Friday, December 4, 2009

Retweet Offenders

For 10 years I would talk to my BFF every day on the phone. We both had our own design practices, both of us are Japanese American sanseis, and we have known one another since before puberty. In 2006 she took a very high-level job as creative director for a hugely popular digital entertainment company, and because her time was now owned by the company, she felt uncomfortable talking to me from work.

I felt bereft and mourned about it for a year or longer. Eventually I became used to not having her presence in my day-to-day life. Other friends began to fill the gap, but I often thought about those great years when we spent so much time talking, sharing and bonding.

Fast forward to the end of 2008; enter Twitter.

I don't mean to turn my blog into another outlet for commentary about social networking, but Twitter actually changed my life. It took hundreds, now thousands of people to replace my friend!

During the course of finding my way around Twitter I've seen trends and topics emerge. One recent annoying practice I've observed is the "Self-Retweeter."

As many people are aware, Twitter analytic applications assess various metrics to determine one's standing. Among them:
• The number of followers you have
• How often you engage in conversations with your followers
• How often you are mentioned
• How often your tweets are retweeted (RT)

Now that Twitter has added the list function, I think lists should factor into the evaluation. Some people with 20, 40 or 60,000 followers are sometimes only listed 2 or 3 times. What that tells you is, that person has a lot of followers, but no one is listening. But it also presents another opportunity for exploitation: People who are inclined to "cook the stats" by retweeting themselves certainly wouldn't be beyond "listing" themselves, and I've seen at least one example where that has occurred.

An example of "cooking the stats" occurred when I was recently approached by someone who had formed a consortium of people who were committed to retweeting and mentioning each other, I supposed to help boost their standings. That sounded ludicrous to me and I elected to not participate. The concept shouted, "hey, my postings aren't good enough to be noticed or retweeted by the general public, so I'm resorting to artificially making myself seem more interesting and influential!"

From my understanding of RTs, they should be reserved for re-sharing information that is found to be interesting, amusing or important enough to re-post.

The newest and most obnoxious trend is the "self-retweeter." These are people who, if mentioned in a tweet, will retweet their own mention. On rare occasions there is a need to leave one's mention in a retweet, such as when the post won't make any sense without it, but I think most of the pros will agree, it's not good Twitter etiquette to mention yourself.

The practice I'm referring to is the equivalent of Twitter diarrhea, or "Twitterrhea" — effluence flooding the Twitterverse and polluting the stream.

Let me cite an example with (I hope) fictitious names, typical of a thank you I might tweet to people who have RTed or mentioned me:

@johndoe @maryjohnson @bobjackson @nonameperson @whoever Thanks 4 RTs & mentions, COOL PEEPS!

Then, johndoe RTs me like this:

RT@terrinakamura @johndoe @maryjohnson @bobjackson @nonameperson @whoever Thanks 4 RTs & mentions, COOL PEEPS!

Then maryjohnson RTs:

RT@terrinakamura @johndoe @maryjohnson @bobjackson @nonameperson @whoever Thanks 4 RTs & mentions, COOL PEEPS!

Then bobjackson RTs:

RT@terrinakamura @johndoe @maryjohnson @bobjackson @nonameperson @whoever Thanks 4 RTs & mentions, COOL PEEPS!

Then nonameperson RTs:

RT@terrinakamura @johndoe @maryjohnson @bobjackson @nonameperson @whoever Thanks 4 RTs & mentions, COOL PEEPS!

Then whoever retweets:

RT@terrinakamura @johndoe @maryjohnson @bobjackson @nonameperson @whoever Thanks 4 RTs & mentions, COOL PEEPS!

So each person to whom the RT is already attributed, mentions HIM/HERSELF again, plus they mention ME again, creating an endless loop of RTs. And to top it off, some of these people actually RT the same mention over and over! It's not uncommon for me to find 5 or 6 of the same RT!

In other words, they've managed to insert themselves into the data manipulating the analytics that determine their values. Don't get me wrong—I completely recognize these people are also boosting MY "tweet-worth," but it's one of the things I'd be happy to sacrifice if only to restore space and value to the Twitter stream.


The self-retweeter is the first cousin of the person who begs for RTs (PLZ RT). There is no solution I can see.