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Author: Jennifer Valentino

My Name Is Too Long for Twitter

When I got married a couple of years ago, I spent a fair amount of time deciding whether to change my name. “Valentino” isn’t a bad name, and I’d never really thought I’d want to change it. But I happen to kind of like my husband, and I thought taking his name in some way was a nice thing to do. It made both of us happy. I’m aware that my name is long and annoying — 24 letters (four of them capitalized) plus a hyphen — but it’s my name.

Unfortunately, it’s not my name on Twitter. It’s too long.

Now, I can understand why my username on Twitter can’t be more than 15 characters. Usernames are added to outgoing messages, and they’re used within messages in retweets and so forth. You don’t want your entire 140-character limit on messages being taken up by a username. But what gets me is that real names on Twitter also have character limits. The restriction is raised to 20 characters (including spaces) to allow for people with longer names, but my name goes beyond even that. I’d imagine that many of Twitter’s female users might be known by two surnames as well. Plus, there are several nationalities with names that would easily test Twitter’s limits.

There’s a practical issue here — the ease of finding people in the Twitterverse. On Facebook, I can search for friends whether I use their married names, maiden names or even nicknames. On Twitter’s people search, which is notoriously problematic, I can be easily found with a query for “jenvalentino” or “Jennifer Valentino,” and that’s about it. If you search for anything involving “DeVries,” or even for “Jen Valentino,” you don’t find me, even though I list my full name in Twitter’s little “bio” section. It’s not that I think I have legions of fans who are dying to follow my anemic Twitter feed. But for a social-media service, this is a user-experience problem. Shouldn’t Twitter be facilitating my search for relevant people to follow?

Football and Family Violence

I’m a big football fan, so I have to admit I was a little sad to see this paper by economists from Berkeley and UC San Diego. The researchers looked at NFL games and found that, all else being equal, upset losses in NFL home games lead to an 8% increase in domestic violence by men against women. The fact that there is an effect doesn’t surprise me, but 8% seemed pretty high. Apparently it’s roughly equal to the increase in domestic violence reported on hot days. But it’s much less than the increase on holidays. New Year’s Eve and Memorial Day are the worst, with violence increasing about 30%.

Introducing the News Hub

Last week the Online Journal introduced a new live video feature, the News Hub. The 10-minute segments run twice a day, at 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and are filmed about 15 feet from my desk. (You can occasionally see the back of my head in the video.)

In many ways, I think this is a great development. When I first came to the Journal in 2005, we couldn’t even embed video on our site. And now we’re putting out a live program twice a day. Print reporters are increasingly interested in working with and in doing things like video, which is how it should be. Of course, they also know that they have to do this sort of thing if they want to stay relevant and, frankly, keep their jobs. I’m not sure how comfortable everyone is with that.

Although the Journal doesn’t exactly have any fancy sets — or even a real desk — it does have a lot of smart, real business reporters. Honestly, I’d rather watch people like that than people who are more polished but less knowledgeable.

Grid Graphic: U.S. Unemployment Rate

The above is an image from an interactive graphic my colleagues Susan McGregor, Mei Lan Ho-Walker and I (but mostly Susan) produced for the Online Journal. The actual version is here.

Basically, each of those little boxes represents a month. As the unemployment rate rises, the color in the box goes from green to red. You can see on the interactive version that our unemployment rate is still worsening but that it isn’t yet as bad as it was during the recessions of the 1980s. The graphic also allows you to see that unemployment often continues to worsen even after a recession is officially over — not necessarily good news for job seekers in the U.S.

The graphic itself is a new way to look at this sort of data over time. Usually, unemployment numbers are presented as a simple line graph, but the grid-and-color system allows you to provide more granular information in the same amount of space. By using colors instead of the Y axis to represent numbers, the graphic allows the Y axis to serve a new function. Each month is easily visible, and in addition to seeing its unemployment rate, the reader can click a button to see whether that month was officially part of a recession. Even more information, such as the dates of economic shocks or the political party in power at the time, may be added later.

Unfortunately, because this is not the way we are used to visualizing this type of data, it can take a few minutes to get used to the format, and this is something I think we’ll need to work on.