Tipping Pitches: Technology: My Solution to the New Twitter RT "Problem"


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Technology: My Solution to the New Twitter RT "Problem"

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First of all, I have yet to receive access to the new built in Retweet Twitter web feature. Luckily, there have been some great blogs written about it.

Check out @Kegil's great entry called New Twitter RT Link: Use Caution.  She not only explains some of the potential pitfalls of the tool, but provides many very useful screen shots to help those of us who don't have access see how it is currently being used.

The problem pointed out by Kegil's blog entry is that messages retweeted from the web interface are not being displayed in third party applications. That is presumably something that will be fixed and not the purpose of my entry.

The issue I am addressing is one presented by Lance Ulanoff of PCMag.com in his blog Twitter Retweets: Thanks but No Thanks.

Lance's concern is that Twitter takes away the user's ability to edit the original message and add in their two cents at the front (or back) of the retweeted words. Instead, you now click the Retweet icon and the original message shows up in your followers' feeds with a message that you retweeted it.

Below is an example of how it looks (thanks again to Kegil for the screen shot):
So the first message is the one that was retweeted (as indicated by the new Retweet icon in front of it).  Below the message is a list of the people retweeting the message (in this case, it's only you).

First, I see why Twitter is doing this.  It has the potential to be a very good change.  People won't be able to massacre the original intention of a tweet, which ultimately happens (intentionally or not) due to the fact that users often need to shorten the message to include at least the "RT @user" characters.

So those who write pretty brilliant stuff can rest assured that those brilliant words will survive the new retweet function.

By also replacing "RT" with a graphic, Twitter is also validating that the original user did tweet this. Until now, users could maliciously retweet something in someone else's name, requiring the Twitter community to police such activity.

Twitter also goes a step further to give attribution to the originator of said tweet by putting their profile photo in front of the message instead of the retweeter.  This may also help users gain more followers.

It's also pretty cool to now be able to track how many people are retweeting a specific message.  We couldn't do that before.  Now we know just how powerful or popular a message was. 

These are good changes.

But people, like Lance, are upset that they can no longer provide their two cents about the original message.  Can't explain why they are retweeting it.  Can't add value.

I see that.  It's become part of the Twitter conversation.  By removing that, you are essentially voting for the best tweets.

It's not really what Twitter is.  I'm not a big Twitter dork yet, but I can understand why people want to provide a few words in some cases explaining why -- sometimes positively, sometimes negatively -- they are retweeting something.

The Solution
So let's solve this problem.

After selecting to retweet a message, Twitter should prompt the user to provide up to 25 characters (Twitter can make it more if they want, I'm just making a suggestion) that would accompany the retweet.  The user can choose to retweet without those characters if they choose.

Then, below the retweet, it will indicate the last user to retweet -- or the user who you are following who retweeted this message.  Next to that user's name is their quick description.

Here you go, see for yourself:
Below the retweeter's description is a link to view all people who have retweeted it -- just like in the current beta.  Now, I haven't seen this, but I believe they then provide a collage of profile photos of people who have retweeted.

I'm just going on gut here, but I'm guessing if you hover over one of these photos that it displays the user's name.  Why not also display that user's description (if applicable)?

Now I'm no programmer, but I'd like to think that this tweak would be doable. While I think that the change would otherwise be an improvement, this is a pretty big hiccup. Unlike the complaints about Facebook changes, this one actually has merit.

But it can be fixed. Just saying. I think this would go a long way to solving the perceived problem.

What do you think? Would this do the trick?


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