Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Beta Twitter Feature: Retweeting

Simon Fodden asked me about the new Twitter "retweet" feature which was recently opened up to a number of us on Twitter. It is currently in beta test. I thought sharing my response might be helpful.

What is retweeting?

But first, let me explain what "retweeting" is for those not familiar with Twitter:

Retweeting is forwarding/spreading a Twitter message (or "tweet") posted by someone to your other Twitter followers.

Quite often Twitter developers will take note of a convention that spreads throughout Twitter users and turn it into an official feature. The original way to spread a message sent out via Twitter (a ''retweet") is to put the abbreviation "RT" plus the person's ID with the "@" symbol in front so the person originating the tweet gets credit for the tweet and sees it automatically in their stream of replies. For example, Simon Fodden retweeting from the Slaw.ca Twitter account:



The new retweet feature

We can still manually retweet as we have been doing, but now Twitter has added an automated feature they are calling "Retweet". It does a few different things than we are used to. It can be confusing at first. Hopefully this helps explain it:

  • The retweet feature replicates the entire original tweet, including the person's name, icon and source they sent the tweet from (e.g. Tweetdeck, web). So, if you retweet something a friend tweeted, everyone following your twitter stream will see your friend's icon instead of yours. This is the most confusing part of the new feature. For example, in the example below, my friend @pfanderson retweeted something from @sneakymonkey, and it is @sneakymonkey's icon that shows up. They also add "retweeted by" in the status line under the tweet:



  • currently we can't edit or add any information to the retweet. Previously we could edit the tweet down or add a comment as there was space with the 140 character limit.

  • there are some new lists of the retweets, from your right side menu ("retweets") - http://twitter.com/#retweets. Under "Your tweets, retweeted" they show who has retweeted (see the icons under each retweet):



  • I don't see an RSS feed listed for the retweets yet.
Other new things from Twitter

Incidentally, Twitter is opening up a lot of new features and functionality these days. Lists are one I have also been playing with. They have also integrated Twitter with LinkedIn so we can push tweets to LinkedIn status messages, and I see there is now Twitter in Spanish and some new functionality (from what I can understand) with Twitter in French. It is worth following the Twitter blog to learn about all the new features coming down the pipe.

Do you have pointers or questions about the new retweeting feature?

5 comments:

kpw321 said...

Dear Connie,

Hi my name is Kevin Waterman from the Garden State. Enjoyed reading your article on "New Beta Twitter Feature: Retweeting" Lots of good information. I am a newbie and look to learn everything I can about this medium. Thank you again for sharing and much success to you. Sincerely, Kevin

Connie Crosby said...

Hi Kevin:

I'm glad you found it helpful. Thank you for stopping by!

nancy (aka moneycoach) said...

Nope. Don't like. Uh-uh. (the RT function, not meaning your post!)
The compelling and beautiful feature of twitter is that it first-and-foremost is a human-to-human connection. That gets damaged when a stranger turns up at the dinner table, so to speak. Granted, the shared connection is there, in a muted way, but still, the general "feel" shifts to Information Stream away from an information-and-thoughts-*From-People-I-Care-To-Listen-To* stream. Perhaps a subtle, but to me absolutely crucial, distinction.

Connie Crosby said...

Hi Nancy:

Thank you for pointing this out. So, in addition to being confusing, it changes the nature of retweeting.

Charon QC also pointed out the new features makes it too easy to retweet without thinking.

I was wondering whether we were all having misgivings just because it is a change from what we are used to, but it sounds like many people don't like how this feature works. I did notice most people continuing to using the "home grown" way to retweet.

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