As my mom likes to say, “there are pros and cons on both sides” to Twitter’s new RT function (at this writing, still being rolled out in Beta). Here are what I perceive them to be at this point.
First, the good.
- It makes the process of retweeting much easier. Just click a button. No need to copy/paste, no inadvertently omitting or misspelling the username of the person you’re RTing.
- It provides an easy way to evaluate the viral nature/popularity of a given tweet, by seeing how many times it’s been retweeted.
- It preserves the original author’s wording intact, mitigating against changed meanings, plagiarism and tweetjacking. (Although those inclined to do the latter probably won’t avail themselves of the RT function).
- It means you don’t have to truncate words or resort to netspeak abbreviations, since you don’t have to make room for the “RT @” bits.
- It restores some of the functionality we lost with the change to the @ mentions feature (see my post on this here). In other words, we used to be able to see all the tweets of anyone we followed in our stream, even if they were addressing or replying to someone we didn’t already follow. That was a useful way to find new people to follow, and a way to jump into conversations. Twitter changed that so we now only see a person’s replies if we also follow the person to whom they’re replying. With the new RT feature, we can now easily see tweets from the accounts that those people we follow find interesting. This re-opens the opportunity for us to enter conversations and discover new people to follow.
Now the not-so-good.
- It can be jarring to see posts from names we don’t follow in our tweet stream. Twitter would do well to make the name of the person doing the RTing more prominent.
- The RT function, as created organically by the Twitter population, provides for context. We can, given the available characters, add our own sentiment, or explain why we’re RTing. The new function removes that possibility.
- Not all 3rd-party apps can currently see RTs created using the RT button. Many of us use such apps, both on our desktops and mobiles, to access Twitter. That means we’re potentially missing out on important RTs, which are as likely to contain timely news and information as humor or shopping tips. It also means you can’t use the RT button while using those apps (although some, like TweetDeck and Tweetie, do provide easy ways to create RTs without having to copy/paste).
As with most things Twitter, the RT process will continue to evolve. It’s a function that was originated by the Twitter community itself, and it’s heartening to see the company respond by officially incporporating it to the service.