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The Problem with Retweets

As most probably know, Twitter is in the process of launching a version of the widely used retweet on its own platform.  The move has caused some controversy, as the way retweets has been implemented by Twitter is much different from the unofficial protocols that Twitter users developed organically on their own.  Twitter founder Evan Williams explains Twitter’s reasoning here.

I’ve been testing out the new retweet functionality for a few days, and I must say I am not a fan at all.  Sean Bonner has written a great blog post dissecting what he dislikes about Twitter retweets.   In his post, he hits on my two biggest issues.

  1. When a retweet appears in your Twitter stream, it shows the avatar of the person who wrote the original tweet instead of the retweeter.  So you have random people’s avatars showing up in your stream.
  2. Users can no longer add their own comments to the retweets.

The result of these two protocol changes is a complete lack of context for the retweets.  Bonner summarizes the lost context problem quite well in this paragraph of his post, which focuses on the avatar issue:

Seeing icons and usernames in my stream of people I don’t follow, even with the addition of a little “retweet” icon does not create a richer, fuller experience for me. It instantly makes me assume Twitter is broken and somehow people I don’t follow are showing up in my stream. It’s jarring and uncomfortable. Ev suggests there is no value in having the icon of the person you follow in a retweet but I completely disagree. Seeing the icon of someone I follow, someone I’m familiar with, instantly puts the retweet in context. Is the person regularly sarcastic which might imply the retweet is a joke, is the retweet a link to an article covering a topic this person usually tweets about which would give me an idea of the slant of the article, is the retweet from someone I follow because I respect and trust their opinion or is it a retweet from someone I’m friends with but don’t always agree with or from someone I follow because they constantly opposing my viewpoints and I want to hear their side of the story as well. Seeing the icon of the person I follow tells me a lot about the tweet and why they likely felt the need to retweet it before I ever read it. Seeing the icon of someone I don’t follow, don’t know, and have no context for confuses me.

Not being able to add your own note to the retweet further destroys the context.

Anyway, not a fan so far.  What do you think?

Update: Techcrunch has a very thorough and thoughtful article on this issue.