I have seen the future, and it is not Bruce Springsteen. It is the inline tweet:
When Twitter came along, back in 2006, it seemed like a godsend. It made our lives so much easier. Media sharing became a snap. No longer did you have to go through the tedious process of writing a blog post and formulating links. Goodbye to all that “a href=” crap and those soul-draining <> whatchamacallits. You grabbed a snippet, and you tweeted it out to the world. It was almost like a single fluid movement. I don’t know precisely how many keystrokes Twitter has saved humanity, but I’m pretty sure that the resulting expansion of cognitive surplus is non-trivial.
Since then, though, we have become more fully adapted to the realtime environment and, frankly, tweeting has come to feel kind of tedious itself . It’s not the mechanics of the actual act of tweeting so much as the mental drain involved in (a) reading the text of an article and (b) figuring out which particular textual fragment is the most tweet-worthy. That whole pre-tweeting cognitive process has become a time-sink.
That’s why the arrival of the inline tweet — the readymade tweetable nugget, prepackaged, highlighted, and activated with a single click — is such a cause for celebration. The example above comes from a C.W. Anderson piece posted today by the Nieman Journalism Lab. “When is news no longer what is new but what matters?” Who wouldn’t want to tweet that? It’s exceedingly pithy. The New York Times has also begun to experiment with inline tweets, and it’s already seeing indications that the inclusion of prefab tweetables increases an article’s overall tweet count. I think the best thing about the inline tweet is that you no longer have to read, or even pretend to read, what you tweet before you tweet it. Assuming you trust the judgment of a publication’s in-house tweet curator, or tweet-curating algorithm, you can just look for the little tweety bird icon, give the inline snippet a click, and be on your way. Welcome to linking without thinking!