RT vs Via – the Final Showdown

What’s the difference between RT & /via and Why does it matter?

I stumbled into a friendly passionate debate this evening about how and when to use RT or via. (Yes, my night on the town involves coffee, friends, and spirited opinions on twitter minutiae). I was surprised at the differing opinions so I want to extend my reasoning here.  eastwood

Obviously how you use twitter should be a matter of personal preference so feel free to disagree with me, Tweetie, Simplytweet, Twitter and the guy who popularized #hashtags.

Just the facts Ma’am

Here’s how I see it.

  • A RT is a verbatim, unedited, rebroadcast of someone else’s tweet.
  • A /via signifies the words are yours but you are paying-it-forward or giving attribution to someone else.

RT & via are not interchangeable they are 2 distinct functions. The terms themselves speak to their meaning, RE-tweet (a rebroadcast), via (from or by means of).

Why does it matter?

Different strokes for different folks right? Perhaps, but this discussion is worth exploring because we are talking about how we communicate.

I discovered some of my friends really dislike how the Tweetie iPhone app forces you to “quote” a tweet in order to add commentary. However, I prefer the distinction because the usage goes to the heart of authenticity and clarity. Editing RTs can easily result in muddled or unclear tweets. For example how often have you seen a mangled tweet like this?

rt

Who composed the original tweet?

Which comments belong to which user?

It’s impossible to determine and renders the tweet essentially worthless. That ain’t good. Retweets are powerful and we should work to preserve their influence.

All communication requires standards, twitter is no exception.

Better living through standards

Being an IT guy I swear by standards and protocols, they are elemental to effective communication. Thankfully we have people like Chris Messina elevating our practice.

Chris popularized the use of hashtags and last November outlined his ideas for extending twitter notation. His suggestions immediately resonated with how I was using twitter and I adopted his method completely. I recommend reading his full introduction to slashtag notation, “New microsyntax for Twitter” but here are the basics

  • RT @user – verbatim quote
  • /via – attribution or credit which may include multiple users, e.g. /via @user1 @user2
  • /by – author of linked content
  • /cc – to a tweet to the attention of someone else
  • all /slash notation is placed at the end of the tweet and may be combined after a single /, e.g. /via @user1 by @user2

I find this system to be simple, readily identifiable, and its gaining widespread adoption. I think it works.

In the end this is just my 2 cents and twitter is open to interpretation.

Agree? Disagree?

13 responses to “RT vs Via – the Final Showdown”

  1. aaronbreddin says:

    Sounds good to me…..for what it's worth….

  2. The new Twitter retweet function resolves the the pure quote issue. My observation is that RT has evolved to full or partial quote with comments following. The bigger issue is what marker denotes the start of the comments which is far from standard.

  3. Keith says:

    While I agree the new RT system is attempting to solve the verbatim issue they can't force the old way out of existence. Therefore I think it is even more important that we reserve RT. Once we can see the old/new together how would we tell the difference?

    I think slash notation is still catching on but I've seen a lot of people adopt it. The more people that can use a standard the more effective it becomes.

    Thanks for stopping by Mark.

  4. sarabeth says:

    Love the way you think about things that never occur to me – but this is all really good, especially coming from a writer's viewpoint – knowing if what is being repeated is exactly what was said the first time, or just the basic idea is being conveyed.

    You may have a convert, if I can remember all this long enough to use it…

  5. Keith says:

    You are too kind. I think the /via @user is the most important the rest aren't needed as often.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to stop and read Sarabeth.

  6. Camilo Olea says:

    Hi Keith!

    Great info! I didnt knew anything about this before. This will come in handy, for sure!

    Warm regards from Cancun!

  7. Keith says:

    Glad you liked it and I'd be quite happy to trade locales with you at the
    moment. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment.

  8. jeff_goins says:

    Disagree. Tweetdeck automatically posts a retweet as an “RT”, whereas Tweetie posts one as a “via.” Good to have standards, but not sure that this is the protocol. IMO, any RT can be paraphrased (and ought to be, while still crediting original author) and exact quotes should include quotation marks.

  9. Keith says:

    We'll agree to disagree but I would clarify that the Tweetdeck desktop app
    actually allows you to define which style of RT you prefer. I appreciate you
    reading and taking the time to comment.

    Thanks

  10. Jeff Goins says:

    Disagree. Tweetdeck automatically posts a retweet as an “RT”, whereas Tweetie posts one as a “via.” Good to have standards, but not sure that this is the protocol. IMO, any RT can be paraphrased (and ought to be, while still crediting original author) and exact quotes should include quotation marks.

  11. Keith says:

    We'll agree to disagree but I would clarify that the Tweetdeck desktop app
    actually allows you to define which style of RT you prefer. I appreciate you
    reading and taking the time to comment.

    Thanks

  12. Andrew says:

    I think it would be nice to condense the RT feature down to something as simple as possible. I like the idea between /via and RT, however unless there is standardisation across all Twitter apps, then I really don’t think we will ever understand what people mean.

    I guess if you adopted a particular method, and told everyone via your blog/twitter about it, then maybe people would understand how you work, but I don’t think you can create a Twitter-wide standard without enforcing of some kind.

    • Keith says:

      I agree that any standard is impossible unless defined by twitter and
      implemented via API. I think it is smart for an individual user to adopt
      their own method and be consistent but it varies for everyone and that’s
      okay. As long as our goal is to be clear and give attribution it will work.

      Thanks for stopping by Andrew.

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