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Twitter’s new retweet feature: more good than bad?

December 10th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Gerry sings out his RTsThanks to a conversation on Twitter earlier today with @thegurrier, I now feel the urge to express (in more than 140 characters) why I think that Twitter’s “new retweet” feature is A Good Thing™ on the whole. As a Tweetdeck user I was pleased to see it implemented so quickly and it is interesting to see that the new feature is being adopted by many users from what I can see in my own timeline. Posting a Retweet has been integrated into Tweetdeck very tidily, but a huge amount of confusion remains about how the new-style retweets are appearing (or not) in our twitter feeds regardless of client.

Poor retweet PR

I reckon Twitter have made quite a poor effort at promoting understanding of the new Retweet. If you search for retweet on the Twitter blog, you don’t get a lot of help. Via mashable I found a much more informative explanation of the logic behind the new retweet, written by current Twitter CEO, Evan Williams.

A must read

To help make an informed decision about your own opinions on the whole Retweet controversy, I strongly recommend you read Evan Williams’ article: Why Retweet works the way it does. I’ve just noticed that Evan has the same birthday as me, so of course I like what he’s saying even more now.

THE CONS: So what are people complaining about?

  1. No editing – currently you can’t annotate the tweet you are retweeting with your own comments. That certainly is a big limitation – but Evan Williams seems to be strongly hinting that there are plans to make the retweet feature more flexible in this direction further down the line.
  2. You can’t easily tell when your own tweets get a new-style RT – retweets of your own words do not appear in your own feed nor in your Mentions. Taking the current Tweetdeck client (v0.32.1) as an example, you are pretty much left in the dark about any RT fame you are getting. However the methods to resolve this exist in the API, so I don’t think it’ll be long before all the major third-party clients address the issue.
  3. Inconsistent behaviour@thegurrier complains that in Tweetie, “if someone I do not follow RTs one of my tweets, I do not see anything in my feed”; that’s the same in Tweetdeck; in fact in Tweetdeck I’ll never see one of my own tweets RTed back to me, whether I follow the person retweeting or not. I’m not 100% sure of this, but my perception is that I see 3 different behaviours in Tweetdeck when I post a new-style RT, namely: my retweet replaces the original in my feed, it appears at the head of my timeline or it doesn’t appear at all. Anybody else noticed that?

THE PROS

  1. No worries about length – it was always good practice to limit your tweets to 120chars if you were hoping for some RTs. With the new RTs, there is no need to worry on that count.
  2. Less duplication – if the original tweet is in your timeline, you won’t see any RTs. This is particularly tidy for people who manage multiple accounts and like to RT between them. For instance if someone tweets from their corporate account and then retweets it from their personal account to get an important message out to both sets of followers, the new retweet feature is optimised so you’ll see just one tweet if you follow either or both accounts.
  3. Quantitative potential – because it is now built in to Twitter’s structure and API, there is huge potential for applications to get quantitative about RTs in ways that could never work for the old-school RTs because of their freeform nature.
  4. Less confusion – below is an old-school RT I plucked from the public timeline just now.
    RTviaWith this double-retweet, it’s actually hard to be certain who was the originator of the words. I think there is great value in preserving the original tweet and making it clearly attributable as is done in the new retweet feature.

A final word about #fixreplies

I still grieve for the loss of the option to view all tweets from the people you follow including their @replies to people you don’t follow. It’s natural to be interested in friends of friends, but now we’re oblivious to alot of the conversation that is going on on Twitter. I’m curious and just a little hopeful that Twitter have managed to include an individual opt-out in the new retweet feature (it’s the green retweet icon on a web-based twitter profile). Does this mean there is still hope that the #fixreplies issue can be resolved?

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