Like many of you, when Twitter introduced the “new style” retweets we shook our heads. Their intentions were good: being able to retweet long tweets, ensuring that the original tweet has been unedited, and hiding repeat retweets from the timeline are all theoretically good things…but RT-style retweets got popular for a reason.
The ability to add personal commentary to a retweet changes the whole context of the interaction. Sometimes an original tweet only has retweet value when additional commentary is added. Asking a question, adding information, or expressing disagreement in an RT can be a huge conversation-starter. Sometimes it can be difficult to squeeze in extra commentary for longer tweets, but it’s usually easy enough to tweak the original tweet without losing the core message.
Another property of Twitter’s native retweets is that they only appear in the timeline once. The goal of this is to prevent the same tweet from flooding the timeline, but we believe that there’s value in seeing how often a tweet has been retweeted (without having to go back to the first retweet to check). Plus if everyone is adding commentary to the original tweet, each retweet has its own value as well. To make it easier to spot RT’s, we add an icon to each one to improve scanning, and we also provide an RT-only view if you’re just interested in finding recommended tweets.
Finally, the normal behaviour on Twitter.com is to show the avatar of the person being retweeted (with a small “retweeted by X” note underneath). While it’s theoretically nice to attribute the original tweeter by showing their avatar, in practice it’s just plain disorienting to see strangers faces in your timeline. Realistically, when scanning through our Twitter timelines we look for avatars we recognize. Not all recommendations are equal, so being able to easily tell who’s doing the retweeting is much more important than avatar-attribution.
So, with all this in mind, we’ve elected to use RT-style retweets by default in TweetAgora. We’re also turning all new-style retweets into the RT form in your timeline – it’s a more consistent experience than seeing mixed-form retweets, and we believe in the value of letting people add commentary. That said, we added a new feature in v1.2 to deal with retweeting long tweets: if you attempt to retweet a message that goes over 140 characters in RT form, you can choose to send it as a native retweet or to edit the message in RT form. We think it’s the best of both worlds. If you’re still not down with the RT format, we’ve also added a settings option in v1.2 to just always use native retweets.
What do you think? It’s a topic that garnered a lot of discussion when Twitter first rolled out the new style retweets, but it’s certainly still an ongoing issue.