November 18, 2009...3:38 pm

One Reason Not to Hate Twitter’s New Retweet Function

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I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Twitter’s recent changes to how individual Retweets, aka RTs, are retweeted, but there is something interesting here to think about.

Aside from adding lists, the changes to Retweets are the biggest change to happen to Twitter came since they changed how @replies worked earlier this year.

To recap: In the past, if I was following you, I would receive all of your tweets in my Twitter stream, even those that began with an @reply to someone I was NOT following. That’s no longer the case. Now I only see tweets that begin with an @reply if I’m following the person they’re replying to.

When @replies changed, a few other things changed, too. Namely, discovery of new and interesting people to follow. In the past, if I saw an interesting person in my Twitterstream was engaged in conversation with someone I wasn’t following, I might choose to follow them based on our mutual acquaintance.

Now, I know there are plenty of good reasons to be upset with the new changes to Retweets, but one neat thing about this is that it does bring back the possibility of discovering new people.

Since the new ReTweets feature is still in Beta, not everyone has access yet. So, here is a screenshot of my Twitterstream with a dialog box that points out this new means of discovery.

Love the change or hate it, this may not be the organic means of spreading information that grew out of the Twitter community, but discovery is something I’m interested to see making a comeback on Twitter.

What do YOU think?

P.S. Read this post by Dan Zarrella if you’re interested in preserving the way Retweets have always been viewed and posted.


  • So far, don’t like that I can’t add my 2 cents but agree on the discovery part.

  • I do like the discovery aspect and this certainly makes more sense as a discovery tool than the Suggested Users list, which I understand is going away.

    Seems to me that this new feature is designed to give more credit/exposure to the authors of original tweets. I’ve seen a number of people build big followings based almost entirely on RTs, so maybe the folks at Twitter are questioning how much value that adds. So now instead of linkbaiting we’ll have tweetbaiting.

  • In the past you could always click the link to (one of) the username(s) being retweeted. What the new feature does differently is make it easier to access more usernames in the retweet chain. So some discovery was ALWAYS part of retweets.

    New retweets don’t even do that perfectly, because anyone can at any point take a “new” retweet and turn it into an “old” retweet, and then the chain of retweet usernames is broken/starts over from the new tweet.

    • Sure, *some* discovery was always a part of retweets, but not much — there are only so many names you can include in 140 characters.

  • Jason the TVaholic

    I don’t have the new Twitter ReTweet functionality yet, but given how it seems to work and how the previous format works, I don’t see how it adds any new ability to discover anyone on Twitter.

    If I retweet someone now using either the “RT @abcxyz:” or “(via @abcxyz)” formats, people following me can easily discover this person I thought had something worth sharing.

    My question is about the “Retweeted by @xyzabc and 2 others” line added to the info under a tweet. Does this mean if 20 people I’m following retweet something, only the first one to do so shows up in my Twitterstream and then each subsequent one just adds to the “# others?” Does this mean that the retweet is stuck in my Twitterstream at the first time it was retweeted? If so, it seems like it has the possibility of me never seeing it, if I don’t go far enough back in my Twitterstream after having been away from Twitter for a bit. Yet, if they all show up like they do now, I may see one of the others, since not everyone retweets at the same time. Just another potential reason to not like the new format along with the initial confusion of seeing someone you’re not following show up in your Twitterstream.

    • Jason,

      The idea is that the originator of the Tweet will continue to get credit. If something is retweeted A LOT, it is not feasible to track everyone who retweeted it or know who the originator of the Tweet was.

      Also, what’s wrong with having others show up in your Twitterstream? Maybe I’m following so many people that it doesn’t make a difference to me one way or the other, but I don’t see what the big deal is — they’ll show up in your Twitterstream, it’s not like they’re asking to use your bathroom…

      • Jason the TVaholic

        Shannon Paul,

        Well, if people haven’t been attributing a tweet to the original person, they haven’t been doing it right.

        If I wanted other people to show up in my Twitterstream, I’d follow them.

        I have since gotten the Twitter retweet beta and another thing I don’t like, is that when you retweet something with it, you can’t add anything to the message. Like, how I got to this post was from:

        Great point, Shannon! RT @ShannonPaul: One Reason NOT to Hate Twitter’s New Retweets

        This was retweeted by @Karianne who I am following, but when I went to retweet that message using the new Twitter Retweet function, I was not able to add anything like Karianne did (“Great Point, Shannon!). But, when I retweeted it using the old format, I was able too.

        For your “one reason not to hate” this new retweet structure, I already have two things that I don’t like about it.

        • It’s impossible to keep track of the original person when something is retweeted tens of hundreds or thousands of times.

          I get the editing piece, but the whole resistance to seeing strangers in a Twitter stream seems… well, silly. It’s not as if you’ll see all their Tweets – just ones people you’re following insist on retweeting.

          You don’t have to like it — I don’t either, but since I don’t pay for Twitter, I’m just along for the ride until I’m not.

  • I was quite excited to see this feature made available. It’s definitely helped me on the discovery end of things. This new feature, it seems, is geared towards giving credit to the original ‘tweeter’. By that happening, I’ve certainly found a few more interesting people to follow.

  • Huh?

    How is this new RT feature on any different for *you* than any other RT functions? You’re still seeing who I’m retweeting and the discovery comes into play if it’s a new name for you.

    I don’t understand.

    • You end up losing the originator of the tweet somewhere along the line — can’t include everyone who retweets in 140 characters. This will at least introduce the originator of the tweet to new people, right?

      • Wrong.

        If I see in my stream:

        RT @blah RT @blah2 RT @shannonpaul Something here

        …and I click the retweet link, people will see:

        RT @blah2 RT @shannonpaul Something here
        (and there’d be in metadata that I retweeted @blah)

        Maybe I’m missing something, but I haven’t seen more than one level of RTs cut off. Moreover, suppose @jasonfalls originated the tweet and you retweeted him without specifying his username; the system wouldn’t know.

        • Do you have the new feature? If not, you’ll still see them the way you always did. Having the feature means you see Retweets differently on the web.

  • RT the twitter way “implies” it is something I agree with when some times, it is not the case. The retweet twitter-style is nothing more now to me than a “I totally agree…” type comment to a tweet. And that does not advances a conversation.

    It would be nice to have an agree-disagree-sarcasm-indifferent click and/or short comment (sub-tweet?) one can attach to the RT.

    But, that retweet link makes it really easy to RT something. Just click, no thinking needed.

    The tracking back to the originator is a good thing maybe. But for me, a tweet is something I scribble on a post-it note and stick on the wall. Throw-away thoughts.

  • mss @ZanthanGardens

    Twitter’s earlier change to @ only restricted our ability to find new people if we were following people who were not clever enough to figure out they could put the @ elsewhere in the tweet if they wanted everyone to see it. It really cut down on the noise of @chatters, those people who use Twitter as an IM substitute. For the most part, you only saw their original tweets and not half a conversation. (@whoever. Oh! You too?) More signal, less noise.

    The new retweet feature favors mindless automation. Most people I follow annotate their retweets. They provide added value to the tweet they are sharing. To me it seems like this new system is designed to encourage viral marketers at the expense of personal interactivity. More noise, less signal.

    However, as long as we can still handcraft our retweets using RT, then I don’t hate the new feature. Especially as there seems to be the ability to block seeing these kinds of RTs from someone you follow without unfollowing their entire Twitter stream.

    • I get what you’re saying, I really do… but there was no built-in discovery mechanism. People had to deliberately put an additional character in front of an @reply to promote discovery — it wasn’t something that happened organically on the platform anymore.

      I don’t love the new feature either, but I’ll still be on Twitter because the technology is a secondary draw for me. The people on Twitter make it what it is, not a new button.

  • I have already found new follows thru the new retweet. I think it definitely has its uses, and is a good idea as an ADDED feature.

    I still love and want to be able to add a little extra to retweets the original way. I hope Twitter doesn’t decide the new way is simply ‘better’ and leave us without this option.

    The word “new” makes me wonder if it is intended to eventually replace the old-school organic ‘RT’

    • I’m with you on the ability to edit retweets. I hope they make it so some kind of extra commentary or hashtag can be added. It should be interesting to see how this changes things.

  • I am fairly new to Twitter, so I don’t know many details about this discussion. I only hope that if I retweet something that I think worth passing on, all of my followers will see it, and if someone following me retweets something of mine–especially when I update my blog–that their followers will see it. That’s how it seems to work now, and I’m opposed to anything that gets in the way and in favor of anything that keeps it working smoothly. I notice when I retweet, my own photo shows up, not that of the person I retweet.

    • The last part you mention will change — once you have the new feature, when you retweet someone the avatar of the person who originated the tweet will appear in the streams of your followers with your name underneath as the one who posted it to his/her stream.

  • To be honest, I’ve only use the version of RT a few times. I manage multiple Twitter accounts and use HootSuite. I find it interesting that 3rd party applications have had RT for quite some time, then comes along Twitter and introduces the ‘official’ RT tool and changes the way they want it. I will continue to RT using HootSuite.

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