The Great Retweet Debate

Twitter has just recently added a retweet function and it’s causing quite a stir with many users despite assurances this will make retweeting cleaner and easier.

So what’s the fuss?

Twitter’s new feature makes forwarding the tweets you like simple with just a couple of clicks required. Easy enough, until you realize all your followers suddenly see the avatar of the original author in their timeline, not yours, and it has no option for you to write your own commentary on the post.

Twitter’s Evan Williams sums up the rational for this new function by pointing out that the former style of retweeting, to simply cut, paste and attribute through a string of users, can get messy. Users in many instances are forced to edit the text in to keep it within character limits but with the retweet button, the original post remains intact as well as keeps a clear attribution to the original poster. This, says Twitter, supports the basis of their platform: “an open exchange of information,” giving users more direct access to the root post and they can more easily follow the original author’s future content.

Another perk of the retweet function is less noise. If many people retweet the same post, you will only receive it once, not multiple times.

All well and good, except that users are complaining. Upon seeing strangers’ avatars appearing in their stream, they cite creative issues such as “Why can’t I add my own comment to the post before it forwards to all my followers?” Plus there are trust and privacy issues like, “Who is Mr. X, where did he come from, and why should I believe a word of what he tweets?”

Users are accustomed to receiving tweets from sources they trust and willfully follow. The revised functionality seems to muddy the stream invoking the question, “Who, in fact am I following?” Twitter is  addressing these issues by essentially saying users will get used to it and that it’s giving power to the followers while properly crediting the original author. Users are able to block retweets if they don’t like the content but can still continue to follow direct tweets.

Meanwhile, the old school method of retweeting (cut, paste, comment and attribute) is still an option.

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