Tech

The Rise Of The Screenshort™

People are suddenly posting lots of screenshots of text to Twitter.

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What screenshot Twitter has done to my photos. Also I lead a sad life

Farhad Manjoo@fmanjooFollow

What screenshot Twitter has done to my photos. Also I lead a sad life

3:06 PM - 10 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

What's a Screenshort?

Essentially, it's a chunk of text, screen-shotted, and embedded in a tweet. It's become an extremely popular way to share a passage from a story. You could call it a Tweetcap, maybe. But I'm going with Screenshort.

Embedding a text block means that people will read the thing you want them to read without having to follow a link. It, genuinely, saves a click (without being condescending!).

It's also an effective way to highlight a passage. There have been all kinds of attempts by different websites to make individual passages and paragraphs linkable, but nothing has caught on. A Screenshort goes right where you want it to.

This isn't just me speculating. Venture capitalist Chris Dixon recently posted two versions of the same tweet, one with a link, and the other with a block of text as an image. The image embed had notably more engagement. (Engagement is all that matters, right? Look, we're engaging right now. You and me, engaging. How was your day?)

Predictably, the rise of Screenshorts has led to people calling for Twitter to expand past 140 characters. But that's dumb.

Kind of counterintuitively, Screenshorts demonstrate why the 140 character limit is vital. If people began posting massive chunks of text to Twitter, it would no longer be easy to scan. But the Screenshort, working side-by-side with in-line image previews, works perfectly. Click to enlarge and all that.

And it's only becoming more prevalent!

My camera roll. (Well, this is what it looked like just before I took this shot, which then went in it.)

Farhad Manjoo@fmanjooFollow

My camera roll. (Well, this is what it looked like just before I took this shot, which then went in it.)

2:30 AM - 18 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I mean, just look at the images that Chris Dixon (who also sits on BuzzFeed's board) shares. Look at them!

M.G. Siegler noted that often people are screenshorting their own text, even. He writes:



What's especially crazy about this is that this is in no way easy to do. You have to open one app (Notes), type a message out, take a screenshot (itself not that easy), open another app (Twitter), type a tweet out, hit the button to attach an image, and send the tweet. That's a lot of steps simply to share a still relatively short message. (Yes, I know many celebrities have people that will handle such hardships, but still, it's interesting how many are using the exact same hack-y hack.)

Here's one of the examples Siegler chose:

And it seems maybe this is a trend broader than just Twitter. Photographs used to be precious, but now they're limitless. And because photo rolls are easily scannable, a photo of text makes a really efficient way to take notes. Evernote has been promoting and supporting this idea for years. There was even something in The New Yorker about it (not about Screenshorts, per se, but about the notion of using a photo roll as a note taking method).

The bottom line is, if you want someone to read something on Twitter, don't just link to it. Post a Screenshort as well.

On the other hand, get a blog.

Mat Honan is the San Francisco bureau chief for BuzzFeed News. Formerly a senior staff writer at Wired, he has been writing about the technology industry and its impact on society for nearly 20 years.

Contact Mat Honan at mat.honan@buzzfeed.com.

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