Current Issues for the RT in Twitter



Before the Super Bowl I figured that I might use twitter once in a while to make a comment, but as the game and commercials began I was re–twittering or RT’ing more so. I was passing along comments that I thought were worth mentioning to those that others might not have read since they possibly weren’t following the same people. I made a comment from time to time but the majority of my publish button action was from other people’s content. I was acting as curator and editor from my twitter position. Occasionally the RT would exceed the 140 character count b/c the added name pushed the available space. So on occasion I had to edit the tweet to get it to a point that would fit into the space. A common edit would be turning the word “advertising” in “ad”. But it got me to thinking. There was nothing holding me back from changing the entire comment of the RT into something completely different – and attributing that info to someone else. That kind of action is unlikely but does allow someone to really sabatoge a twitter rep to some degree. I also noticed that when you click on the RT persons name, it doesn’t send you to the original post but a general feed of that person. If that person is a heavy twitter user the original post could be pages back and not viewable after the original click. The above board shows the ux breakdown and a typical post.




So with a couple modifications I tried to figure out a way that would give the indication if the tweet was indeed the original RT or if it had been modified in any way. The quickest way was to show a lock to indicate whether it had been kept the way the post was intended to be, or have it unlocked to indicate if it indeed had been open. I also placed a text version at the end of the post as most twitter readers don’t show any image aside from the profile pic. Fairly simple stuff – I also changed up what it meant to show the RT. Turn that into part of the link for the original post, so if I click on that I get the actual post without needing to try to figure out when in the flow a post came from.


I also mocked up what it the changes would look in TweetDeck. In my guesstimation the RT is kind of an untapped action at the moment. There’s lots of interesting conversations that can branch off of a RT. It’s impossible for me to know if people are doing strange things with a RT and a username, but the potential is there to be not so nice with it. A bigger issue however is that it’s annoying to click on a RT url and not getting the direct post. That is something that should be considered sooner than later.

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  • Serge K. Keller

    And then there's a radically different approac, as suggestedby some:

  • Joe Bauldoff

    I just started twittering, and although I am still learning the etiquette, I already see this as a big issue. Like the article that Serge linked to says… Since the user needs to do all the work, it creates a lot of noise in what should be a clean, concise transmission.

    The http\'s are ugly enough. Add several @namesidontrecognize (if you are RTing the comments someone made about someone ELSE'S tweet), pepper it all with some quotation marks, and halfway through reading the 140 characters, my ADD mind is already thinking about bacon and how much I'd like to go swimming.

    I think your solution is a good one, Michael. The more Twitter incorporates into its UX, and the less the user needs to clog up their tweet with proper credit and cordial protocol, the better.

  • michaelsurtees

    I'm going to preface some additional points to what you've both said with these bits of info that sort of mold what I think about twitter from the post

    “twitter isn't about who's following you. it's about who you're following”
    – Josh Kamler

    “Twitter, being an open system, is interpreted by different people differently; is used differently on different media platforms and at different times; and is used for different things. Which is exactly why it's so awesome.”
    – Ana Andjelic

    ….. ….. ….. …..

    @Serge – I guess you have to ask why a person chooses to follow someone else. Part of the reason why I choose to follow certain people is that they might have access to people and ideas that work pretty well inside a RT. I also follow quite a few people b/c I'm curious to see how different media outlets use it. But some people might like reading tweets as personal anectodotes to their daily life and hate RT's. That's cool too b/c again twitter is interpreted and used in an infinite number of ways. Starring tweets is another underutelized part of twitter. I use it to save tweets that are more personal to me or needed for reference, so I don't think it would be that interesting to people that follow me and hence why I like the RT. Plus in a blog kind of way it's tipping your hat to someone that tweeted something good. On the other hand, those that choose to RT well known people and steal from those that aren't as well known is also a common practice that I see from time to time – not a huge fan of that…

    @Joe – the tiny url issue is kind of interesting, I like how it saves space, don't like how I don't know what the real url is. Too bad we can't embed html that would save character space. Again to the noise issue you have to ask why you're following someone. I think it also depends what kind of twitter service you're using. If I was only looking at feeds from the web and not from TweetDeck I'd only be able to follow a 100 max. But w/ TweetDeck the noise is a lot less b/c there's different streams of people that I follow more closely. But again it totally depends on what you're hopping to get from twitter and how you evolve it as time goes by.

    I guess my big caveat is that in six months time I may change my mind completely and think the total opposite. But at this moment that's kind of my feeling…

  • danielgm

    Instead of indicating whether a tweet was edited or not, why not display the original tweet? Perhaps entering “RT @danielgm” and the first couple words of the original tweet will find the tweet and include it right after the retweet. No reduced character limitation. No twitter rep sabotage.

    So you'd get this in your feed:

    [RT @nameyourecognize this is where] from michaelSurtees
    [this is where the 140 or so characters go] from nameyourecognize

    This would rely on the software to include the actual tweet, but in the meanwhile, doing today's typical retweet will still work as long as the first couple words are intact.