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Twitter Grammar Lessons

Designer Chris Messina discusses micro-blogging syntax.

Lisa Baldini
Lisa Baldini on October 28, 2010.

Whether you believe the “medium is the message” mantra of Marshall McLuhan or not, new technological systems hold a lot of sway in shaping how we communicate. Not surprisingly, each has its own syntax that that can reshape our language. Take instant messenger, how many of us would be able to decipher meaning from “lol” or “:)” before its common use? Proving that these systems are ever-changing our understanding of meaning, “/” , “via” and “cc” are just three “microsyntanxes” that designer Chris Messina discusses in how we’re shaping our communication through micro-blogging:

Since it’s apparently all the rage to design your own features for Twitter now, I figured I’d build on my success with the hashtag and crank out a few more.

All of these are simple conventions for adding more standard metadata to a post in a specific, uniform way.

He explains the  thinking behind the project:

So, why bother writing these up? Well, I never expect that anyone will follow my lead, but if they do, I’d like to spell out what I’m doing so they can more or less get it right. It seemed to work with hashtags, and these ideas proposed here are even simpler. Now, you might not expect that, one, two, or three characters in tweets would make that much difference, but when you’re taking about a payload that maxes out at 140, each scintilla must carry its own significance. As such, there is value in coordinating our language, and providing some basic guidelines that emerge based on behavior — so that we can encode more meaning into these little blips of communication.

Chris Messina

FactoryCity: “New microsyntax for Twitter: three pointers and the slasher”

TOPICS: Electronics & Gadgets, Web & Technology
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Lisa Baldini

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Lisa Baldini is a regular contributor to PSFK.com. As a student of Graham Harwood, Luciana Parisi, and Matthew Fuller, Lisa's interest in technology lies in how culture is changed from the bottom up through history, materiality, databases, user experience, and affective computing. A student of social media marketing, she sees how people try to engage consumers through technology and how much failure is at hand by misunderstanding the medium. A teacher at heart, she writes and curates in an effort to link the knowledge derived between the academic, art, and business worlds.

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