who've chosen to follow you (granted, users can obviously choose to opt-out at any time with an unfollow). In earnestly embarking on a tweetstorm™, the tweetstormer™ is tacitly admitting that he or she has many important things to say and an infinite listener attention span in which to say them.

Worse than any thing else, though, the tweetstorm™ is showing signs that it might be catching on in the industry:

1/ Trend I see amongst TechCrunch Disrupt Winners: they do something you wouldn't think possible, but once you know, the idea seems obvious

Josh Constine@JoshConstine

1/ Trend I see amongst TechCrunch Disrupt Winners: they do something you wouldn't think possible, but once you know, the idea seems obvious

02:41 PM - 7 May 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Imagine, for a moment, a future version of Twitter where the tweetstorm™ convention spreads, bleeding first through the tech venture capital and entrepreneur community. Then the tech reporters catch on, issuing long monologues on the future of the industry/a given product. Tweetstorms™ are rebutted by other tweetstorms™, which is manageable and contained in a niche media sphere until Politics Twitter catches on. Always on the lookout for a new broadcast platform, the tweetstorm™ spreads from reporters to pundits and think tanks and then to the politicians themselves. Once a frenetic but followable place, your timeline is now virtually destroyed by an avalanche of soliloquies.

This could be our future. We must stay vigilant.

@JoshConstine no, you don't get to do the 1/ tweet numbering thing.

Max Woolf@minimaxir

@JoshConstine no, you don't get to do the 1/ tweet numbering thing.

02:41 PM - 7 May 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.

Contact Charlie Warzel at charlie.warzel@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.