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Choice Bits

Tweets as Literature

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  A few selected sips from the Twitter stream.  

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Twit Lit

Every month the Choice Bits staff pans the twitterstream for nuggets of tweet gold. It’s a tedious process, not unlike scrutinizing chads in paper ballots in a Palm Beach polling place. (Mandatory timely November election reference checked off.) But we do it gladly, for you. You’re welcome.

This month PragPub is focusing on writing, so we thought we’d start with a look at how people are using Twitter as a writing medium. This person, for example, solicits nouns, then uses the ones that inspire him to write tweet-length stories. How well do you think he succeeds? In what ways are/aren’t these stories? Respond at your leisure.

He’s not alone. Here are a few of the current exercises in tweet-length fiction:

There are several approaches to twit lit, from haiku to attempts to write novels collaboratively, one tweet at a time. Naturally, your trend junkie editor had to give it a try. I didn’t line up collaborators ahead of time, I just started tweeting.

The Short, Happy Life of a Twitter Novel

First, I tweeted this:

It was a dark and stormy night, and I shuddered with eldritch dread to think that somewhere out there novels were being written on Twitter. — @pragpub

Within minutes, I was answered:

A pop! in the fireplace and a shower of sparks snapped my eyes open as a face appeared in the flames. — @KentBeck

Then suddenly, another voice chimed in:

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a wail appeared and a temporary break from writing was imposed — @davybrion

Emboldened by the responses, I tossed some more chum into the twitterstream:

The wail became a fiendish chortle. “There is no break from writing,” the face laughed derisively, “There will always be another deadline.” — @pragpub

This, too, was answered snappily:

"No break?" I snapped back, "break this," and I threw my drink on the fire, not remembering it was a single-malt scotch. — @KentBeck

The next chapter in the story, however, seemed more like a comment:

true, but better than never having a deadline ever again. — @marczak

In fact, scrutinizing the twitter handle, I began to suspect a hidden motive, a second thread of narrative. Sure enough, it was Ed Marczak, executive editor of Mac Tech magazine, reminding me that I owed him an article. The next tweet, though, was definitely a comment. In fact, it was a review:

Keep on going, this is exiting! :-D And a great idea!! — @danielbrolund

Just then, another writer picked up the thread of the narrative:

The fire began wrapping the manuscript into the flames. "I have to start over this iteration" I complained. — @mbigatti

…and executed a tricky double-tweet, following one tweet directly with another and managing not to get interrupted by an intervening tweet. This author was moving the story in a new direction:

"I hate the pomodoros where I have to redo what I have already done." But there was no choice, my work was already ashes. — @mbigatti

No further tweets were tweeted on this twisted narrative thread. So there our story ends in ashes, not with a bang but with a tweet. I don’t know how I didn’t see that coming.

Found Art

Hardware guys writing software are occasionally like drunk fighter pilots without helmets on racing bikes. — @mfeathers

"Stack" is a better name than "Pushdown list" is better than "fifo" is better than revomorzoid. — @marick

Well, NOW I see why it won the Nobel Prize! "Latest graphene research could lead to improvements in bluetooth headsets": — @tcarmody

I can't be sure .. but it feels like Windows 7 is only working when I look at it. — @jrasmusson

watch this tequila training video, nice work, hope you weren't in SLC — @TotherAlistair

Food can be a challenge here. Flight attendent offered me Snake or Noodles. It could happen, though she meant snack. — @ jwgrenning

Packing dirty socks last in my bag is how I show my love to those that open up my checked luggage w/o my permission. — @duncan

I follow certain people to learn from them. Unfortunately all I learn is that they go to lots of conferences and they are mayors of things. — @ bphogan

It's often all "I want a pony!" collective delusion till either Storytests and/or working code prove otherwise. — @wwake

In an uncaring world, giving a damn is a huge competitive advantage — @deadprogram

This month we were following Massimiliano Bigatti, Davy Brion, Tim Carmody, Alistair Cockburn, DeadEndFiction, Kent Beck, Duncan Davidson, Ron Evans, Michael Feathers, James Grenning, Brian Hogan, Ed Marczak, Brian Marick, Jonathan Rasmusson, Thaumatrope, TwitterFiction, Twitter Fiction and Short Stories, VeryShortStory, and Bill Wake. Also you, but you didn’t say anything quotable. Please funny up your tweets, for the sake of all of us. You can follow us on twitter and make fun of our tweets. Also you can participate in the PragProWriMo program here.