Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Retweet the old fashioned way, using 'classic' or 'traditional' retweets only

Updated Sept. 3, 2013

Ironically, the most important feature on Twitter is one that Twitter itself did not develop, and has never adopted: the traditional retweet.

It was developed by the customers, on their own, and not by the company. And amazingly, to this date Twitter itself has never incorporated it, although doing so would be as easy as pie.

My advice to all Twitter users is that you should not use what Twitter calls a "retweet". It is a counterfeit, and does not have any of the key properties of a retweet. Just skip it.

The true, traditional "retweet" is the life blood of Twitter, and what has set it apart from other similar "microblogging" services. [See my blog post "The awesomeness of the RT" : http://is.gd/4PFbJ ]

Here's how to do a traditional retweet if you're accessing Twitter at twitter.com:

1. Copy and paste the message and name of person sending it to you.

2. Precede it by "RT @" [type "RT", then a space, then a @. It's important that the @ and the name NOT have a space between them].

I.e. it should start out like this: "RT @Username "

[Easier way: If you're using Firefox or Chrome as your browser, you can use the "Classic Retweet" button supplied by Jon Pierce's add-on "Classic Retweet 1.0". If you're set up with that, all you've got to do is hit the "Classic RT" button instead of the fake "retweet" button.]

It may be even easier if you're using a Twitter "client" or application.

If you're using Tweetdeck, Seesmic, UberTwitter, Plume, Janetter, Echofon, Tweetlist, or any of the other myriad "clients" and applications which support Twitter and other microblogging platforms, many provide a way to incorporate the "traditional retweet" as your retweet method of choice. Each uses different terminology, sometimes quite peculiar, such as e.g. "quote", "edit and reply", "Edit and RT", "retweet with comment", etc., and many do not allow you to set up classic retweets as your preferred, default method, but do allow you to choose the classic retweet when you're actually doing the retweet. If your app doesn't enable you to do classic retweets, you should consider replacing it with an app that does.

E.g., in Tweetdeck for Chrome, if you want to do a classic or traditional retweet, after you click the retweet icon you get a choice: "Edit and RT" or "Retweet". ALWAYS choose "Edit and RT" even if you have no intention of "editing". And you'll have a traditional, classic retweet [I usually do NOT edit, but know that I must check the "Edit and RT" option to get a true retweet, rather than a pseudo-retweet].

What's wrong with the thing Twitter mislabels a "retweet"

(1) You can't insert a comment, start a conversation, or join a conversation;
(2) you can't edit;
(3) instead of showing your avatar, it shows the avatar of the original tweeter, which might be someone your followers don't know or have any relationship with;
(4) it prevents you from seeing multiple versions with different comments from different people;
(5) if someone retweets you, it is difficult for you to learn that they did, you will have to go outside your conversational thread [e.g., on twitter.com, you have to wade through your "interactions" to see which of them are twitter-fake-retweets];
(6) if you retweet people, they will never learn that you did, unless they go through that same investigative process; i.e, except for the commercial accounts which use analytics & care a lot about the number of retweets, they will probably never learn that you retweeted them;
(7) your so called "retweets" either will not show up, or will show up in an inferior way, in Tweetdeck or any other Twitter "clients" or applications, and if they do show up, will not prominently display YOUR icon (they will prominently display only the icon of the author of the original tweet);
(8) a fake retweet has no URL and is therefore not searchable. It has no separate identity. It has no identity in, and will not show up in, any kind of twitter search, such as keyword and hashtag searches. Examples of how this undercuts the value of your twitter experience are too numerous to mention, but a stream come to mind.*
(9) you won't be found when people are looking for people to follow with similar interests;
(10) the identities of intermediate tweeters will never be known;
(11) in many instances, to the extent your identity is recognized at all by the recipients, they can't reply to you, or retweet you, or DM you, and may not even be able to verify your user name;
(12) it eliminates discussion;
(13) when the pseudo "retweet" is itself retweeted, whether by rubber stamp retweet or by traditional retweet, you won't be mentioned at all,
(14) if you want to be part of a "hashtag" "trending" event, your pseudo retweets have no impact, since they're not considered separate tweets... only classic retweets will count.

In sum, it takes the "social" out of "social media" by [a] eliminating conversation and interaction, [b] insisting on blind rubber stamping, [c] preventing you from letting your friends know you've honored them, [d] preventing you from knowing your friends have honored you, [e] making you invisible, [f] making it harder for you to meet new friends with similar interests, and [g] removing any clear indication of your identity to your existing friends.

One of the primary uses of the traditional retweet is not to 'repeat' something at all, but to start or continue a conversation, with 2, 3, sometimes even 4 or 5 people participating in a single tweet. In this type of classic retweet, you're repeating something in order to preserve the conversational thread. Here are a couple of everyday examples from some good conversationalists, who use traditional "retweets" as conversation:


The people who engage in such conversations are the people having the most fun of all on Twitter and are the coolest communicators here.

Twitter's pseudo retweet makes such engagement and interaction impossible.

Twitter's management thinks Twitter is for information only and is not supposed to be "social", and that a retweet is for the purpose of repeating, or rubber stamping, the original tweet.

Why did Twitter do this?

My guess is that it has to do with appealing to Twitter's "business" customers (read "paying" customers) -- corporations, celebrities, social media professionals, major news media -- who do not themselves retweet but who wish to be retweeted by others, making it easier to quantify their "impressions", and to enhance their visibility at the expense of the rest of us. Twitter thinks it can make more money from its advertising [euphemistically termed "promoted tweets"] by being able to quantify the number of repetitions they receive.

If you fall into the trap, your interactivity with your friends is shattered, and your visibility to your friends is removed.

Even the "paying" customers for whose benefit this was done are being screwed, although they may not realize it. Instead of becoming a part of the Twitter conversation, they're just getting the same type of paid advertising spam they could have bought anywhere else. And if they do get rubber stamped, they're being 'rubber stamped' by the least experienced, least visible, least influential, people on twitter -- since those of us who are knowledgeable are likely to avoid touching the rubber stamp button like the plague.


This is my advice:

1. Don't use Twitter's so called retweet function.... ever.

2. Use genuine, traditional retweets only.

3. Configure any twitter apps which you may be using to do traditional, rather than 'rubber stamp', retweets. If yours cannot readily be configured to do that, drop it and use one that can. Period. [see "How to set up your twitter apps (or "clients") to do traditional retweets rather than rubber stamp retweets"].

Some people ask "what if the original tweet is too long"? I say that if you really can't shorten it, edit it, or use a "longer tweet" service, then forget it. Why punish your followers by injecting spam into their stream? Your followers are looking for stuff from you, not from strangers. Stuff from strangers, which they didn't ask for and don't recognize, has a name: it's called s.p.a.m. [When people complain that they've been seeing a lot of tweets in their stream from people they don't recognize, that's because of peeps using twitter's rubber stamp button]. 

The "length" problem should become less and less of a problem, as automatic "elongated tweet" features become more and more available. For example, see Twitlonger and Twtmore

* [a] In the 2010 round of Shorty Awards voting, people were advised that one way to vote was by retweeting. The retweet votes were retrieved through Twitter search with the aid of Twitter hashtags. Apparently none of the votes lodged by the "fake retweet" button were counted, since the tweet had no URL, hence no identity, of its own. It is unclear what votes were or were not counted in the 2011 Shorty Awards. [b] Many tweeters, and many internet twitter applications, use keyword searches in Twitter search to find new people to follow who share similar interests; all use of Twitter's pseudo-retweet is excluded from such searches (Let's say, for example, I am looking to find new people to follow who are interested in indigenous peoples' rights, and use the hashtag #indigenous or the term "indigenous" to locate them. Or let's say I'm asking Mr. Tweet or some other application which helps with "friend finding" to find me people who tweet using the keyword "indigenous". And let's say you're someone who constantly uses twitter's fake retweet technology to send out tweets using the hashtag #indigenous. I will never even learn of your existence, because my search will turn up NONE of your pseudo-retweets. The poor saps who use Twitter's fake retweet are constantly losing opportunities to make new friends who share similar interests.)

(Short URL for this post: http://goo.gl/P8IFAi )

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