Why you should use Twitter’s built-in retweet feature

Yesterday, Shoq offered two reasons you shouldn’t use Twitter’s built-in or “native” retweet feature. Me, I much prefer the new-style native retweet function, and I tell you why later. But, first, I think Shoq and others are wrong for preferring the old-style retweet.

First, Shoq argues that if everyone uses native retweets, we’ll all miss important things.

Repetitive tweets tell you a story mattered to a lot of your followers. You might ignore the first few retweets you see, but when the 3rd, 4th or 5th come in, you’re going to notice, and may well be glad that you did.

This is true if all people are sharing is the original tweet and not engaging in any sort of conversation or adding their own thoughts. If a story is important, people will be adding their thoughts and sharing other links to important parts of the story.

Now, this might seem to reinforce Shoq’s second reason against using native retweets:

Users can’t add their own comments to the built-in retweets

This is true. You can’t add a comment to the original tweet with the new-style retweet. But with only 140 characters it’s hard to do that with the old-style retweet without completely mangling the original tweet anyway. If I want to reshare a link and add my own comment, rather than butchering the original poster’s words I prefer write my own post and credit with a “via @username” at the end.

Native retweets give my followers control over seeing what they’re retweeting since I can turn off native retweets on an per-user bases. I can’t do that with old-style retweets. Native retweets keep 15 instances of the same post out of my timeline. Native retweets shares original tweets without the need to mangle “to,” “your” and “for” into “2,” “yr” and “4.”

Twitter’s native retweets are certainly imperfect, but I find the hard-core stances against native retweeting hard to understand.

The New Yorker remembers it has a blog on Tumblr

Today, The New Yorker said on Twitter:

We are now on @tumblr! Follow us: http://newyorker.tumblr.com/

But the magazine has 199 pages of Tumblr posts and its first post is dated Dec. 1, 2009. So really they meant

We are now going to try to pay attention to our @tumblr! Follow us: http://newyorker.tumblr.com/

or

We remembered we are on @tumblr! Follow us: http://newyorker.tumblr.com/

or maybe even

We figured @Newsweek got good pub for their @tumblr! Follow us: http://newyorker.tumblr.com/

Twitter, Blackbird Pie and permanence

Twitter released a small, simple app called Blackbird Pie that, when Twitter isn’t painfully slow and blogged down, should make it easy to embed a tweet in a blog post. It creates little bit of static HTML code that you can plop in a page. Like so:

This is a tweet that I will later delete to see if the Blackbird Pie version stays up or goes away.less than a minute ago via web

But what if I delete the tweet? I think it will stay there, since I see the tweet’s text in the code. But thought I’d check. Also, one could, I guess, make a fake tweet pretty easily. (Not that it’s hard now.) Like so:

For lunch I ate an entire cow. Except its tail.less than a minute ago via web

Helpful? Maybe.

Update:
Clearly this takes on too much of my own CSS styling.

Update II:
There was clearly an issue with the code that Blackbird Pie was spitting out that has since been fixed. See:

This is a tweet that I will later delete to see if the Blackbird Pie version stays up or goes away.less than a minute ago via web

Later Robin Sloan suggested why is wasn’t exactly working the bestest, adding

So I just want to add a stronger caveat here. First of all: I think we’ll drop the royal “we” on Twitter Media from now on—it’s confusing. To be clear, this is just @robinsloan here, pitching a little hack of mine. Please regard it as such, even though it lives on this fancy domain. Seeing people call it a “feature” is making me cringe, because I know what kind of care goes into real Twitter features! This is not one of those.

Let me underscore the point: in the course of writing this blog, I coded up a simple script that I found helpful, so I decided to share it with you. It’s a prototype. It’s really rough. It doesn’t even work in a lot of places! But that’s what we mean by “experiment,” right? And, as part of the Twitter Media team, I couldn’t credibly ask producers and developers at media companies to experiment and prototype if I wasn’t doing the same thing myself.

And yes, I know it doesn’t work on Tumblr.

Update III:
I see now that WordPress was trying to “help me out.” Stop it.

I want a better Twitter client for Android

Since I bought my Droid last November, I’ve used a bunch of different Twitter clients. I have yet to find one I’m really happy with. I know development is hard, and it seems whiny to complain publicly. My hope is that the developers will read this and incorporate some of my suggestions. Or someone else will build a new app that I will fall in love with. I’ve paid for Twitter clients before and I’ll pay for them again.

Let me start with the clients I’ve used, sort of in the order I used them, and my disappointments with each:

Twidroid

I was constantly running into bugs. At first it was random crashes that would lose all the information and settings I had added and changed. When I stopped using it, direct message threading was broken so that it would only show me the most recent thread of all my conversations. I want to tweet, not deal with bugs.

Swift

A simple app that I used briefly. I stopped using it because if I hadn’t checked my Twitter steam for a while (you know, like I was working or eating or sleeping), there was no easy way to jump to the top of the stream so it took forever to get to the top, especially since I had to wait several seconds for the app to update the stream every few scrolls.

Seesmic

The most recent version was a big update from the first. It doesn’t hold features ransom until you pay (Want bit.ly support? Buy the pro version!1), but it take at least two taps to open a link, or favorite something or whatever. Otherwise, better than the rest.

jibjib

I asked on Aardvark about new Twitter clients and the developer of jibjib asked me to try it out. It includes no images, including avatars are icons suggesting what a button does. Couldn’t keep using it.

Touiteur

This is the newest one and the one I’m using now. Like Seesmic, it has the same too-much-tapping problem. Say I want to favorite something, which I do often for things I find funny or that have a link I want to check out later (since Pinboard saves these links for me). That take three taps: one to select the tweet and get the menu, one to select “more,”  and a third to actually star it. It’s also missing an easy way to follow a conversation between users. Nor can I view anyone’s followers in the app and it doesn’t give me a way to get to Twitter.com to see that information.

So I want a better Twitter app. I want it to do these things:

  1. Just works. No bugs.
  2. Easy favorite-ing. I want to be able to tap a star right in the tweet without having to go through menus.
  3. Easy link following. I want to be able to follow a link without extra taps.
  4. Conversations. Twitter makes it hard enough to follow conversations between and among users without the app defeating the few tools Twitter gives us. Incorporating conversations can be as simple as letting me easily follow the “in reply to” link that Twitter generates for @replies or something better, like a built-in Bettween.
  5. A “jump to top” button. I need to be able to skip to now in my timeline.
  6. Native/new-style retweeting that confirms before posting. I hate when jerks mangle my perfectly crafted 140-character masterpieces so they can slap “RT @bergus” in front, so I use native retweets on the rare occasions I retweet. I also hate it when I accidentally retweet something and there is no easy way to undo it.
  7. Link shortening. Does it suck that we have to shorten links in Twitter? Yup. But I want at least bit.ly support that I can tie to my bit.ly account. Even better would be something I can tie to an install of yoURLs.
  8. Access to profiles and follower, following and user lists. I like to look at profiles. I like to look at lists. I use my own lists to make my Twitter stream manageable. My lists need to be viewable in the app. I’d prefer profiles and other lists be in-app, too, but I’m flexible. I should be able to follow and unfollow easily, too.
  9. Notifications that take me to the new mentions/direct messages. Never occurred to me that a notification of a new mention wouldn’t take me to the new mention or direct message, but that isn’t the case with Touiteur for some reason.
  10. Saved searches. Because I search for the same things over and over.
  11. Sync with Twitter. Everything I do in the app should be synced with Twitter: lists, searches, etc.
  12. Twitter login via OAuth. So I don’t have to type my username and password into your sleazy app. Touiteur does this. Nothing else does, as far as I can tell.
  13. Drafts. I don’t work on Twitter jokes enough to need something as heavy duty as the iPhone’s Birdhouse app, but I would like to save a tweet while I double check a fact, URL or something else.
  14. Doesn’t make me mess with setting only used for multiple accounts. I use one Twitter account. Don’t make me select my Twitter account from a list that contains … my one Twitter account.

That’s it. I don’t need widgets. I don’t need multi-account support. I don’t need geolocation (but it you’re going to include anything like that, please include geolocation as metadata instead of as a link2). I don’t need plug-ins.

So, who’s going to build this?

1 This is actually the case with Touiteur. And while I understand the developer’s need to get paid, withholding basic features in the free version isn’t the way to do it. 

2 Seesmic will figure out your location and this stick in into a tweet, either as an address or a link to a map, but not as metadata that doesn’t suck up those precious characters. 

A suggested user list for Iowa’s j-school students

I usually cover social media generally — and Twitter specifically — as a reporting and audience-building tool the last day of my multimedia course. (Social media isn’t multimedia per se, but I worry that if I don’t cover it, it won’t come up at the j-school at all, though that’s changing.) This semester, I’ve moved it earlier, hoping I can provide more than a quick look before the class ends. Perhaps it will even become a tool to organize classes. We’ll see.

But one thing is certain: Twitter isn’t fun or interesting or useful unless you have interesting people to follow. I’ve tried to build a list of suggestions for my students that will be relevant, informative and interesting. These are all people I follow and enjoy. You might not; drop ’em and find new people.

Anyway, here are 10, in no particular order:

Steve Buttry, @stevebuttry, has had several titles at The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, most recently 3C coach. He shares interesting journalism links and commentary.

Dr. Daily, @DrDaily, The Daily Iowan incarnate, at least on Twitter and Facebook. Driven by my former student Adam B. Sullivan, the DI‘s convergence editor.

John Dickerson, @jdickerson, writes for Slate and CBS News and shares interesting observations. He pimps his own work as @johndickerson.

Mindy McAdams, @macloo, teaches online journalism at the University of Florida.

Mark Luckie, @10000words, is the author of the blog 10,000 Words, which focuses on digital and multimedia journalism, and the forthcoming book The Digital Journalist’s Handbook.

Jay Rosen, @jayrosen_nyu, teaches journalism at New York University.

Ryan Sholin, @ryansholin, is the director of news innovation at the journalism start-up Publish 2 and created ReportingOn and the Wired Journalists.

Mr. Tweet, @MrTweet, is a tool that helps find other people you might find interesting by analyzing who you follow and who they follow. Another option is @LocalTweeps.

Kottke.org, @kottke, is run by Jason Kottke, who curates the Web and shares the most interesting links on Twitter and his Web site.

Dave Winer, @davewiner, is, to oversimplify, a software developer who has a real interesting in news. He was a pioneer of blogging, podcasting and in the development RSS. He’s building RSScloud, which he hopes will be an open Twitter-like system. Don’t worry, lots of this stuff is over my head, too.

Like I said, these are people who tweet about things I’m interesting. Of course, you’ll want to add people who tweet about things you’re interested in: sports, food, narrative journalism, politics, public relations, or teh (often inappropriate) funny.

Predictable shopping shouldn’t be headline news

The day after Thanksgiving is usually a slow news day but never fear, dear journalist, there is a HUGE cultural event that demands coverage! Time to throw everything you got at it!

Luckily you had the forethought to build a database. Now make sure you’ve got a Twitter hashtag set. Then, on Friday, get some video! Do a live chat! Saturday, make sure you run a front page story on the phenomenon that, by at least one news organization’s admission, is no longer a surprise to anybody.

I understand the argument that we should cover what people are interested in, but if we must cover — and give such prominent play to — Black Friday shopping, at least we could do a good job. See guys, as Fev at Headsup put it, “Shopping doesn’t really need context.”

Perhaps it’s because Black Friday is the metro news equivalent to a new Brangelina baby, but the coverage is generally so useless. There might be interesting cultural angles, but “HOLY SHIT, PEOPLE ARE IN LINE AT MIDNIGHT TO BUY A $200 HDTV AT WAL-MART” isn’t it.

So let’s get away from speculating whether more or less is being spent this year and find stores willing to tell us if sales are keeping pace with last year’s. (Stores do have the ability to watch their sales in real time and probably know to the penny how close they are to last year.) Let’s talk to sales psychologists who could tell us why humans are driven to spend in herds and, maybe, how to resist. Could we look at how good of a deal some of these bargains really are? Maybe a “36 Hours“-style piece that plans out the 1 a.m. shopping spree.

Because unless you’ve got a story about locals being trampled to death, I’m really not that interested in stories about people shopping. And if you absolutely must push Black Friday off A1, there is that whole Mumbai thing you could put there instead.