Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Monday, 26 May 2014

In praise of manual RTs

Every now and again there are tiny discussions on Twitter about how dreadful manual RTs are, as if they are 'stealing' someone's content and repackaging it as one's own. I've no truck with this notion myself because a manual RT includes the name of the person who sent it (if it's a 'naked' tweet then yes, that's stealing) and the person is notified in their mentions / notifications.

A manual RT is one where you see RT, MT or via in front of the original senders's name (RT = retweet, MT = modified tweet, where it's amended to fit the space). Usually a comment is added (these are sometimes known as comment RTs) - and if it isn't I'd be more in agreement with the complainers (but there are *exceptions, see below).

On Echofon for iPhone you get the option to 'retweet' (that's the automatic one) or 'retweet with comment' whereas on desktop the button lets you do automatic tweets only. To manually RT you need to copy and paste the tweet into a 'compose new tweet' edit-space and prune to fit / add commentary.

For a long time this was the only way to retweet as Twitter was a bit slow in bringing in the automatic RT function. 

Pros of manual RTs
  • The most useful aspect of a manual RT is that it's a quick way of trapping that text in your timeline - if the original is deleted you still have your copy. You can find the content easily later (it's in your own archive) and don't have to remember the name of the person who sent it - there are lots of better ways of permanently trapping a tweet though.
  • If the tweet has a URL in it you may be able to get an idea of how often it's been clicked (I'm honestly not sure about this though and don't know what click number is being given in Twitter Analytics) - no, the new Twitter Analytics appears to tell you only about your tweet not how often the link's been clicked overall (the previous version did show this).
  • You can add a comment, hopefully pithy and useful
  • If the tweet was automatically RTed into your timeline you can add back the name of the person who brought it to you. I always feel that with automatic RTs this aspect is missed out which is a shame because that is information about 'the network'. If someone regularly sends fascinating stuff into my timeline and I automatically RT it I think it's denying anyone seeing my RT from knowing that there's someone else they might like to follow as well. Sometimes people send a separate tweet 'that tweet via @XYZ) which is clunky but if it can be done in the manual RT so much the better). 
  • You can pin it to your new timeline, if you like that sort of thing. You can't pin other people's tweets (fair enough they're not yours to pin) but if you manually RT them they become 'as from your timeline' and you can pin to your heart's content.
  • It seems to irritate some people, although that might be a Pro depending on who's being annoyed ;)
  • It makes it harder to see how 'well' a particular tweet did since each tweet carries with it its number of automatic RTs and favourites.
  • If someone has switched off RTs for your account (say you auto-RT a lot of stuff) then this bypasses that and may irritate them, though this may also be a pro as well depending on the circumstances.
Neither pros nor cons
Since Twitter notifies you anyway if someone else retweets your retweet, or a tweet you were mentioned in it makes not a whit of difference to your knowledge of how that tweet is being shared. It does make a difference to the RT-count on your own tweet (if you were the one who sent it) so if you're doing metrics on a tweet campaign you may need to count other stuff too, if you must :)

//Yes you can send links in DMs
While I'm at it, I still see a lot of people wondering about this. The trick is to send plain text, not hyperlinked URLs. Twitter automatically recognises anything URL-like ( as something to turn into a clickable blue link ( and it rejects the majority of these in DM messages, purportedly to reduce click-spam phishing attacks). All you need to do is tweak the URL to stop Twitter from recognising it as an URL.

Strategies such as adding non-URL characters, eg ^^ somewhere in the middle work fine (the recipient needs to know how to 'mend' the deliberately broken URL though) or you could put something at the front of the http:// eg Xhttp:// (Twitter still recognises text strings as addresses even with the htt... protocol bit removed).  See tip 2 in Some Twitter tips, not exhaustive but probably useful

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Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).