Why is there a character limit on submissions?

Why is the submission length limited to 500 characters? This is less than two tweets worth of content that is allowed. All of my published and pending places, including a stub, are over 500 characters. I cannot think of a single good motivation for such a policy.

If it is because you want shorter articles for people to read… why? Is there something overly difficult about reading three whole paragraphs of content? Does user retention and ad revenue somehow increase when there is less content to see?

If it is because you want us to pitch articles first, then develop them further if accepted… does this actually help anyone? It wouldn’t save contributors time since we’d be writing a short and long version of the same article, nor would it save editors time since they’d be reviewing everything twice.

If it’s because you want to write the full articles yourselves… do you really trust us so little? Do you think you are solely responsible for the thousands of pages of interesting content on this site? Do you want to take on the entire workload of your hundreds of contributors, who give their own style, voice and local knowledge to describing places that you’ve never been to or even heard of before we send submissions?

Along with removing a way to add sources (which is not only a way to credit offsite and offline information sources, but a good way to suggest further reading) and forcing people to create accounts in order to even read the articles, there are changes being made to the site that seem to have no logical rationale aside from some insidious plot to destroy the site from within. Can someone please explain these recent developments?

EDIT: AO Editor Michelle recently explained these recent developments, please see her post here.


Yea, for a site that is aiming to be progressive, you are literally silencing hundreds of voices from around the world and limiting yourselves to local American sources and writers. No offence but no matter how careful your writers are, I don’t see how them writing an article about a pitch we send is better than a local perspective. Especially if you get to edit it anyway. To me this seems as just another step to ‘Americanize’ everything, and I really hoped that AO was above that.

A large amount of places of mine are based on old newspapers and books that you won’t find online unless you know the language and websites to check. Why are you throwing this away? Do you just want commonly known lonely planet stuff from now on?

It really would be nice if we could have some kind of dialogue with the AO leadership about this, because you are literally chasing away your dedicated community who are doing loads of free work for you. If that’s what you want, please just say so and save us the effort.


500 characters is weird because 500 words is the generally accepted minimum for good SEO. It makes me wonder if someone in engineering made a booboo, which hey kid, it happens. Hope your Christmas weekend was nice, time to fix it Monday morning.

Removing sources is also not great… honestly, if I may offer a humble suggestion, the sources section really needed a revamp and a removal, with things like page titles included to make it more accessibility friendly. Cleaning up the format would help with SEO and you could also link to stuff like books and maybe pick up a few affiliate dollars along the way.


In the old paper-based days, the average word was (IIRC–it’s been a while) 5 letters, so that would correspond to 6 characters (5 letters plus a space). 6 * 500 = 3000 characters, which (based on some spot checks of my stuff) would be adequate, or at least livable-with.


Yea I’d be ok with 500 words and sources back.


@admins could you please reply to this? I get that it’s a vacation period but it’s been a week and the submission system broke again.


Yes if you have written more than 500 words if may bored to audience so here limited i think.

AGREED! It took me awhile, but managed a work around, (hopefully temporary). I save my submission and then return to continue editing. Seems to work.


Yes, but the sources section and “In a nutshell” header sentence are both gone. Backdooring into submitting full articles as normal isn’t a solution. If they want a 500 word limit then fine, but it has been about two weeks since they made this change and they have not made any sort of public announcement about it. It’s very odd.

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We’re already doing free research, writing, and photography for them. I don’t need them to applaud me for every submission, but at the very least I do not want to have to do it through a back door. It just feels really disrespectful to me from AOs side, just as the fact that they are ignoring our complaints for 2 weeks now.

It’s just bizarre how they are bullying away their diverse writer base from all over the world…just to replace them with their local writing room?


Any chance you could spell out how to back-door a way around the 500 character limit? I wrote an article for a location that has on word of mouth, but now the 500 character limit is just disrespectful to them and the entire community.

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All you have to do is save the article as a draft and then open it back up to edit it again. The character limit will be gone. Still, at this point per Michelle’s announcement that they are rolling back the changes, I am holding off on submitting new articles until the submission page has reached its final form.

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Or at least some of the changes…

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True, but the character limit is going away and it sounds like there’s going to be a dedicated place for sources again. Good enough for me, I think.


Since they’re not linked, thought it would be worth pointing out that Michelle answered regarding this topic here:

Back to the feedback, though, since the field to enter blurbs has been gone, some of these have not been great. To be fair, some of these entries might have been submitted before the changes, but without an option to suggest edits for them directly, it’s complicated to figure out how we can help correct them.

Both of these repeat words awkwardly. The first also has a typo in “million”:

Typos in fact seem to be back with a vengeance, so it really is for the best that the team decided not to take over the extra workload.


Thanks for pointing these out and we need to be more diligent. Human error on our behalf, that shouldn’t happen. Thanks again and apologies for these mistakes.

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Just wondering, why did you guys choose to remove the ability to edit that field (and the sources)? I feel like people should be able to understand that right?

Also it would be awesome if you guys could.fix the html errors in the submission/edit form, as it’s scaring away me from submitting and I know html etc… so on a user friendliness level this is really bad I think.

Again, thanks for updating us! I really appreciate that you communicate with us. I just wish that the higher ups would be more responsive and sensible.


I get that you are (understandably) frustrated about the character limit but I think you are being more than a little bit dramatic with your language in using terms like ❝ bullying ❞.

This is just an unpopular move with regular AO posters and definitely does not reflect any kind of ❝ bullying ❞ on the part of the administrators of the site as you have suggested in one of your comments.

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Do you mean in the HTML/CSS ? What specifically is the issue so I can convey it to the product team.

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When editing a place, or opening a draft, you can see html code in the text that really messes up the readibility. On phone (android) it also makes the box wider than the screen and it does not let you scroll, so you have to move the ‘text section thing’ to see the full sentence, etc.

I’ve played around with this a bit, and it seems that it lets you post any html/css (so I can input images and links) and probably also php and other code. So you seem to be at considerable risk of hackers using this to inject code to alter the database or steal user data, etc.