As a result, the most powerful activity within Twitter is to watch the “Retweet” phenomenon. A retweet is when one individual copies a tweet from someone in their network and shares it with their network. It’s perhaps the highest degree of content approval, it means that the content was so valuable and important that they were willing to share it with their network –causing it to spread from one community to the next –retweets are the core essence of the viral aspect of content spreading.
I am not sure retweet is the most powerful activity on twitter, although Jeremiah and Shel both believe so, and would probably have argued the toss had I not seen a marked uptick in my followers this weekend. Tim O’Reilly has been retweeting me a lot lately, thanks to the Twhirl button. Tim says:
As one of the most prolific retweeters around, I want to give a shout out to twhirl for encouraging retweet behavior by giving a simple button to do it. I don’t think I would ever have adopted retweeting with such gusto without that easy feature.
This example illustrates just how important architectural choices are in creating viral applications.
What’s so wonderful about twitter is that its minimal interface has led to an explosion of user and third-party application innovation. It’s a bit like what Alexander Pope said about writing in rhymed couplets: the limits of the form made his creativity shoot out, as water from a fountain.
Ironically given this is really a post about link economies Jeremiah’s blog doesn’t appear to support permalinks for comments, which i must admit surprises me a bit. But back to twitter and retweets.
why don’t the oil companies bail the auto manufacturers out? they are a crucial distribution channel, and help keep the price of gas up
And Tim followed up.
Clever: @monkchips: “why don’t the oil companies bail the auto manufacturers out?”
It was later in the day when I searched Twitter for @monkchips replies and mentions that I saw writ large that the right tweet really could cascade through a network, potentially picking up new followers as it went. So that’s a page a half of people, engaged with my idea through Tim.
Retweeting is indeed a powerful mechanism, though it would be good to see the convention more standardised – the right tool probably needs to emerge to help formalise the idiom. Jeremiah indirectly points to a lack of standardisation like so:
In fact, in a very primitive way, you can see those that are repeating the content of others, for example Tim O’Reilly’s content. See this search query showing “Retweet @timorelly“, or “RT @timoreilly” (an abbreviated version).
Sometimes people use “retweeting @timoreilly. Another problem with retweets is that they are often much longer than the original (pesky long twitter names!), thus requiring edits.
I will continue to tweet, and retweet, and thanks to all those who retweet me.
For me the most interesting angle about retweeting is the point in the intro. Its really a language convention that the community created. Bottom up phenomenon are always interesting, and tend to happen in what I jokingly call Poor Internet Applications. Small Pieces, Loosely joined foster innovation and allow users to make paths and establish conventions rather than having them forced upon us. This is the Timeless Way of Building Social Networks. Sloppy is good. Don’t tell me its “just a feature” – so is a comma, or a vowel, but that doesn’t make them any less useful in the language.
The still above is of course from the awesome Be Kind Rewind, Michael Gondry’s meditation on the nature of creativity in the age of digital