Friday, May 15, 2009

What's the best way to give retweet attribution on Twitter?

A good Twitter blogger that we've sent (deserved) traffic to had me baffled for a bit this morning. We put out a tweet that sent them 550+ clicks but they felt the tweet was improper. I'm interested to know what people think, and how I could avoid this in the future.

You know how just by the fact of tweeting back and forth things can rapidly get confusing? That's how this conversation started to go (reproduced later in this blog post with name removed: my responses are in a couple shades of green). But first, here's a cartoon summary of how wrong things can go:

So it looked like were headed down this road and although I was still confused when he said he didn't want to talk about it anymore, I was happy it hadn't turned into something like the above. It started something like this:

"[Your] tweet isn't from @UserName it's my blog"

Well, duh, I thought. It was a retweet attribution.  I started to explain that to him kindly (me: "you probably knew that") but then I admitted I couldn't imagine he didn't already understand retweet attribution and could he enlighten me as to what he was asking about?

Next it seemed like he was saying the problem wasn't that it was his blog post, it was that he tweeted about it ("give credit to the real tweeter") and he should get the retweet attribution. Of course, I had never even seen his tweet. I get most of the link for @Twitter_Tips from feeds.

I couldn't imagine that he wanted me to both tweet his stuff and then search his tweets to see if he tweeted about it to give him retweet credit for talking about his own blog, so I asked for further clarification. Then he said he didn't want to talk about it anymore and asked me not to talk about it either.

Here's how the actual conversation went:

Confusion, for sure. I'll blog about it and you can comment to help clear it up if you feel it makes sense to.
And one more point to cleared here, lets act like gentlemen lets not discuss about it :) good day!
Our tweet sent you over 500 human clicks, but I won't do it again w/o saying @yourUserName
as I told you its not your mistake.. take it easy...btw i always credit you when i tweet/rt your links.. good day
You're very kind—it does appear to be my mistake of some kind. I'm not upset (no need to suggest I "take it easy") just trying to understand
As you can see, more along the lines of the cartoon than what I would have hoped for.

Along the way he also posted a link to his followers about "Reposting others' content without attribution" being stealing.  His public post (which I won't reproduce since that would make it too easy to identify him) helped clarify where he was coming from: He wanted me to not only tweet his blog post, he wanted to see his @username in the tweet about it too.

As unreasonable as that sounded at first, I quickly figured out his concern, I think: Since I was using "via @username" at the end instead of "RT @username" at the beginning, he thought it would not be clear who wrote the blog post. He thought I was saying someone else (who doesn't actually have a dedicated blog) was the real author. Aha!

Putting the attribution at the end instead of the beginning can get people confused:
  • They might overlook the attribution entirely;
  • They might think the attibution is crediting the creator of what is being linked to rather than just being a retweet attribution.
ProBlogger's TwitTip Twitter blog had an article on using "via" instead of "RT" that I shared with this guy but he was obviously so concerned that someone else was being given credit for his work (even though we sent him 500+ visitors to see for themselves) that it got me thinking.

I do a lot of tweeting with the "via-style" retweet  attribution from our account @DivineLove, because quotes are often retweeted on their merits, unlike links which are too often just pimped back and forth to get blog traffic. For quality articles about Twitter I look to feeds rather than reading people's tweets (mostly).

So why not just start tweets with "RT @…"?

I don't like starting with RT because it obscures the topic of the tweet, and lots of people have chimed in that they don't like this either. People have in fact given a number of reasons for ignoring tweets that start with "RT @…" and so I've tended to favor the "via @…" at the end. Since from @Twitter_Tips I don't seek out tweets to find links, it isn't much of a problem.

What do you think?
Is retweet attribution in the form "via @userName" at the end of the tweet too confusing, and should it be avoided?

Postscript: Why don't I read more of people's tweets? 

Because most top people tweet their own stuff and other stuff as a "favor" to their friends. Quality has too little to do with it, as long as it meets a minimum standard. At least, that's what I think I've had trouble finding better-quality links by reading through what other people tweet/retweet and rely on popular link feeds such as ReTweetist instead.

Don't get me wrong, I've tweeted some stuff without reading it carefully that has turned out to be bad, but it's not bad because I tweeted it as a favor to someone who would then offer to do the same for me.
Since I have so far hardly ever blogged about Twitter, I don't have many articles anyone could tweet anyway!

Also, I'm happy that so far, despite having over 92,000 followers and sending thousands of DMs back and forth to people, I don't know of anyone that has "gone away mad" after communicating with us on @Twitter_Tips. I'm happy to share links with and talk to people from any part of the political (or emotional!) spectrum. 

We've made mistakes and owned up to them, and where we could, fixed them. I appreciate feedback of all kinds and have made numerous changes to how and what we post on @Twitter_Tips based on comments to us from our followers.

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