Primal Tweet

Published 10 years, 5 months ago

It seems that Twitter just can’t handle the display of primal screams.

See, I had need to let loose a really good primal scream today.  Uncharacteristically, I decided to share it with the online world.  It seemed like the perfect method was to Twitter it.  And for me, the correct form of a primal scream is “AAAAAAAAA…”, so that’s what I Twittered.  Only, I filled the limit: I held down shift-A in Twitterrific until I’d generated 140 upper-case “A”s, no breaks, no punctuation.  Just, you know, primal screaming.


What didn’t occur to me was the fact that browsers are really bad at word-wrapping big long chunks of unbroken characters.  So my primal tweet seriously disrupted the layout of Twitter for me, and for all 768 people following me (at the time), as a layout table got super-expanded and the scream overflowed various and sundry other element boxes.

Oops.  Sorry ’bout that, folks.  Though I have to admit there is the part of me that’s secretly pleased: a primal scream should be disruptive.  And in some cases, the effect is unintentionally funny and appropriate: like the individual display of that tweet, where the scream runs right out of the “text balloon” and just keeps going and going and going.  The failure states become extra levels of commentary on what’s been said.  Screamed.  They accidentally reinforce the intended message instead of subverting it.

Honestly, that’s kind of cool.  I find it all the more delightful because I didn’t intend any of that to happen.  I was just blowing off 140 characters worth of steam.

As for why I felt the need to scream so primally, odds are very high you’ll hear all about it tomorrow.

  1. Just loved your post about Twitter! I’m a mad twitterer too – but great to read others scream primally too on there!

  2. Figured you’d be posting an explanation. As usual, Meyer does not disappoint.

  3. The individual display of the tweet is friggin hilarious. :)

  4. I saw the tweet in my Twitterific, and didn’t quite understand it. But upon going to, I thought that, surely, it was a remark on Twitter not having bullet-proof CSS. But it wasn’t. Your real reason was good, too.

  5. Well, I can say that Netvibes passed the test. It didn’t show the entire primal scream, but it didn’t break the layout. :D Yay!

  6. It’s nice to know that the CSS jedi could bring twitter to its knees.

  7. Your attention please… please yell if I have your attention.

  8. Flickr has also been known to spill over when long texts of unbroken characters are used for photo titles. Sometimes I also see text from one title flowing on top of an adjacent title.

    Do browsers suck at not automatically hyphenating words too long to fit a given space? Or do the programmers suck for not allowing for this problem when they coded their input forms? These are the questions we need answers to!

  9. It’s interesting how different services choose to handle this and other bulletproofing concerns.

    Pownce for example doesn’t break the page layout, it just hides the overflow. The AIR interface shows the whole string, and wraps it appropriately.

  10. Would word-wrap: break-word;mot solve it?

  11. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Just testing ;)

  12. Is there a max-word-length command in CSS? Eg:


    The above code would specify that no words would be longer than 70 characters. If so, a hyphenation or overflow rule would also be needed.

  13. fitzage likes to break twitter all the time. He’s been doing it for months now. Nana-Nana-Boo-Boo

  14. jsutcliffe, your tonsils look fine to me. ;)

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