ReTweets – Is Twitter Breaking Community Features

According to yesterday’s blog post, Twitter has plans to work retweets (RTs as they’re used) into the online application. According to Dan Zarrella this is a summary of the change in function, “Twitter plans to add a button to the Twitter web client that says “Retweet” that will allow you to send the same exact Tweet, withno editing, to your followers. Your followers will see the original poster’s avatar and name, even if they’re not following them, and the only indication they’ll see that it is a ReTweet will be a small line of light gray text underneath it.”

I saw a sputtering of tweets today on the topic, and I’m inclined to jump on the #SaveReTweets bandwagon. However, if we’re to assume Twitter has the interests of the community in mind, I would like to add some helpful critiques.

retweet phase one










The image above is an example of the proposed change to retweets. The retweet button is a good idea, but here’s why I believe the “retweeted by biz” line fails:

1. This drawing assumes I use to read & post my tweets. Folks who are taking advantage of the power of Twitter are using third party clients.

2. The implementation shows the original poster’s avatar. When scanning through a list of tweets, I look at the avatars first then read the tweet. This ties into my 3rd point –

3. I’m reading the tweet AND/OR following the link because I trust the person who retweeted. In the image above, I won’t see @Biz’s avatar, and I’ll ignore @Ev because I don’t follow them.

4. The implementation doesn’t allow for a retweet chain. Sometimes I retweet two or three people, as I didn’t discover the thread AND I can introduce my followers to more people. For example, RT @Person1 RT @Person2 this is a really great tweet.

5. A driving factor for me on Twitter is discovery. The changes to @replies and now retweets hampers discovery of new folks. Since RTs can be ignored, I won’t be introduced to new people, and I won’t be able to introduce folks to new discoveries.

6. I’m already using some great third party tools to track retweets. Twitter isn’t adding a feature that will be helpful to me, rather they’re breaking my current workflow.

Looking at Twitter’s blog post the changes are in hand, and will be pushed on users after a trial period. My hope is that they consider how retweets have been implemented by the community before trying to reinvent the wheel.

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  • Do the folks at Twitter not understand how people use their program? This is just stupid. (I love your Twitter drawing, though)
    .-= Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home´s last blog ..And the winner of the $500 gift card to Walmart from Nestle is… =-.

    • A.J. Wood August 14, 2009   Reply →

      I can’t take credit for the drawing. I pulled the image from the original Twitter blog post.

  • Pariah Burke August 14, 2009   Reply →

    Good piece, A.J. I had faith in Twitter’s people to make the community better–or at least to have their own (eventual) bottom line in mind–until they screwed up @ replies. Now, like many others, I miss out on so many interesting conversations and people I would follow simply because I can’t see conversations if I don’t already know and follow everyone involved.

    Given what you and I do on Twitter, sharing and retweeting information and great links with the creative professional community, the proposed new retweeting format will almost certainly kneecap such usage and make Twitter a much less friendly, much less informative place.

    If Biz Stone and his cohorts keep going the way they are, all the strengths that make Twitter great will be nullified before long.

    I find myself wishing that all the Twitter competitors hadn’t gone under. We might need them tomorrow.
    .-= Pariah Burke´s last blog ..Star Wars Motivational Poster =-.

  • X_atomic August 18, 2009   Reply →

    I agree with Dan, and I like his carefully prepared illustrations. sometimes the obvious answer is not always the best. Making things better may take a bit more effort but it will be worth it in the end.

  • Hal August 18, 2009   Reply →

    Hmm… You make some really good points. I found your post using TweetDeck via @coachkiki,who found it via @danzarrella who found it via @onreact_com.

    Two of those people I didn’t know and so discovered them and followed them.

    Oh, I’m @gold_tracker.

    My question though, is how will this change they are planning on implementing affect the third party apps? Or will it make any difference?

    • A.J. Wood August 18, 2009   Reply →

      Hal – from what I’ve read online, Twitter plans to create new API calls to handle the retweets. Seems like added overhead to a system that’s unnecessary in my opinion.

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