Twitter Completes Retweet Link Rolls Out; Caution Still Recommended

Update: 30 November – TweetDeck Integrates New Retweet Feature

Almost two weeks ago, I urged early recipients of the Twitter retweet link to be cautious with its use, because most third party clients seemed unable to display these retweets.

Today I’m repeating the caution, and it’s not only because of spotty third party client implementation. It’s also because these new retweets don’t become “real time” in the Twitter.com timeline for tweets made by anyone you are already following.

High Level Summary
One of the advantages (to the original author) of RTs is that each becomes a new tweet, a new instance. This increases the chance that someone will “see” the original tweet.

Think of a retweet as “bumping” an item “up” in time. But that’s not how the new Twitter.com interface works. On low volume accounts, this isn’t a big issue. But on moderate- to high-volume accounts (measured by number followed), it is. Here’s why.

Twitter doesn’t “bump” the old tweet — it merely changes the “retweeted by” count. So if you read your Tweets on the Twitter.com site and missed a tweet the first time around, you’ll miss it each-and-every time it’s retweeted … because it will remain in “history,” far below the fold.

The third party clients that have implemented the new retweet feature, however, appear to be treating the retweet like a new instance. In other words, they are treating them like the “old” retweets. The problem: some popular third party clients haven’t yet implemented the feature.

  1. Twitter.com – The new RT feature does not “bump” tweets, ie, these new retweets are not “real time” for tweets made by anyone you are already following. I think this is a fatal flaw.
  2. TweetDeck — both desktop and iPhone application — is still not displaying retweets sent via the “retweet link” in the Twitter web interface.
  3. Seesmic Desktop is still not displaying retweets sent via the “retweet link” in the Twitter web interface.
  4. Brizzly, a beta web interface for managing your Twitter and Facebook accounts, is displaying the new retweets
  5. Tweetelator and Tweetie2 (iphone apps) are still displaying the new retweets

Methodology
In order to test how well clients render the new retweets, I “bracketed” the new retweet with an old-fashioned copy-and-paste one — either immediately before or immediately after using the Twitter retweet link. I sent retweets from all three of my accounts: @kegill, @kegill_uw, @kathygill. Each account follows the other two; this is great for testing!

1. Twitter.com
Even though I do not follow Howard Rheingold from my @kegill_uw account, the retweet showed up in that timeline on Twitter.com, with his avatar. Note that the timestamp relates to when Howard tweeted, not when I retweeted. This is a major change and is a little jarring if you’re looking at tweets before and after it that were sent seconds ago. Twitter should add the time stamp after “you”. This time-stamp business has other ramifications that I will explain momentarily.

hrheingold-mytimeline

This Tweet Appeared In My Timeline As "Retweeted"

On both of my low-volume accounts, the Twitter.com interface shows both original and test retweets in real-time. But on my high volume account, @kegill, not a single test tweet (there were four) was displayed in real-time. Why not?

For example, the @kathygill timeline shows multiple retweets — both the “test” retweets as well as tweets retweeted by the account and by other accounts. This is a very very low volume account (follows 18 mostly low-volume accounts).

Multiple Retweets

Example of Multiple Retweets, @kathygill Timeline

Next, see an example of the @kegill timeline, with the @eMarketer test retweet showing at the top. In this instance, the test retweet was made after the new retweet, as you can see from the prior screen capture.

The original tweet, with the eMarketer avatar, did not appear in my @kegill real-time timeline on Twitter.com, although I retweeted it, using the new feature, from both @kathygill and @kegill_uw. I went 5 minutes back in time looking for it, even though the tweets were sent seconds apart.

This is a big problem with the new feature.

Because @kegill already follows @eMarketer, that tweet had already been displayed in my timeline. The new retweet doesn’t “bump” the tweet in time, it merely changes the “how many people RTed” data on the original tweet. This means retweets aren’t “real-time” for anyone who is already following the account you retweet. I think this is a fatal flaw.

twitter - only test tweet

Twitter.com Displayed Only The Test Tweet In @kegill Real-Time Timeline

However, if someone that I do not follow is retweeted by someone that I do follow, that retweet shows up in real-time, even when it’s really old (in this case, 48 hours old):

Real Time Retweet From Someone @kegill Does Not Follow

Real Time Retweet From Someone @kegill Does Not Follow

One of the advantages of the new feature, however, is public metrics. Twitter added a “Retweets” link beneath favorites (right hand navigation). It’s a handy way to see how many people retweet the things you do (or your tweets) as well as who they are.

2 and 3. TweetDeck and Seesmic

Tweetdeck version

This is the latest version of TweetDeck

 

I made several attempts to see if TweetDeck would display a tweet that was retweeted via the new web interface link. Not a single one was displayed on TweetDeck, whether iPhone app or desktop app. I do have the latest version of TweetDeck on both the desktop and iPhone.

Here are sample screenshots — they show the “test” retweet (copy-and-paste). I guess you’ll have to take my word for it when I saw the original did not show on any screen.

In this screenshot from the desktop, the “test” retweet was sent immediately after the original. Howard Rheingold’s tweet, without my “test” label, did not show up in TweetDeck.

TweetDeck desktop

TweetDeck Desktop - No New Retweets

The same is true for TweetDeck iPhone. In this instance, the “test” retweet was sent immediately prior to the original.

TweetDeck iPhone

TweetDeck iPhone - No New Retweets

Seesmic Desktop does not display the new retweets, either. What follows are three screen captures — one from Twitter.com, showing a retweet; one from Seesmic, showing that it is missing; and one from Tweetdeck, showing that it’s missing.

Retweet

Retweet In Context From @kegill Timeline

Seesmic-noRT

Seesmic Does Not Display The New RT

TweetDeck-missing RT

TweetDeck Does Not Show The Retweet Either

4. Brizzly
Brizzly is in beta (just ask if you’d like an invitation) and is doing a great job of rendering new retweets.

Brizzly

Brizzly Displays New Retweets

4. iPhone application Tweetelator
There’s no change since my last report; Tweetelator is still displaying the new retweets. Moreover, it marks them with a little flag:

Tweetelator Shows New Retweets

Tweetelator Marks New Retweets With A Flag

Conclusion
First, the new retweet link is designed to make it easier for people to retweet. However, there’s nothing to stop old-fashioned copy-and-paste if you’re using the Twitter.com web interface. Keep an eye on how your third-party clients implement this feature — will they retain their current “RT” process or adopt the new? My vote is for the former.

Second, one advantage of using the retweet link is the Retweets summary link, just below Favorites in the right-hand navigation. This feature makes public statistics about each retweet — just how many people retweeted and who they are. I’m not convinced this advantage outweighs the limitations of retweets not being real-time, however, for moderate- to high-volume accounts.

Therefore, until Twitter displays retweets in real-time in the timeline (something that I doubt they will do) and until all third party clients display retweets (hopefully like Tweetelator and Brizzly, in real-time), I again urge caution if you are using Twitter for branding or influence. Not only is there an issue with everyone being able to see these retweets (think Tweetdeck) but there is the issue of their possibly not being real-time on the Twitter.com interface.

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5 thoughts on “Twitter Completes Retweet Link Rolls Out; Caution Still Recommended

  1. Pingback: TweetDeck Integrates New RT Feature: Pluses and Minuses — UW Twitter Book

  2. Pingback: Twitter Completes Retweet Link Rolls Out; Caution Still Recommended — UW Twitter Book

  3. Pingback: TweetDeck Integrates New RT Feature: Pluses and Minuses « WiredPen

  4. Pingback: » Spring Creek Group :: Blog – Did You RT Me?

  5. Really enjoyed yr analysis. I am still a bit lukewarm to the new Retweet feature. While it is nice to have RTs standardized and accessible through the RT Summary info, I still enjoy the capability to add “commentary” to RTs.

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