Twitter Blog: Project Retweet: Phase One

13Aug09

The folks at Twitter continue to strive to provide the best service possible. I say that with no irony what so ever. I mean it literally. Even though I’m about to dis their latest effort!

They’re formalizing the notion of the “retweet.” Check Twitter Blog: Project Retweet: Phase One. There are some pretty pictures there, which is nice, but I think the whole effort is going in the wrong direction.

The twitterverse seems to me to be divided into roughly three groups.

  1. Newbies and casual users, tailing off to the “haven’t visited the site in two years” crowd
  2. Experienced, frequent, social users
  3. Business and social-media users

I’m a lowly newbie in category #3. I think Twitter is making a significant difference in how I do my job, providing significant benefit for my company, and saving me significant time (or providing me significant information I couldn’t have gained by any efforts without it). I’m a fan!

But this “retweet” business, now … In the category-3 community, and maybe the cat-2 crowd as well, we’re kind of “over” the retweet thing. Simple retweeting has, with increasing frequency, been discouraged. Rather, we think you should add some value to the conversation, not just boff off someone else’s remarks. We usually refer to these “value-add” repetitions as “via”, because of the most common formats for the two techniques:

In the retweet (RT:) case, all you do is forward the same remarks. In the “via” case, you add your own reactions, maybe even completely rewrite the comments, but give “via” credit to whoever pointed the original out.

Feeling is widespread that literal retweeting is more often annoying than helpful, and it certainly does very little indeed to help your readers get to know you, only whoever you’re quoting. Adding value, providing comment, rewording, even completely disagreeing, are all more substantive. And if you can’t think of anything to add, you maybe shouldn’t even be forwarding this stuff.

Certainly, there are some legitimate cases for the simple retweet:

  • Helping to spread word of some breaking news
  • Mega-follower superstars widening the distribution of info originated by us commoners

But for the most part, a little thought, a little added value, seem well worth encouraging.

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