Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Style ReTweets A Mixed Results Experiment

To the dismay of many longer time tweeters, Twitter added a new (and slightly different) form of retweet, that is supported not only as a convention among its users, but also by code in the implementation. The prospect was greeted with certainly mixed feelings by many. Fortunately, the old style of retweet was still available, since it was simply a conventions, that we as twitter users adhered too. It was something Twitter couldn't take away.

Well, at first, I was not that enthused about the new style retweets, but came to use it more and more. It is a lot easier, and it allows one to RT those tweets that are already near the edge and are difficult to shorten. Moreover, I read a tweet from someone who suggested that it was "better" for those tweets where you specifically want to honor the original source, since the original source appears prominently in the new style retweet.

As time went on, I switched to primarily using the new style retweets. The idea of honoring the people who either originated the thought (or just the ones I read and who keyed me into it) was very compelling to me. In fact, recently my ratio of new style to old style has shifted so that the overwhelming majority are new style.

The one downside of new style is the inability to add comments. So, I always use old style when I want to add a comment. But, to use new style, I have even adopted the convention where I do a new style retweet, followed by an old style (and then truncated) RT where I add comments. That seemed to me like the best of both worlds.

If that was it, there would be nothing worth writing about.


There always is a catch isn't there.

However, I have noticed something from using these new retweets. Less of what I am passing on is getting picked up. Now, some of that can be attributed to the fact that twitter doesn't track intermediaries in the new style. And, I've even noticed some people compensating for that by adding my name as a via credit. (Thank you, for that, that is a very nice gesture.) However, most people who follow me, I also follow, and thus I can see when the retweet something, and yes some of what I retweet new style gets passed along, but much of it doesn't.

Moreover, if I do an old style retweet, I get very good pickup rates. In fact that ratio of retweeting for old style retweets I make to new style retweets is better than 10:1 based on my non-scientific, biased, not rigorously collected, and small sample.

I don't know what the cause of this behavior is. I somehow doubt that it is the small comments that I add to an old style retweet that makes that much difference. I think it is more likely that we want to honor our friends (and most of the people who retweet me are ones whom I also retweet and consider to be a friend, and suspect that emotion is reflected). If I indulge that bit of narcissism, I might even countenance the idea that seeing my avatar helps capture their attention. That works for me, I certainly have avatars that I immediately read upon seeing, even if they are in one of the tweetdeck columns I'm not currently looking directly at.

Still, whatever the cause, the phenomena seems to hold. I'm not going to give up on new style retweets. However, I am considering scaling back their usage. If I find that, it affects the amount of information that gets passed on, then I will probably scale back even more. At some level, I find that a shame. I like the idea of giving more credit to where it is due. However, I won't let that get in the way with getting the information shared. That, after all, is why I am on twitter.


Well, some of you might note that I am on twitter as an Intel employee, and tweeting to improve Intel's brand recognition, especially in the security space. This is certainly true and the sharing of information is simply one way I help accomplish that task. However, I am not tasked by Intel to improve Twitter and don't know of what relationship, if any, exists between the two companies. In this regard, I am just simply a twitter user.