Daniel Beringer

Teller, Academy Bank

This conversation is closed.

We should increase the character limit for comments.

Many of the topics that are brought up and discussed on this site are complex, or subtle , or intricate. The questions posed do not always have a simple answer. So in order to answer the question or post the comment you may be faced with a choice: sacrifice the content of the idea you wish to express, or clutter up the thread with multiple replies.

A lot can be said in 2,000 characters. Sometimes you don't need to say a lot. But sometimes you do. For instance, lets say you want to open a debate on an issue. 2,000 characters is awfully short to explain the premise, and to supply both pro and con arguments. A lot of social issues can't be summed up in 2,000 characters with out disregarding important subtleties. Technological questions can sometimes require an extended explanation not easily fitted into the current comment size.

So I propose that TED double the length of comments to 4,000 characters. This keeps the comments relatively short and focused, and allows for more expansive replies. At the very least we should expand the OP. There may not be much need for this expansion to answer a question, but certainly proposing an idea and opening a debate could be helped by more room to explain the idea.

The comments on this site are thoughtful and cogent. I rarely see bickering, name calling, or spite. I mostly see people who want to work together to improve our world. We do not need to worry about trolls or flame posters. We are not myspace, we are not facebook. We are TED. We use our voice wisely.

  • Mar 8 2011: Sorry, but I disagree on this. TED Conversations are already full of a lot of long-winded blather; the last thing we need is even longer ones. If you can't compose your thoughts in 2,000 characters, maybe this is the wrong place to be debating them. I find it is the short, pithy comments that tend to be the most enlightening.
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      Mar 10 2011: No worries, disagreement is just fine! I've read a lot of the comments, and I see a lot of cogent, well phrased remarks. The person may or may not be correct, but they don't blather like idiots. It is also true that a lot of comments are well short of 2,000 characters, and a lot of those are enlightening. But sometimes a question or comment deserves a more expansive response. It is for those times that a longer comment might be necessary. Shouldn't a place like TED be an ideal place to develop and present large and complex ideas, to discuss and debate them? We are reasonable people. I think that most people here would make writing 4,000 characters worth reading it, if they felt like they needed to write it. But in the general discussion, no, most comments do not require such length.

      But the first post is different, especially for debates. To properly present a debate may require a rather lengthy introduction, even if every response is less than 200 char.'s A comment is already 'framed' by what came before. The first post has to build from the ground up, sometimes requiring the person to set the context, or support their position, in addition to making the actual statement.

      I think that we're responsible enough to handle 4,000 char. comments. I think that we're wise enough to know when we need the extra length. The original post, and sometimes the final posts, can require extra space to hold together as a complete idea. I'm all for being concise, but not at the expense of content.
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      Mar 17 2011: I agree with Revett. I rarely, if ever, see the need for posts, longer than 2000 chars. Actually, if you look around, most posts are significantly below that.
      If an idea, for some reason requires more than 2000 (which I think would be a rare exception), then you could just write 2 posts.
      I think good thoughts can be formulated in few words. If there are follow up questions then the audience will ask questions, which then leads to a conversation, rather than a monologue.
      People in general prefer to read shorter posts.
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    Mar 10 2011: Putting ideas susinctly and then responding to others is, for me, the better way to learn and grow.
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      Mar 11 2011: Would you exclude the possibility that a post might require more than the current limit?
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        Mar 17 2011: Hi Daniel,
        I think it is more stimulating and more thought provoking to keep posts fairly short and punchy. If you engage people in a dialogue you will get the opportunity to make further points. This venue is not for essays but rather more like conversations you would have with friends. It is the exchange that is most likely to generate new perspectives and gain new inputs. Remember you could always use points if you need to make more ideas available in the space provided.
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          Mar 23 2011: Hi Debra,
          I'm puzzled why everything has to be short and punchy. Some of the most engaging conversations I've had included what some might call long winded speeches. But by being so comprehensive, there response reduced the need to ask clarifying questions and gave me the opportunity to ask the questions that let me understand the other persons point of view. I've also had conversations that were short on words but full of meaning, and everything in between. Each conversation has it's own flavor, and each can be full of insight and perspectives. So I don't see why everything has to be short and punchy, or how it's only those conversations that generate new perspectives and gain new inputs.
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          Mar 23 2011: daniel: no time. life is short. other things to do. be brief. thx.
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      Mar 23 2011: Totally agree with Debra. Long replies don't increase dialog, they shut it down.

      True dialog needs back and forth. Keep it short.
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        Mar 28 2011: Are you saying that you've never had a deeply meaningful conversation where you both took turns speaking at length?
  • Mar 29 2011: Perhaps TED could start a site called ‘TED Expository’ exclusively for those who require several thousand characters to adequately describe and/or comment on ideas, questions, or debates.
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      Mar 29 2011: There you go. Quarantine the buggers so they don't infect the conversations.

      Daniel - I think you'll be surprised at how few people even bother to read those postings.
  • Mar 23 2011: I think there should a requirement of 1,847 characters. No more and no less. ;)
  • Mar 23 2011: Let me remind you that minimalism is merely one form of art amongst many. Take a written form of art and compare it yourself: Novels versus poems for example.

    I think that the main issue here is accepting a different approach for ones way of expressing himself. One may use a more lengthy style of expression, but that does not necessarily means he's verbose.

    It was Einstein who said: "It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.", but does that principle have to project to the whole art of expression?

    I don't think so.
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      Mar 27 2011: i can only hope you are not going to post art in the conversations. if you do, i hope you write short stories and not novels.
  • Mar 17 2011: I did feel 1k was limiting, 2k wasn't. I think there is a benefit to this limit as it preserves the flavor of a conversation, which is the point. If you find 2k to brief, you could double post, r jst stp sng vwls.
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    Mar 8 2011: my take on this is the opposite. i think 1000 was better. this is a conversation, not a place to publish essays. if your argument does not fit in 1000 characters, you are probably too verbose and/or not straight to the point. rephrase, cut, reorganize. life is short, being brief is being polite.

    in short: tl;dr :)
  • Mar 8 2011: I agree. Sometimes condensing a thought looses all its flavor. The folks here are passionate about their ideas & wish them to be totally understood. As far as other sites are concerned-many a wonderful idea has come from them.
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    Mar 29 2011: While I myself have "suffered" from the character limit, I think I can agree with the sentiment that not everyone is willing to read long comments, and so the character limit is for those of us who write long to try sum it up better.

    I don't mind the current character limit, but I wouldn't mind its extension to 3000 or 4000 either.
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    Mar 28 2011: @ Krisztian: Life is the longest thing you'll ever do.
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      Mar 28 2011: longest can be short. meditate on this.
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        Mar 28 2011: Life is short, relative to other timescales. But from an individuals perspective it's the longest unit of time that they will witness. This may not be enough time to do all that we want to do. So yes, pack in as much stuff as possible. However, not all good things happen in an instant. Excluding such things cuts out more opportunity to enjoy life than taking a few minutes to read an extra long comment will do.
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          Mar 28 2011: on the other hand, instead of reading a long comment, i can read two shorter comments. i win, if the long is not twice as good as the short ones.

          btw how about increasing the time limit of ted talks to 36 minutes? want that too?
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          Mar 28 2011: You ARE a winner Krisztian........let's see........what else can I write?:>)
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        Mar 28 2011: You told me to be brief because life is short, too short to read long comments. But if you're willing to read two comments that in total equal one long, what does it matter if it comes in one packet or two?

        btw supposition does not make a persuasive argument.
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          Mar 28 2011: Is it possible that Krisztian was approaching the topic with humor?
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          Mar 29 2011: i hope life is not that short! i mean, reading a long comment hopefully fits in it many times. but since the time is short, i have better things to do. like reading another comment.
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    Mar 27 2011: I took a writing course many moons ago, and learned that we can often state our case or tell our story in fewer words, if we try. I've noticed that those who write very long comments and/or monopolize a whole site, are often repeating themselves many times. Saying something over and over again, doesn't necessarily make it so. Those who feel it is necessary to write long comments, may be doing themselves a dis-service, because some of us stop reading them after awhile. That fact has been stated over and over again on several TED sites....that fact has been stated over and over again on TED...that fact has been stated many times on TED sites........................LOL:>)

    NO! PLEASE do not increase the character limit.
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      Mar 28 2011: Would you say that all long comments are needlessly repetitive? Can a person write both long and short comments? Does a long comment automatically mean that the person is spraying ink to avoid the issue? Would I have done myself a disservice had I stopped reading my favorite book halfway through?

      I agree though, it can be a little tough to scroll through page after page of needless exposition. Heck, it can be tough to scroll through necessary exposition sometimes. I'll admit, 4,000 characters may be excessive, but is there really no room for expansive comments?
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        Mar 28 2011: Hi Daniel...thanks for the questions:>)
        *I believe most very long comments are needlessly repetitive.
        *Of course we can write long and short comments...it's a choice.
        *I don't think it necessarily means people are trying to "avoid the issue". My perception of long
        repetitive comments, is that the author is trying to prove to us that he/she is right.
        *You are the only one to decide if you did yourself a disservice had you stopped reading your favorite book halfway through. Are we writing/reading books on TED? Or are we participating in a comment blog?
        "Of course there is room for expansive comments. A few people are writing multiple comments,
        and will use as much space as allowed. On one site recently, a person wrote 3 long coments with
        the maximum characters in each, then complained because the system didn't allow another
        comment? In my perception, they were all very repetitive.

        We all make choices regarding how we spend our time and energy. My choice is to NOT spend time reading long repetitive comments, and you're right, even if we don't read them, we need to "scroll through page after page of needless exposition" to try to find comments relevant to the talk.
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          Mar 28 2011: Hi Colleen, thank you for your comments :)
          I used the example of my favorite book in an attempt to show that length does not inherently effect the quality or impact of the words. I also don't believe that most of the people on TED would abuse the privilege. Some would, to be sure, but I've seen other sites, like Hypography, which are quite self regulating with regards to that sort of stuff. I see no reason why TED can't do the same.
          There are also times when part of the point of a conversation is to argue for your position. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be willing to change your position in the face of strong evidence and sound logic. But a debate isn't about winning or losing, it's about critically examining an issue. So long as you can claim progress in understanding the issue than the debate was a success.
          I understand that a lot of internet comments are often tedious and unrewarding, but I do not feel that I have been so, and I know that others here do not do so. I think that we can create a forum here where there are both long and short comments, each in their own measure.
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        Mar 28 2011: Daniel,
        I agree that most people do not abuse the privilege. I do not believe repeating the same information over and over again changes anyone's position, nor does it create progress in understanding the issue. It seems that debate IS about winning for some people. We HAVE created a forum here where there are both long and short comments. The topic is "we should increase the character limit for comments". Seems that most people who responded on this thread do not agree. I agree with all those who do not agree:>)
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          Mar 28 2011: I'll concede that 4,000 is rather excessive. And there is merit to the utilitarian arguments of bullet points and multiple posts. I think that, because TED limits the number of replies to any given comment, multiple posts will get messy and confusing. And if, at the end of this conversation, the majority still does not agree, than that's fine. I will have presented my idea and been given the opportunity to argue for it.

          However, I still think some elongation may be useful, maybe a 3,000 character limit. But even if that gets shot down, I still believe that the first post at least should be allowed more room. A comment is written in response to something else, while the OP has to create something from nothing.

          Some one can repeat themselves endlessly is small comments almost as easily as they can in large ones. And endless repetition does not foster progress. But so long as most people aren't doing such things, then they aren't an issue. As you pointed out, not a lot of people think long comments are anything special. So even given the opportunity, they won't write long comments. You also don't think that people would abuse the privilege. So if TED did have longer comment boxes, then the occasional lengthy reply would not likely be pointless.
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        Mar 28 2011: I agree Daniel..."4,000 is excessive".
        I agree Daniel..."multiple posts will get messy and confusing".
        I agree Daniel, that you have "presented your idea and been given the opportunity to argue for it"
        I agree Daniel, that "endless repetition does not foster progress".

        I do not agree with your last statement Daniel, which is:"So if TED did have longer comment boxes, then the occasional lengthy reply would not likely be pointless". You stated: "It can be tough to scroll through page and page of needless exposition".So, many of us are forced to "scroll through page and page of needless exposition" so that a few have the opportunity to produce "excessive", "multiple posts", which are "messy and confusing"?Daniel, I'm just reflecting back to you what you have written. And what is your argument as to why we would be in favor of increasing the character limit?
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          Mar 29 2011: You're mirror must be bent then, because I hardly recognize the reflection. The key element there is needless. I never claimed that if we expanded the comments we would be inundated with needlessly long exposition, nor did I say that there would be a profundity of multiple posts, messing up the place. I was actually arguing that having longer posts would reduce the need for multiple posts, thus avoiding a certain amount of clutter. I think I have also been pretty clear in saying that TED would not likely be a place filled with gibberish.

          But my argument is almost the same as it has been: That the topics discussed on this site can at times require a longer response than the current system allows. So I am proposing an increase to 3k characters, amended from 4k. I also argue that, regardless of the comment length, the OP should be given more room, due to the fact that it must start from scratch. The main arguments against so far seem to be that longer comments are wasteful, or that shorter comments are better, and that allowing longer comments will result in endless pages of text. I do not see how length effects quality. I do not feel that most of the people on this site would misuse the option, so we are unlikely to be faced with mindless drivel. And given the vehemence against the idea, it seems unlikely that many people would post longer comments, thus saving us from endless scrolling.

          I am not the only one who has voiced agreement with the idea of expanding the comments. I do not see why a minority shouldn't be allowed to express themselves, especially when doing so will not cause appreciable harm or difficulty to you. I believe that if there is anywhere on the internet where large, complex ideas can be discussed rationally, TED is the place for that to happen.
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        Mar 29 2011: I respect your ideas Daniel, and agree to disagree. My mirror's usually pretty good. Not recognizing something doesn't mean it is not there:>)
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          Mar 31 2011: Thank you Colleen. I respect your opinion, and I truly appreciate our discussion. I agree to disagree as well as wish you well in the future.
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    Mar 23 2011: Concise is better. Wish we could reduce the limit to 1000 characters.
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      Mar 27 2011: Please don't misunderstand me when I ask this, but why is concise better? For me it seems that concise is simply different, not better or worse, simply different.
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    Mar 12 2011: agreed