Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Politics of Retweeting

As most Internet things do, this all started with Dave Winer.

More specifically, this:

Now, I admire Dave Winer immensely. I try, whenever possible, to give him the props he deserves. If it weren't for him, as a podcaster, I wouldn't exist.

However, on this Retweeting thing, I think he is just flat out wrong.

Winer likens retweeting on Twitter to voting something up on Digg or Reddit. While there is an element of that, that's certainly not all of it, in fact, for me, it's not even most of it.

So first, what is it that gets me to Retweet something? Just because someone says: Please retweet? Um, no.

I look at Twitter (and really all of social media) as this whole flow of information. I do my part to share what I know or am encountering, and others share back the same on their end. It's a back and forth flow. But I don't wanna clutter up someone's stream with lots of cute/wise/funny crap, any more than I'd want them cluttering up mine.

Twitter, for me, is not the place to post links to good stories. In fact, that's what I use Facebook and Digg for. And, for me, if someone else has posted a link to a good story, one that moves me in some way, I don't retweet it. I post the link to my Facebook page. Or Digg it up, or both.

I personally save the Retweets for something special. Some witty turn of phrase. Some interesting situation that seems funny. Or a memorable quote that I think is gonna help someone through their day, as it helped me through mine. I don't ever, in short, Retweet something unless it means something to me.

And the other crucial aspect that Dave Winer is completely omitting/forgetting is the people factor. Now, he's got nearly 22,000 folks following him. Maybe he doesn't care so much what each and every one of them has to say. But our Twitter streams reflect only those we've chosen to put on them. We get their posts, and no one else's. Unless it's a Retweet.

Depending on who else has Retweeted it, that post can come from four or five or 25 levels away from my inner circle. And so, I may find someone else interesting, worth following. Or, someone may find me that way. I value my new followers, and I enjoy finding new people to follow (given Twitter's draconian rules about following...).

The Retweet is more akin to the word of mouth on a movie, or the recipe passed over a fencepost. It's from me to you, my followers. Do with it what you will, but it means something to me. And because of that, I want to know WHO the original post came from. I wanna see that it's a retweet, because it makes me look at it differently. It makes me know that it's something outside the normal people I follow.

As I look at Winer's post again, I see he's really stressing the whole "linking" concept, and railing against that. I do agree with him on that point. I try to keep the links I post in my Tweets to a minimum. I personally don't feel that Twitter is the place to bombard people with links, and really don't read the links of others, by and large. He's right. Digg is the place for that, or one's Facebook page.

But Retweeting an idea, a concept, a funny story? I'm all over that. I wish Dave were too.

PS: also commenting on this tempest this week was a blog I liked:

What do you think? Do you retweet?

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