Of the Retweet

If you use Twitter you are bound to have seen some form or other of the “Retweet” in which someone thinks a tweet is particularly interesting/funny/true/important and re-tweets it. Now all kinds of preferences exist and, of course, you can do whatever the hell you like but I think there are a few common sense things you should keep in mind.

I know 140 characters is short but please try to add your own spin to the link/tweet, not simply to copy and paste. Some more “public service” kind of tweets or important local and urgent news deserve it, links and opinions are better if you bring something. Look at your closest Twitter contacts, the ones you interact with the most and then look at their own followed and followers, there is often massive overlap, what use is it to anyone if you all re-tweet each other with no added value from one to the other?

“Via” is for giving credit, not to say who wrote what you just copied. Because a growing Twitter population doesn’t like the RT, some people have started using “via” at the end of the tweet, just like on blogs. The problem if you do that and copy paste is that first, you are doing the exact same thing, just making a cosmetic change, you’re missing the point. It’s also that if you simply copy the tweet and don’t have the “RT” first, then we read the whole thing without knowing it’s not yours. If you are going to use “via”, then write something of your own and then give credit about where you found it. Using “via” for credit is good, for copy pasting it’s bad.

On the flip side, if you translate or change the original text, or if you tweak it or completely change the text and then just use the same link, don’t use “RT” at the beginning! Write a normal tweet and then use “via” to say where you got the link or idea.


  1. Favor original tweets and give credit if you are getting it from someone else
  2. Use “via” when giving credit and put the “via” at the end
  3. Use “RT” only if copy pasting the exact tweet (or put it in quotes and add your own text at the end) and put the “RT” at the beginning

Note that I’m not making up my own rules, they are widely used best practices that some don’t seem to grasp quite correctly.


cfd May 20, 2009

Patrick Tanguay : ruler of the Twits.

Martine May 20, 2009

Amen. I would re-tweet you if it wasn’t so ironic. (Oh wait, CFD did it already. ;-)

Alex May 20, 2009

Tanguay for Twitters President!

Je viens tout juste de flusher une personne qui donnait un peu trop dans le RT inutile justement (Bin non, c’est pas toi CFD. Mouaaah!). On suit les mêmes personnes ou presque. Tsé, je ne suis pas encore sénile… Pas besoin de me répéter tout 2 fois pour que je comprenne.

Mais bon, faut pas espérer que les gens comprennent rapidement. L’aut jour, je «chicane» 2 twitters en pleine conversation… Viarge, ça faisait 2 jours qu’ils s’échangeaient des banalités inutiles pour les autres (enfin, selon mon pas très humble avis). L’une des deux m’a tout simplement blocké. M’en fous pas mal que la personne me bloque. Who cares, y’a plein d’autres beaux Twits à lire. J’espère juste qu’elle a compris que Twitter != MSN.

Rémi May 20, 2009

Excellente clarification Pat! Maintenant, il faut que tu écrives un billet où tu fais la liste de la nomenclature de Twitter :

– Je “tweet” et non je “twitte/twit”
– Un utilisateur est un “tweeter” et non un “twitter/twit”
– Un message/status est un “tweet” et non un “twitt”
– etc.

Je le ferais bien ce billet, mais tu es semble maintenant être une sommité en la matière (avec ce billet et celui du Webcom :P).

julien May 20, 2009

interesting post. i consider the RT to be rather valuable actually, especially since the channel is getting pretty goddamn packed right about now.

the way i see it, an RT is like TV. if it’s good enough, they put it in reruns.

sacha May 20, 2009

Although i agree with you, i think part of the problem comes from Tweetie, the very popular iphone/ipod App. When you RT with Tweetie, it ends by (via @abc),instead of starting by RT @abc… thus the confusion. SD

Patrick May 21, 2009

@remi Billet du webcom?

@julien There’s value but it should be done in a clear manner. Also, you’re following 643 people, of course the channel is packed!! You never would have considered subscribing to 643 feeds but you “follow” 643 people??

@sacha Didn’t know that. That means Tweetie breaks two conventions in one go. Fail.

Rémi May 21, 2009

@Patrick Ouin, j’me suis trompé, j’voulais dire “le billet sur les Boomerangs”.

julien May 21, 2009

1. I checked my bloated 643-person stream this morning and I knew 80% of the people that were tweeting. This is anecdotal but it does prove a point.

2. I use Tweetie, so my particular use of “via” comes from that and the fact that the iPhone can’t copy/paste yet.

3. I subscribe to about 300-400 RSS feeds.

I’m not sure if you were thinking about me when you wrote this so whatever. I have a lot more to say (specifically re: your judgment of how other people choose channels that they themselves own), but I have to catch a bus so I’ll wait til later.

Ciao! :)

Patrick May 21, 2009

“I knew 80% of the people that were tweeting”
I didn’t say you didn’t know them, I said your shouldn’t be surprised if with that many people you felt the channel was packed.

“I’m not sure if you were thinking about me when you wrote this so whatever”
Nope. Not gonna name who prompted the post though ;)

“your judgment of how other people choose channels that they themselves own”
“Choose” or “use”? Because if it’s “choose” I’m not sure what you mean in this context.

It’s my judgement I guess but it’s also based on what I feel are best practices that have emerged and I’m noting them, not inventing or even implementing (no one can force anyone anyway) them. It’s also based on many people mentionning that a continuous flow of RT is boring and it’s more interesting when each person adds their opinion, even in this short a format. It’s also an effort to make it more readable and understandable and the end of line via that Tweetie does to duplicate an already well established (prior to their product) and more legible RT format doesn’t help the readability.

I post quotes very often on my blog so I’m all for people curating info and simply directing us to it with no commentary, it’s useful and has been part of blogging forever. However, since Twitter is more conversational, I’m not (and others share this view) as enthused by the same links repeatedly poping up within that conversation.

Julien May 21, 2009

Ok having now calmed down, I have just two things to add.

1. An RT isn’t great but it is better than an “@inevernu totally!!!” type tweet.

2. I’m blaming all of this on the iPhone’s lack of copy/paste. :)

Patrick May 21, 2009

“An RT isn’t great but it is better than an ”@inevernu totally!!!” type tweet.”
No question.

KENNETH May 22, 2009

Does it really matter? Isn’t this a bit like telling people to fold their garbage neatly before throwing it into the landfill?

julien May 22, 2009

To not put a preposition at the beginning of a sentence? :)

Patrick May 26, 2009

BTW, for those mentioning the “via” in Tweetie, it’s an option, you can switch it to RT.

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