How to Make ReTweeting Better


Today when I was going through my tweets, I came across a very interesting article titled “Retweet is stupid” – Think again fellow social media citizens by Joel Mackey. Ironically, it was retweeted by Ariela Ross, someone I look up to.

The article talked about a Mixx entry by Dave Winer – who pioneered the development of weblogs and syndication (RSS) – on why he feels the, “Retweet is stupid.” According to him:

…a retweet is the same as voting up something on Digg or Reddit. It’s a piece of metadata about the tweet, and should be stored and displayed with the tweet. When you retweet something, none of the 140 characters should be used in saying that it’s a retweet and who it came from.

The comments on the entry, however, took a different meaning of his post altogether:

FROM MIXX ID: justiuli
Retweeting is pointless. It’s completely ridiculous. You only have to fill up 140 characters, and you don’t have the creativity to even come up with that. So, you fire up TweetDeck and hit the retweet button all day long. Uncreative and utterly pointless for anyone who’s not a pointless social media retard.

If I see a Twitter profile and it’s got nothing but retweets, I hit the magic “block” button. These people are pointless leeches, and usually have nothing of any interest to say: it’s all “OMG social media is so transgressive! I love Web 2.0 so much!” etc. Pointless crap.

FROM MIXX ID: cmcgill (Mixx Founder)
hate the retweet- but I suppose it is a way to “pass it on”

Joel’s reply to these comments was:

From MIXX ID: webaddict
I’m disappointed in the views of my fellow Mixxers in their feeling that the “Retweet” is stupid. What it tells me is that most don’t understand it’s implication or point. While it certainly is the same as a Mixx Upvote, a Digg or a Stumble it’s so much more. The reason I think most of you think it’s stupid or pointless is because you are categorizing and compartmentalizing it in the same category as the voting system.

While a retweet is a vote, it’s also the syndication of information within seconds. If someone has a lot of followers on Twitter, they are respected to have a keen eye for good content, breaking information or a tight niche categorical focus on content. Instead of simply just voting, that content is then displayed to hundreds or thousands of eyes, minds and feeds within seconds.

So if you want my true opinion, I think a vote is more pointless or stupid than a retweet. It’s effect is much less substantial. It’s power limited. It’s butterfly effect small. Wake up and smell the revolution…

Personally, I see merits to both sides of the argument. While a retweet should not take up any more characters in indicating that its infact a retweet, its essence will be lost if it looks like just another tweet with a link to it.

Here is what I propose – I believe retweets can be made so much simpler if they carried meta-data on who originally tweeted it and how many times before has it been retweeted. How can this be implemented? Instead of clicking the arrow for ‘reply’, we can click on a new symbol for RT. This can contain the above meta-data.

This is what I mean:


Is there a better way? What do you think?

Image Credits: GapingVoid


  1. A RT button in Twitter is something that’s been on people’s wish list for a long time but the metadata in the form of “Retweeted by X and Y others” aka Facebook like would be definitely a nice add.

  2. i think that extra metadata will only add to the weight of the already heavy twitter stream. Also the meta data is lost in the timeline after a few minutes. Nobody is gonna see the tweet as often as you see a dugg link. The maximum shelf time for a tweet to stay in the public timeline is less than a minute.

    Probably if you are gonna centralize RT’d tweets to a different system, then the meta data is of some use.

    but currently RTing is good to spread the message or link to a a whole new set of tweeters at a viral speed..

  3. I’m certain the guys at Twitter have this on their list as Retweeting is as big activity on twitter.

    Though I’d rather only prefer the priginal tweeter to be mentioned rather than retweeted by x, y number of times. Overkill info.

  4. Have you used It kinda mitigates this problem. But yes it doesn't show how many times it's been RTed, also if someone else – registered at hootsuite – decides to shorten a URL which I have already shortened a new short URL is created. Which leads to duplication. If they decide to eliminate such a duplication, then we can trace who RTed it first.
    Check this for example. I shortened a BBC story and got this I decided to shorten the original URL again and got this> =/

  5. Giridhar: I dont quite agree with you man. I think that a tweet with Meta-data is far more contextually relevant than one with the RT sign on it. Why should I have to waste my characters to indicate that it is a retweet? Also, the entire nature of a RT is such that it constantly appears and re-appears in the public timeline and thus is not in conscious visibility *only* for 1 or 2 mins.

  6. Do we have info on the structure of a tweet? i.e. Why is it really 140 characters?

    Something like:-

    {Sender Info:(max-characters)}

    blah blah

    {Actual Tweet}

    blah blah


    So this is all a limitation thing with the design/structure of a tweet.

    If ever we get to see a twitter 2.0, you bet RTs metadata will be captured!

  7. I agree Sameer. The current architecture doesn’t allow for the RT meta-data to be captured.

    However, I would like to mention that Twitter has always done things and made changes in a reactive way rather than being pro-active. So I believe it won’t be too many months before the voices are finally heard by HQ and something is done about it.

    Till then lets hope its sooner than later 🙂

  8. Hi Asfaq. I actually just noticed this blog post and was intrigued as to why my name came up in the first paragraph.

    Let’s get down to it, Joel’s commentary is supporting the Retweet here. I don’t see any contradiction or ‘irony’ in my retweeting said post. He has a lot to say on Social Media, not all I agree with, but all intellectual and overall sensible opinions.

    In regards to your Retweet button idea, that’s great. It is why popular Twitter applications, such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic, have instituted said feature.

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