Thursday, December 10, 2009

Technology Lesson: A Lesson in Re-Tweets

If you've logged in to Twitter in the last month you may have noticed some changes in your friends feed. In addition to lists (a post on that is coming next month), Twitter has added a new function to your friends feed, by displaying re-tweets in a new way.

But wait! What is a re-tweet? A re-tweet (or "RT") is when a person finds a tweet he or she wants to share with his or her follows. Traditionally, a RT would look like this:

(Text too small? My friend @mshwn wrote: RT @kaitlin_olson I just absentmindedly ate an entire can of black olives. I'm so confused.) Meems read It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia actress Kaitlin Olson (@kaitlin_olson) and decided to share it. (Heck, I almost RT'd it too!)
(You should follow @mshwn, by the way. Her tweets are hilarious, and it's always good to know who is shopping on Rodeo Drive.)

When I read the tweet in my Tweet Deck, a third-party application, it looked like this:

Most Twitter users user other applications to read and tweet, and I was waiting to see how Tweet Deck would adapt to the new RT function on Twitter's stream. But when my Twitter home page was inundated with Twitter's new display, I decided to stop waiting. Right now it looks like third-party applications probably won't show RTs in Twitter's new way. However, applications still allow users to RT with ease. Personally, I don't think we are missing too much. And I expect applications will find a way to integrate Twitter's new policies before long.

You may have noticed Twitter's new plan when you logged in. The notice sits at the top of the page:
If you click the notice, Twitter will take you to a page detailing what a RT is, and how to RT yourself. An excerpt:
Like a tweet? Retweet!

Sometimes you come across a tweet that you just have to share- tweets can be a big deal when they're newsworthy, informative, or even just really funny. Twitter's new retweet (RT) feature helps people quickly share information, which is pretty much what Twitter is all about.

Twitter writes that a new section has been added to the sidebar, to filter RTs. Twitter also instructs users how to remove RTs, and how to RT. Twitter also notes that you can identify a RT by its arrow icon in front of the tweet. Here is something you might have seen if I were a follower. (The yellow star is because I also favorite'd the tweet.)

And here is what the tweet looked like on @boburnham's page:

Underneath the date (1 a.m., Dec 2nd) it says, "Retweeted by you and 53 others." That indicates that I retweeted the tweet, and 53 others (and counting at press time) also RT'd the tweet.

If you want to RT... find the tweet you want to share. In this example, I want to RT @martyfnday's tweet about Spiderman.

I've hovered my mouse over the tweet to display "REPLY" and "RETWEET", as seen at the bottom right of Marty's tweet. Twitter wants to make sure, as Twitter is both thoughtful and aware that its technology is sometimes baffling.

I do! So I clicked YES. Twitter acquiesces and adds it to streams of my many adoring Twitter friends. (I never did get the story on his refusal to dress up as Spiderman.)

So easy! If you want to make sure the tweet is seen in all feeds, you can copy and paste the full tweet (and include the user's name). Make sure you type "RT" before the "@" symbol before hitting enter. (Anywhere else and only mutual followers will see the tweet. This sounds OK in theory, but mutual followers already read the tweet, and the copy + pasting will mostly confuse and possibly annoy others.)

You can also refer to the third party program you are using. Most include functions that will do the copy + pasting for you!

Again, be sure to check Twitter's announcement for more information.

Additional Information:
What is a retweet? (RT), Twitter forums

All Twitter posts

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