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on April 4, 2009 at 4:42:11 pm

A proposal for end/foot-notes for constrained mediums such as Twitter.


Based on this comment I made on a blog post suggesting * for sources on Twitter:


Inventing[1] a syntax for a theoretical need[2] nearly always fails.


The "@" convention on Twitter succeeded because:

1. People demonstrated a need to refer to other people - evidence: numerous uses of references to people and usernames in tweets, even early on in Twitter's history.

2. People converged (perhaps re-used from online forums?) the "@" symbol as a way to explicitly reference usernames - well before Twitter took advantage of the emergent behavior by hyperlinking such references and thus explicitly adopting the syntax that the community had organically converged on.


Existing Twitter users have already solved the semantic citation problem with inline shortened URLs (e.g. see most of http://twitter.com/timoreilly ).


For end-citations/expansions, there is established practice in the web design/development communities (most W3C mailing lists[3], see examples[4]) of using bracketed numbers (as above) in plain text media to provide footnotes which can be used for either explanations, citations, or both.


I don't know the origins of the bracket end/foot-note reference, but presumably it's due to limitations of the plain text medium (no superscripts) compared to print, and a desire to not overload traditional means of superscripting in plain text, e.g. the "^" for exponents.  


In a constrained medium such as Twitter where every byte counts, it may make sense to reconsider using "^" as @jstuker suggests. I.e. just use a standalone ^ for one reference in a tweet, and number them for more than one, i.e. ^1 ^2, and then reverse the order for the end-citations, 1^http://... 2^http://... . E.g. these real world examples could be redone with end-citations:


1. One citation. http://twitter.com/mkapor/status/1449285878 redone:


Obama to bank CEO's: I'm the only thing between you and the pitchforks.^ This has to be the line of the week. ^http://bit.ly/18OlTW


2. Two citations. http://twitter.com/timoreilly/status/1449710728 redone:


Obama to bank CEO's: I'm the only thing between you and the pitchforks^1 This has to be the line of the week.^2. 1^http://bit.ly/18OlTW 2^http://twitter.com/mkapor/status/1449285878


(full twitter permalink URL used for demonstration purposes, in practice all URLs would be shortened to better fit Twitter's constraints).




[1] I say "inventing" because no real world evidence, e.g. links to actual examples (as opposed to an artificial demonstrative example as in the above post ) on the public web, has been provided.


[2] I say "theoretical" because no real world need has been shown for providing end-citations (as opposed to inline-citations) in a medium like Twitter.


[3] http://lists.w3.org/


[4] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-style/2002Sep/0067.html


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