It’s hard to be nuanced in 280 characters.

The Twitter character limit is a major factor of what can make it so much fun to use: you can read, publish, and interact, in extremely short, digestible chunks. But, it doesn’t fit every topic, ever time. Sometimes you want to talk about complex topics, having honest, thoughtful discussions. In an environment that encourages hot takes, however, it’s often easier to just avoid having those discussions. I can’t blame people for doing that, either: I find myself taking extended breaks from Twitter, as it can easily become overwhelming.

For me, the exception is Twitter threads.

Twitter threads encourage nuance and creativity.

Creative masterpieces like this Choose Your Own Adventure are not just possible, they rely on Twitter threads being the way they are.

Publishing a short essay about your experiences in your job can bring attention to inequality.

And Tumblr screenshot threads are always fun to read, even when they take a turn for the epic (over 4000 tweets in this thread, and it isn’t slowing down!)

Everyone can think of threads that they’ve loved reading.

My point is, threads are wildly underused on Twitter. I think I big part of that is the UI for writing threads: while it’s suited to writing a thread as a series of related tweet-sized chunks, it doesn’t lend itself to writing, revising, and editing anything more complex.

To help make this easier, I’ve been working on a tool that will help you publish an entire post to Twitter from your WordPress site, as a thread. It takes care of transforming your post into Twitter-friendly content, you can just… write.

It doesn’t just handle the tweet embeds from earlier in the thread: it handles handle uploading and attaching any images and videos you’ve included in your post.

All sorts of embeds work, too.

It’ll be coming in Jetpack 9.0 (due out October 6), but you can try it now in the latest Jetpack Beta! Check it out and tell me what you think.

This might not fix all of Twitter’s problems, but I hope it’ll help you enjoy reading and writing on Twitter a little more.

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

  1. I wish automattic (and core) would concentrate on tools to get people off social media (a sector that is increasing partisan and vacuous)
    The Indieweb guts are doing great work in that area.

    1. I absolutely agree that there are significant problems with the major social media platforms of today, but I don’t believe the answer is to take a hard line approach for getting people off social media. There’s certainly a benefit to providing tools to help people move (I launched such a tool a few months ago), but I don’t think we need to stop there. If we’re also able to improve the quality of conversations on social media, I think it’d be remiss of us to not do so.

      Interestingly, one of the early inspirations for this feature were the IndieWeb discussions on Tweetstorms and POSSE.

      1. Sorry if I came across negative. I’m not anti these tools in the slightest. Anything that increases choice is good in my book and the functionality is great.

        I just don´t understand why Automattic aren´t adding similar functionality to support the Indieweb.

        I´m in primarily Melbourne based btw, and I infrequently attend the wordpress meetups. I might catch you at one if we ever get out of lockdown.

        1. No offence taken, I always welcome folks expressing their perspective.

          I do see this feature as supporting the IndieWeb: it’s making an IndieWeb tool (WordPress) a more useful alternative to locking your content into a “corporate web” service (Twitter). Can you tell me more about where you feel Automattic could better support the IndieWeb?

          I´m in primarily Melbourne based btw, and I infrequently attend the wordpress meetups. I might catch you at one if we ever get out of lockdown.

          I haven’t attended the Melbourne meetups in a while, but I think I’ll be up for any form of social activities more than 5km away from home!

  2. Can you share more info on how it decides what to include in each tweet? I saw reference to using blocks or something to define which section goes in which tweet, but I’m not using gutenberg. How can I make sure that full sentences are included in the tweets?

    Makes me wonder if the right interface isn’t a window that comes up with all of the tweets broken out and then I can tweak it myself before hitting publish.

    BTW, I love this idea and agree that Twitter threads aren’t used nearly enough. What’s interesting is that I don’t think I use this for every article either. So, it’s not like Publicize which should happen on every article. I think I’d be much more selective about which ones I turn into threads.

    1. Sure! First off, it is a feature that only works with the block editor. While it would be technically possible for it to be made to work with any blob of HTML you throw at it, using the block editor provides much clearer delineation between chunks of content, whereas a fully feature HTML parser would be needed to support the classic editor.

      With the mental model now being focussed on mapping blocks to tweets, it’s much easier to make logical decisions about how to handle each block. So, a paragraph block is the text of a tweet, if the paragraph is too long for a single tweet, it tries to split the paragraph up by sentences. If a sentence is too long, then it resorts to splitting by words. Then, if there’s an embed/image/video/gallery block following that paragraph, we can attach it to the tweet containing that paragraph. There are additional rules for other blocks, but that’s the basic process. It then just iterates over all of the supported blocks in the post.

      In order to give you feedback on how it will be split up, there are two UI elements: if you write a long paragraph, you’ll see a subtle grey bar appear in your text, showing where it’ll be split. This is intentionally small, so that it doesn’t get in the way while you’re writing. For previewing the thread, Jetpack’s Social Previews feature includes support for previewing the entire thread.

      BTW, I love this idea and agree that Twitter threads aren’t used nearly enough. What’s interesting is that I don’t think I use this for every article either. So, it’s not like Publicize which should happen on every article.

      I agree, I don’t think I’d use it for every post, either. But I’m definitely interested to see how people use it once it’s released!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.