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Social Media

Retweeting – Another Twitter Misadoption?

Last month, Twitter introduced lists based on the way users utilize third party clients to view their data.  They recently followed up the release of lists with retweets, another feature invented by their users on third party applications that Twitter may or may not have misimplemented.

The users guide the development of Twitter.  When users being to do things, like address each other via the @ symbol with their username (i.e. @JustJon), Twitter adapted and allowed the username to be clickable to reach that user.  Users began using the hashtag to mark words to make them more easily searchable (i.e. #pizza), Twitter made those clickable as well to shortcut to that particular Twitter search.

If a Twitter user finds a particular tweet from another user interesting, they will retweet it.  Depending which Twitter client the users accesses the site with, the tweet will either begin with “RT @username:” or end with “(via @username).” Twitter created their own system which would put the original user’s tweet into the stream of all of the people following the retweeter with the retweeter’s picture underneath.

Retweet of MissJonesy


While the number of complaints about retweeting are far less than those about Twitter’s lists, the number one complaint is the lack of ability to comment on the tweet.  Often, users would utilize the extra characters on the tweet to comment on what the user is saying or linking to, but the new retweet directly puts the tweet into the user’s stream.  While most retweets barely have ten characters to comment, people want to keep their ability of self-expression to agree or disagree with the information they are sharing.

The other balance is that users needed to keep tweets they thought were important to 130 characters, rather than the full 140 characters to give their friends room to retweet them by adding the RT or via and @username.  This led to often reading the text message speak that shortened words to single letters or numbers to fit in as much of the original tweets intent without garbling their language.  By recopying the original tweet, none of the original intent is lost like an electronic version of the children’s game telephone, but no meme has found its way to popular usage to comment on the tweet.  Perhaps people will just comment in a separate tweet afterwards and include a link back to the original tweet to connect the two ideas.

The other problem with retweets currently is  ability to see others retweeing you.  In order to see them, you must log into the website, click “Retweets” on the right hand column, and click on “Your tweets, retweeted.” (The other options are to see “Retweets by others” and “Retweets by you.”) Once you are on this tab, you can see who has retweeted your different tweets.  While third party applications have begun showing you the retweets of others in your stream, there is no easy way to view who has retweeted you and no notification tht someone has until you look in this corner of the website.

While the concept of Twitter’s version of retweeting allows for a pure, unedited transference of information, it takes away the user’s ability to express him or herself in reference to the tweet that they found had enough value to share with others.  Twitter grew on the strength of being able to share your thoughts and feelings with other users in pithy messages, and if people feel they cannot do that, then the value Twitter is diminished for them.

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  • RFRube

    The New Twitter re-tweet feature is a pro/con for me. If I used Twitter purely to exchange information, I can understand the value in clicking a simple re-tweet button and having that information appearing in a followers stream.

    However I am not on Twitter purely to exchange information. I am on Twitter to exchange information that has my own unique personality and input attached to it. Therefore when I am passing information in a re-tweet, I prefer the option of being able to add my own comment (regardless of however brief) to the re-tweet I am sending to a follower.

    I always like to keep in mind that the people who follow me are following me, not the people I may be re-tweeting (hopefully) because I have something unique to offer them.

    I think the more Twitter automates the exchange of information, the more it loses what attracted me to the service in the first place, and that is the exchange of ideas among people on a person to person basis.

    Good post as always Jon.

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  • I was looking forward to reading this article. Regarding the origins of retweeting, et al, you pretty much laid out the same set of (accurate) observations as Wired did in its article (“Mob Rule! How Users Took Over Twitter” – http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_twitter/). I agree with you that finding out who’s retweeted you is a bit laborious, but there are two points I’d like to elaborate on: 1) first, the way RTs are now posted in your timeline is somewhat helpful but also disconcerting… b/c you’re suddenly seeing the avatars of the quoted posters vs. those of the retweeter, it makes it harder to follow who said what. I know you can turn this behavior off, but it has to be done on a person-to-person basis. 2) Users can always still RT the “old-fashioned” way… I do this when I do want to share something and add my own comments.

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