With lions on the loose, that Twitter limit can bite

Sheriff learns that 140 characters may not be enough in a crisis

Modern lawmen use the Internet to inform the public during emergencies, so it was no surprise yesterday when Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz took to Twitter after four dozen dangerous animals - including lions, tigers, wolves and bears - escaped from an Ohio reserve.

(Steve Jobs and his gadgets ... in LEGO)

The bad news is that Sheriff Lutz on several occasions found his tweets cut short by Twitter's notorious 140-character limit. The good news is that the sheriff, being a resourceful sort, fashioned a workaround, which we'll get to in a moment. First the truncated tweets:


Citizens in that area should what?

Take stock of their pets?

Grab rifles and form a posse?


If you what?

If you must go for a walk, consider the mall?

If you need a mental picture, think Thomson's Gazelle?


May still? May still what?

May still ... be hungry?

(It was unclear to me whether reports that the animals had been fed on Monday were meant to be reassuring or further warning.)

Anyway, Sheriff Lutz, much to his credit, was quick to realize that Twitter, while ubiquitous and fast, wasn't meeting all of his or the public's needs at this critical moment.

So he started adding URLs to his tweets; URLs that took the sheriff department's Twitter followers to the fuller warnings about the dangers lurking outside ... fuller warnings that were being posted to the department's ... Facebook page.

No character limit there.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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