December 15, 2007

Twittories - 140 people write 140 characters for 1 story

  Originally uploaded by h.andras_xms

In Japan, some of the biggest selling novels this year have been created and then read on... mobile phones. Cameron at The Podcast Network has begun a wonderfully creative way of getting many people to write collaboratively on one story: get them to send their part of the story in a pre-defined sequence through their mobile phone.

First, 140 people have registered themselves by adding their name to the project wiki website. Then, using Twitter, which takes your mobile phone message and sends it out to the world, Cameron is able to add each person's 140 character-limit section of the story to those which precede it. As your turn comes up you receive a Twitter message on your mobile. You text your addition (having read your fellow writers' submissions to date) and so it goes on, until a 140 person, 140 characters each story is complete.

The first story is well underway, but there is plenty of room for people to register their interest for a bit of creative writing on the as yet untitled second story:

Twittory #1, "The Darkness Inside", will commence as soon as we have
140 people signed up below and will conclude, no matter where the story is up to, when we have the full 140 entries. 140 x 140 is... a story
with a maximum of 19600 characters.

If schools can get over themselves a bit in relation to the use of mobile phones for learning, this would be a great way to get some creative writing underway during the Christmas holidays, or simply as an ongoing 'starter-for-ten' exercise to get students tuned into their writing. You could do it for Modern Foreign Languages, too, especially as a 'fun' alternative to some of the drier work in advanced language courses.


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I think the whole thing is pointless. It's pointless in Japan and there's no reason for America to adopt it either.

It's not pointless, Corvida, it's fun. Fun has a point. It can also, in the hands of a good teacher, help teach language, grammar, structure, critical thought. You could do with some of the latter yourself. And why the reference to whether America should adopt a new idea? This is a Scottish blog, after all, with an international audience.

I'd be keen to hear your critical analysis of why this is such a bad idea. Go on, you know you want to... ;-)

... and I'm Australian and many of the people signed up on Twittories are Australian but anyway... tell us WHY you think it is pointless Corvida. I'd be interested to know.

I do think this is a bit of tosh - no pun intended - but as you point out, it's meant to be fun and expand creativity a little.

Heck, wasn't it Burroughs who used to just cut up books and words to see what he could make from them?

God help anyone who publishes one and has to sort out 140 X royalties though :-)

Do not agree that this is 'pointless' or 'tosh'. Teaching needs to move on with how children engage with society. Here Twitter is being used where collaboration on a grand scale across time and place is achievable. Before the summer holidays I tried this approach with an exchange school using Wikispaces where each week a child was selected to write part of a story that never ended until the last week in the term. The story was created by each school with a different one taking ownership of the story. This was a meaningful collaborative story using creativity and technology providing contextualised learning. The children were actively engaged in the learning process and interested in the whole process of the story mowing their small contribution was a valuable assest to the whole project.
I will be using Twitter to try this out and hopefully not just one to one school collaboration but one to many globally.

Thanks Ewan for posting this and kicking myself why I did not think about it before as you know I like to be ahead of the game...

Many readers of newswires in financial institutions have to stay abreast of the news without recourse to the full stories, so just read headlines. Whether from Bloomberg, Reuters or Dow Jones, those headlines have to convey as much meaning as possible, as accurately and unambiguously as possible, as quickly as possible. Mistakes can cost your pension fund manager millions in a few moments. When I was in that game, each "snap" or "one-liner" headline had a similar limit to the 140 Twitter example -- 66 characters being the shortest limit, in my own experience. So I'd argue that crafting writing as concisely as that is a creative and useful discipline.

we did this in school ages ago, it was really fun and the storys some of us came up with were hilarious.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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