Monday, April 28, 2014

Crimes, High Crimes and Twitter Attribution

Someone mentioned today that I failed to credit them for a retweet. I looked back and found that they had, in fact, sent me a link Friday that I posted as a retweet from someone else on Sunday. Trouble was, I never made it past the headline on Friday. So when I ended up reading the article on Sunday via someone else’s link, I’d already forgotten about the original one. I wrote about this issue in 2010. Here’s an updated version.
People have been crying "retweet theft" since there've been retweets. The idea is that some people intentionally fail to attribute sources for links they share on Twitter. I have a two problems with any gravity attached to that concept. One is philosophical and the other technical.

Philosophical: I admit I sometimes feel a twinge of indignity when a follower posts a link I recently shared without giving me RT credit. Fortunately, I usually remember that buying into any sense of being wronged is an inaccurate and personally destructive apprehension of reality. If my motivation in sharing something was altruistic, then the fact that the link gets passed along should trump any perceived slight. And since it’s likely that an omission was unintentional, I’m better served by examining my own negative reaction instead of getting worked up by trying to mind-read the intentions of others. 

Technical: The vast majority of shareable content we run across isn't from Twitter. I personally scan through hundreds and hundreds of headlines every day on Feedly, Flipboard, email lists and other social networks. Additionally, just because we have access to Twitter every waking hour, it doesn’t mean that we have the time or attention to notice every post in our stream. Nor are we obligated to try. The more people we follow, the more likely it is that we'll unintentionally post something that was already shared. And that's okay. No harm done, except to the false sense of self that derives a feeling of worth from being retweeted.

That said, my new approach to Twitter is to be generous with favorites, but stingy on retweets. Favorites show appreciation to others without adding to the noise of an already over-duplicated Twitter stream. I limit retweets now to only the most compelling links, especially those shared by people outside my core social circles.

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