Since Twitter launched the Official Twitter Retweet (OTRT) in 2009, there has been much talk of its pros and many cons. I won’t go into all of the issues involved here. Instead, I’ll discuss a couple of the problems of the OTRT that I think are often not considered, but have important implications for all Twitter users.

The first is that OTRT’s do not appear in Twitter Search. This is easy to see, by doing what I’ve done in the accompanying screenshots – Find a tweet in your timeline that’s been retweeted using the official Twitter retweet, as indicated by the gray arrow icon, as in the screenshot. Then do a Twitter search for some words in the tweet. As shown in the lower screenshot here, the original tweet is retrieved by the search, but eBookNoir’s retweet, in the example, is not.

The fact that OTRT’s do not show up in Twitter searches has particularly timely implications, because of the new feature that Twitter just launched, the ability to search people you follow. If you follow a lot of people with a wide variety of interests, this is invaluable because it makes it easy to find out which ones are tweeting on a specific subject. But unfortunately, if people retweet with the OTRT, they won’t show up in the search.

In addition to Twitter Search not including OTRT’s, Twitter Lists also don’t show them. Twitter Lists are an excellent way to keep track of people tweeting on a particular subject. They have become especially popular and useful in the Flipboard app, so it’s unfortunate that OTRT’s are not shown in Twitter lists.

So, OTRT’s are not found in Twitter searches or Twitter lists. Where can they be found? – On your Twitter home page timeline (of your followers’ tweets) and in the tweets of individual people that you follow. Also, interestingly, in Topsy – Oddly, this third-party Twitter search tool includes OTRT’s in its searches, even though Twitter itself does not.

The basic reason that OTRT’s don’t show up in Twitter Searches or Lists is that they actually are not considered individual tweets, and consequently do not have a separate page. In a sense, they’re considered to be more of a “favorite” than a true retweet. So be aware – If you want your tweets to be in the Library of Congress’s archive of tweets, avoid using the Official Twitter Retweet!

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter@ericrumsey

 

An interesting New York Times story with a weak headline gave me a great opportunity recently to use my Twitter skills to tell the world about the story. In addition, the way my tweet was retweeted is a good secondary story, being an example of balancing Twitter retweet-etiquette with other priorities.

The screenshot at left shows a “what’s wrong with this headline” view of the story. The headline, as I’ve indicated with my highlighting, misses many of the important points of interest in the article, in my view.

The biggest problem with the headline is the dull, overused term “big data.” Apparently this is used to indicate the “12 million” items that are mentioned in the lead paragraph. But the “big data” concept has been used so broadly that “big data for books” could mean many things, from full-text to circulation. So I say mention the eye-catching “12 million” in the headline.

Admittedly, I may be library-biased, but I think it’s important to many people, not just librarians, that the library is centrally involved in this project. So the headline should say “Harvard Library” instead of “Harvard.”

Finally, the word “metadata,” which is used prominently in the story. Again, maybe it’s my librarian-centric view, but I think the term has become important for many people outside the library world, and would merit inclusion in the headline.

So, with the criticisms above, I “enhanced” the NYT headline in my tweet:

My enhancements worked — The tweet got several retweets. The way the retweets came is an interesting story in itself. My tweet was retweeted by Mathew Ingram, a prominent tech industry writer who I’m honored to have as a Twitter follower, and who has many more followers than I do. So I’m always glad when he likes one of my tweets enough to retweet it:

It’s clear that he got his tweet from mine, from the wording, which was original with me, and because he used the same bitly URL that I used. Usually his retweets follow the usual retweeting protocol of mentioning my Twitter name. But in this case he didn’t, because he wouldn’t have had room to include that and also the “pretty cool” comment he added at the head of the tweet. He no-doubt judged that adding his endorsement would draw attention to the tweet, and make people click it and retweet it, which is FINE WITH ME!

Priorities and the Art of Tweeting

The wider lesson here is that much of the skill of using Twitter is thinking about priorities. The 140-character limit on Tweets imposes a strict discipline, which requires constant consideration of “What’s important to include?” – Is it more important to give full credit to the writer of a tweet, or author of an article being linked, or is it more important to include a comment or a good quote from the article being tweeted that will draw traffic?

This all makes me think how far the fluid process of tweeting is from library book cataloging (that I experienced briefly in my early career), in which the catalog card is created from the title-page of the book according to strict rules. The only strict rule in Twitter is the 140-character limit — Within that, the canvas is empty, open to anything!

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I much prefer Twitter to Facebook, largely for the reason stated in a couple of recent blog articles I came across — From what I’ve experienced of Facebook, it’s mostly for communicating with people you already know. I find Twitter much more useful and interesting, because it helps me to meet so many new people. The first quote is from Aaron Lee‘s article What is Twitter all About…. to me?:

Everyone uses Twitter differently, and I can’t really tell you what it is about generally. However, I can tell you what Twitter is to me, personally. It is about connecting with people … It’s about building new relationships with people that you’re not able to do on other social networking sites, for example, when being on Facebook we tend to be inside our own circle of friends.

The second quote is from the Indian Chaaps blog — Why Twitter is better than Facebook:

Twitter is for whom you want to know – Facebook acts as a communicating media between us and the one whom we already know, whereas Twitter is a media between us and those whom we want to know.

I like the words that Aaron Lee emphasizes, later in the article quoted above, in describing the value of Twitter — Learning and Engaging. This catches the value of Twitter for me, as a professional tool. I’m constantly learning new things, from the many connections that I never would have made if it hadn’t been for Twitter.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I participate in several Twitter communities, which sometimes overlap in surprising and interesting ways. A case of this happened recently, when I did a tweet in preparation for the Medical Library Association annual meeting next week, which is having a special emphasis on Twitter this year — I tweeted about a blog article I wrote last Fall that I thought might be of interest to MLA attenders — Academic Health Sciences Libraries on Twitter & Facebook.

The tweet was retweeted two times, by long-time Twitter co-followers who have no apparent connection to the medical library community — Michael Cairns (@Personanondata), who’s in publishing, and Yael K. Miller (@MillerMosaicLLC), who’s in social media marketing. As far as I could tell from Twitter search and Google Realtime search, my tweet was not retweeted by anyone in the medical library community.

The point of this little case study is — Don’t have tunnel vision in tweeting — You can never tell who might be interested in what you have to say! Write tweets with the idea in mind that they may be of interest to the general Twitterverse. A few more ideas on being open to the world:

  • When space allows, write tweets in a way that doesn’t restrict their interest to non-library people.
  • Avoid using language that won’t be understood by the general Twitterverse.
  • If someone is interested enough in your tweet to retweet it, reciprocate the interest — Look at their tweets and consider retweeting them.

Medical Librarians (and other librarians too) have some great ideas — Don’t be afraid to share them with the world!

Here’s the text of my tweet:

Academic Health Sciences Libraries on Twitter & Facebook #mlanet11 #Medical – http://bit.ly/hqe1GJ

And here’s the retweet by @MillerMosaicLLC (the retweet by @Personanondata isn’t linkable because he used Twitter’s retweet function).

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

The tweet shown here, by Dr. Ves Dimov (@DrVes), is interesting on different levels. The tweet is about Huffington Post, but it gives good advice on how to write a blog article in general — Find a juicy nugget in a news or blog article that’s unnoticed by most readers and feature it in your own article, quoting it prominently and adding your own spin to it.

But beyond its application to writing blog articles, Dimov’s tweet applies at least as much to writing tweets. Even more than a blog article, a tweet needs to strip a subject to its essence, and put it into a 140 character message that combines the arts of narrative writing and headline writing.

A twist of Meta …

Another layer of interestingness here is that Dimov’s tweet itself applies exactly the stripping to the essence technique that’s featured in the tweet  — The words in the tweet are taken from far down in a NY Times story, where few human eyeballs (or the GoogleBot) are likely to see them, and brought to the attention of the Twitterverse and Google by @DrVes — Here’s the NY Times quote, with words in the tweet in boldface:

Huffington Post is a master of finding stories across the Web, stripping them to their essence and placing well-created headlines on them that rise to the top of search engine results, guaranteeing a strong audience.

A great example of combining the simple elegance of Twitter and the power of human judgment to search out an interesting nugget in a long page of text, and bring it to the attention of the Web’s eyes. With Google’s spam troubles recently, there’s been much discussion of the renewed importance of human curation, with Twitter being seen as a prime vehicle, and I think this is a nice example of that.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Ray Beckerman’s long article has good advice about avoiding Twitter’s “Retweet” button that accompanies every tweet, and instead using what he calls the “traditional retweet,” done manually with cut-and-paste. Up until a year ago, when Twitter introduced its own version of retweet, this was the only way to retweet. From the time this came out it’s gotten many strong negative reactions. Beckerman states the case so eloquently that I’m excerpting his words here, starting with words from the conclusion, which are likely missed by a lot of readers (boldface added):

Conclusion – If you want to be invisible, then by all means use the pseudo-retweet. If not, then this is my advice:

  • Don’t use Twitter’s so called retweet function…. ever.
  • Use genuine, traditional retweets only.

Beckerman explains how to do a traditional retweet, and also has a detailed list of 13 reasons why the traditional retweet is superior to the Twitter-version retweet, worth a detailed reading. Along the way, he has interesting commentary about the odd stance of Twitter on retweeting:

Ironically, the most important feature on Twitter is one that Twitter itself did not develop, and has never adopted: the traditional retweet. It was developed by the customers, on their own, and not by the company. And amazingly, to this date Twitter itself has never incorporated it, although doing so would be as easy as pie.

Twitter’s management doesn’t get it. They try to justify their pseudo-retweet on the theory that a retweet is for the purpose of repeating, or rubber stamping, and thus paying homage to, some genius’s isolated statement spoken in a vacuum, to a vacuum, to be broadcast into an abyss. … Twitter’s competitive edge is the traditional retweet. By abandoning that, it is relinquishing its competitive advantage.

My advice to all Twitter users is that you should not use what Twitter calls a “retweet”. It is a counterfeit, and does not have any of the key properties of a retweet. Just skip it. The true, traditional “retweet” is the life blood of Twitter, and what has set it apart from other similar “microblogging” services.

I especially appreciate Beckerman’s stress on the value of Twitter as a conversational medium, with the traditional retweet as an integral part of the process. As he says, the Twitter-version retweet loses this valuable aspect, as tweets are treated as anonymous bits of information, not connected to a known person in the user’s chosen Tweet-stream.

Ray Beckerman is at: @RayBeckerman

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Since Google announced in April that they would be archiving Twitter tweets, they’ve been rolling it out in phases, first making it accessible only in the additional tools menu in the left sidebar (as Updates), and then in August making it available separately as Realtime Search. I’ve been finding it quite useful, and here’s a little example:

As I often do when a new person retweets me, I was recently looking over the tweets of @sarahebourne, to see what she’s tweeted on that looks interesting, that I might retweet and repay the favor. I do this by combining the person’s Twitter name with different subjects of interest. With Twitter search going back only 4 days, it doesn’t work well for this, so lately I’ve been using Google Realtime search — Here’s the search I did: sarahebourne ebooks – I found one particularly interesting tweet from two weeks ago linking to an August 5 Library Journal article on eBooks and accessibility. I found that several people liked  the article enough to retweet it, and figuring it might be of interest to my followers, I tweeted it, and sure enough, it got several retweets.

So, a little example of a useful tool — With the limited back-searching available in Twitter search, it’s been frustrating that good tweets and good discussions have disappeared very quickly — If a tweet didn’t get retweeted in four days, it was seemingly gone forever. So now tweets are given a new life. Conversations that happened a while back — like during summer, when many people were otherwise occupied — can be brought back to life, like the little conversation above.

Google Realtime Search is still  a work-in-progress! – It’s a great improvement on Twitter’s four-day search, but be aware that it doesn’t find ALL old tweets. From my short experience, it seems to give emphasis to tweets that have  been retweeted.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

A little example of how collective intelligence helps to build a better Twittersphere – My original tweet (on the bottom below) is in response to an article that was getting a lot of Tweets on the Six Degrees of Separation and Twitter. I wondered how this compares with Facebook, and found in Wikipedia that Twitter is said to have fewer degrees of separation than Facebook, which is shown by the numbers in the tweet. My tweet said: “Twitter a Close-Knit Network …” — @sanjeevn improved this to show the closer connections in Twitter by smartly adding the letter r”: “Twitter a Closer-Knit Network …” – So, thanks, @sanjeevn, for improving my tweet — Keeping the ball rolling, and passing it on … to @Pjoseph85

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Steve Pociask wrote an article in Forbes last week, “Google’s One Million Books,” on the Google Book Search Settlement. There’s been a lot of commentary about GBS recently, as the October Settlement hearing approaches, and I was doubtful that tweeting this article with it’s forgettable title would get much attention.

Reading the lead paragraph of the article, though, I was struck by the lead sentence: “Imagine that your home and the homes of millions of your neighbors are burglarized.” Pociask suggests that the “burglar” metaphor might be a good fit for the Settlement. Hmmm, I think, surely someone will pick up this bold, unique metaphor in a tweet. But with a Twitter search I found that, surprisingly, no one had used it. And searching further, I found that the only tweets on it just used the article’s uninspiring title, and not surprisingly, few of these had gotten any retweets. So I tweeted to bring out the “burglar” theme, and got two retweets by the end of the day. Here’s my tweet:

Google as Burglar of One Million books? – #GBS settlement, Steve Pociask, Amer Consumer Inst (Forbes) http://bit.ly/MqovK

I also added the name of the author and his connection with the Amer Consumer Inst, which I think added interest to the tweet, and which had gotten little attention in previous tweets on the article.

So, the simple lesson — When tweeting a link to an article, remember there’s no rule that you have to use the title that the author used. If it’s boring and unexciting and you think your followers’ eyes will gloss over reading it, use something else! READ THE ARTICLE and see if it has an interesting theme that’s not brought out by the title, and base your tweet on that instead.

Eric Rumsey is on Twitter @ericrumsey