Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Shorthand for the 21st century: important text savers

Smartphone texting and the 140-character limit on Twitter have made people conscious of the amount of space their words take up. Sometimes you just want to save space and time when you type a link for a book on a website, blog or in an email. 

If you look for a link on a bookseller's website, you may encounter an extremely long and cumbersome string of characters that requires lots of time and space and invites errors.

Here's the ugly result of a Google search for my newest book:


Here's the even worse result of a search within the Amazon website:


If I go directly to the book page, I get this monstrosity:


Sometimes I get this shorter version:


HOWEVER, it's possible to prune the extraneous material to get a shorter string:  
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661769.  I can drop the http://www and it will still work: amazon.com/dp/0981661769.

If I search for the book on the Barnes & Noble website, I get this looong string:


I can shorten it to: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/9780981661766. As above, I can remove the http://www and use 

I can save even more characters by using "bn.com" instead of "barnesandnoble.com": bn.com/s/9780981661766.

HOWEVER, there's a great free online service that provides even shorter, fully-functioning links: Bitly.com 

You just type in your long, clunky link and PRESTO, you get a short link that you can easily copy and paste wherever you want.

In the example shown above, Bitly reduced a link from a ridiculous 113 characters to a convenient 22.

You can even drop off the http:// and reduce your character count by seven more: amzn.to/1tHcFIR.

Some shortened links have a Bitly "domain," as with 

Bitly says it shortens more than one billion links per month. The company also provides statistics about link-clicking, and custom short links such as amzn.to for Amazon and nyti.ms for the New York Times.

BItly's dot-ly "domain" is controlled by the government of Libya. This may not inspire confidence, but millions of Bitly users -- including me -- are willing to take a chance.

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