How long should a tweet be?

Twitter’s best practices cite a Buddy Media research report that 100 characters or less is the ideal length of a tweet. The findings are consistent with a Track Social study on 100 well-known brands that are popular on twitter; the sweet spot seems to be 70 to 100 characters and that’s when you are most likely to be re-tweeted.

What about Facebook? Up to 80 characters can get you 66% more engagement than a longer post. Facebook friends who are in the habit of penning long posts, please note…

Here’s some related trivia on ideal lengths:

  • Blogs: 1,000 words (not characters)
  • Google+ headline: 60 characters
  • Headlines in general: six words
  • Paragraph width: 40 to 55 characters
  • Email subject: 28 to 39 characters
  • Presentations: max 18 minutes (remember TED talks?)

Lots more detail in this FastCompany article.

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The rise and rise of the hash sign (#)

The hash sign  (#) seems to be making a hash of normal English, particularly with folks on the wrong side of 30.  Tweets and FB posts are now liberally sprinkled with any number of hash signs, so much so that it is getting difficult to make out the meaning.

#too #many #hashtags #meaning #getting #lost #doyougetit? Hashtags are now threatening to enter speech, and here are two hilarious examples.

  1. # Hashtag with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake: every sentence has several hashtags in this sitcom
  2. Nayak 2, a spoof on upcoming Indian politician Kejriwal: innovative use of hashtag at 4 min 30 sec in this film

Hilarity notwithstanding, such examples are rare exceptions. Hash-tagging in speech sounds stupid, unless you are an outstanding comic.

So where did this humble sign come from and how has it risen to a position where it threatens to upend the English language?

The symbol first appeared on push-button telephones in the 1960′s, along with the asterisk. Another rarely used name for the hash sign is octothorpe. The origins of the term ‘octothorpe‘ are quite interesting and worth a read if you have a few spare minutes.

In American English the hash sign has generally meant pound (lb.) and in English it means number (# 1 = number 1). In August 2007 open-source advocate Chris Messina proposed using the hash symbol to tag topics on Twitter. Also in August 2007, web anthropologist Stowe Boyd is credited with coining the term hashtag. Beginning July 2009 Twitter began to hyperlink hashtags in tweets. In 2010 Twitter introduced “Trending Topics” and the world (or the English language) has never quite been the same.

I have nothing against the hashtag, if used correctly. And how exactly should the hashtag be used? Here’s a primer from Mashable. Happy hash-tagging!

#Hashtag etiquette: 8 people who are doing it wrong

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Amazon demonstrates drone-based delivery

Amazon is experimenting with drone-based delivery systems, as the video below demonstrates. Packages of up to 5 lbs will be delivered to destinations within 10 miles of an Amazon distribution centre. The service (dubbed Amazon Prime Air) could be operational in 4 to 5 years. One helluva of an innovative company, Amazon is!

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Expo 2020: unintended consequences

A cousin of mine, who has a contracting business in Bahrain, called me up yesterday and said he was expanding his business to Dubai. Reasons? He thinks a construction frenzy is about to start and there’ll be a shortage of experienced contractors.

Two other friends of mine, who live in Dubai and have shown no signs of entrepreneurship in their decades-long careers, suddenly want to start restaurants. Dubai is well served with restaurants so why food? They have no answer, except that there’s a boom on the horizon.

Another friend of mine, who owns a real estate business, wants to organise a match-making event, to bring buyers and sellers together. Buyers and sellers of what, I asked? He doesn’t really know, except that lots of buying and selling is about to happen because of the Expo, and he wants a cut on the transactions.

An ex-colleague also wants to do a matchmaking event, but to bring ideas and capital together. Why would capital look for ideas, I asked him? If you have spare cash, isn’t it better to just invest in real estate and sit back? That’s not the point, he explains, it’ll be an annual event and I want to make money off the sponsorship revenue.

Every single person I have spoken to in the last 72 hours is thinking of how to profit from Expo 2020. If even a fraction of this greed and opportunism gets converted into viable businesses, Dubai will benefit for a long time to come.

As to me? Why, today is a holiday, and I am off to meet some friends, to brainstorm on an interesting new business idea!




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An e-book arrives in the mail

A close friend of mine recently gifted me an e-book, Tom Wolfe’s Back To Blood. When I clicked open the e-book, I was a little taken aback; it’s 1034 pages long. But I soon realised e-pages are not like normal pages. You can race through an e-page in a third of the time a normal page takes.

I am now on page 184 but I am struggling with the book. It’s got nothing to do with Tom Wolfe. I’ve always enjoyed his books, and Back To Blood is vintage Tom Wolfe, with lavishly sketched out characters and a gripping narrative.

The problem is with the e-book format. Picking up an iPad is not quite the same thing as picking up a good book. There’s no book cover to stare at, no feel of paper, no smell of ink, no dog-eared pages, no book marks gone awry… and then there’s the problem with the pages, too damn white and just too many of them.

There’s a view that e-books will replace the real thing soon. Sales of e-books have grown at an explosive pace and now account for 25% of total book sales. However, recent data from the Association of American Publishers suggests that the e-book revolution could be running out of steam.

Annual sales growth rates (for e-books) have declined from a peak of 252% in 2010 to a little over 13% this year. In children’s books, sales are down 30%! The early adopters have done their thing, downloaded their e-books, not read them, and moved on.

As far as Tom Wolfe’s Back To Blood is concerned, I think I will go and pick up the paperback edition today. It is too good a book to e-read!

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When should you sell real estate?

I could have sold my Dubai apartment at a profit of more than 100%. That was in the heady days of 2007 and 2008. Back then everyone told me, don’t sell, prices will go up another 10, 20, 30 per cent, maybe more. Then the bottom literally fell out of the market and the price dropped to less than half of what I had paid. Ouch!

In the last two years, prices have recovered dramatically. I can now sell at a profit of 60%. Yesterday Dubai was awarded the Expo 2020. In another month my profit could go up to 70%. When should I sell? I asked a friend who owns a real estate company. His advice is uncannily similar to what I got in 2007 and 2008. Don’t sell, the market is going up, up and up. How high can prices go, I asked him? 50% higher than the peak of 2008, he says.

So should I wait till end of next year? A little voice tells me, learn from the past. Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has this to say on the subject, “wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good”. Amen!

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Dubai real estate is back (and so is tailgating)

A few years back, around the peak of the real estate boom, tailgating also peaked in Dubai. You got into the fast lane on a major road and before you could blink, a big SUV would materialize in the rear view mirror, headlights flashing away in anger, “GET OUT OF MY WAY OR I WILL MOW YOU DOWN”. It was wise to change lanes quickly; the idiot could so easily mis-calculate and at speeds of 120+, it would not be a pretty sight, neither for him nor for us.

And then tailgating suddenly disappeared. I am sure the cops had a role in banishing this menace from Dubai roads, but I suspect the real estate crash had something to do with it as well. Testosterone-fueled drivers became tame little wimps when their real estate portfolios lost half their value.

I was delighted, not by the real estate hard landing because that hurt me bad, but by the return of sanity on Dubai roads. From the second half of 2009 onwards, driving became almost a pleasure. Cars would  graciously slow down to let you change lanes and would acknowledge similar behavior with cheerful half salutes or the wink of a tail light.

But things have started changing of late. Real estate prices have soared in the last 18 months, and with that tailgating is staging a comeback. The form it now takes is somewhat different. The car will be half off the road, on the left shoulder, headlights at full tilt, and quickly it will climb up on you. It’s a scary sight in the rear view mirror and the body language (of the car) can be quite intimidating.

So I am now back in the third lane, and wondering when I will return to the fast lane. Short of another real estate crash – not happening till 2020, so the smart money tells me – I suspect I will be stuck in the slow lanes for a while.

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