Disclosure: I know the author. This will color my review somewhat. In the handful of interactions I’ve had with Dom I’ve developed this succinct (alliterative) impression of him: Impressive; Inspirational; Intimidating. The man is a polymath. I know him to be a talented musician, a (soon to be sponsored?) surfer, well respected programmer, social media maven, involved parent, and now professional author. I don’t rattle this off as some sort of character reference, after all #thebook (#thebook is the Twitter hashtag for 140 Characters) must stand on its own merits. I say this because in many ways the author’s breadth of knowledge is the cynosure of the following critique.
From the covers, we are asked to believe that the book is a simple treatise on the Short Form, a la Strunk and White. Its unassuming title and byline lead the reader to believe that they will receive insight into, if not Twitter, at least the new literary potential of Twitter and its brethren. I was delighted to discover in the first 50 pages was that this is in fact a modern guidebook for:
- Philosophy. “The antidote to envy is exercise.”
- Etiquette. “If you absolutely must respond [to unjustified detractors] in public, do so with as little energy as possible.”
- Style. “We all want to be original, but take heed not to suck in the process.”
- Leadership. “Don’t proclaim yourself a leader, or an expert. Only others can call you such things.”
- Learning. “If you’re going to learn from someone, they should gracefully learn from their own mistakes.”
Approach this book with a desire to learn how to harness the power of this social media tool and you may quickly find yourself reflecting on how you handled a conversation at a dinner party last week. This, in my opinion is what makes 140 Characters such an engaging read. I’ve been reading books and blog articles on Twitter style, strategy and technique for quite a while and initially wondered what Dom could say that hasn’t already been said. O’Reilly and Milstein’s “The Twitter Book” is as painless an introduction to Twitter as one could ask for, but it doesn’t attempt to illustrate or exemplify the social, literary, and historical value of the medium. Filling that need, 140 Characters manages to convey a magnificent vision of the capacity of the Short Form to convey all forms of knowledge, to incite, or delight, to challenge or support.
If I have any criticisms of the book it is that it seemed to meander a bit. Granted, when winding, the path of the narrative was full of delightful and sometimes insightful detail, but it did seem that the author was, at times, struggling to fit into the “Long Form.”
So, for the prospective reader, new to Twitter and looking for a quick dip into tips and tricks, or newly minted “Community Liason,” I would recommend “The Twitter Book.” If you’ve been around this media and are looking to dive deeper, to explore new possibilities, or to find outlet to a creative muse, I couldn’t recommend “140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form” more highly.