Feature Friday: Quote Retweet

One of my favorite features on Twitter is the ability to retweet something with added context.

Like this:

I do this a lot:

You get my point.

There are a lot things Twitter can do to make Twitter better but getting rid of the Quote Retweet is not one of them.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Alex Iskold

    Agree. I think this is actually one of the best features. Because of Twitter velocity and compact nature, context is often lost. This allows context, and that makes up for a lot more meaningful experience. Related – I love that they made Tweetstorms native — also awesome for better context.

  2. LIAD

    Agreed. Great peace of functionality.

  3. sigmaalgebra

    Here’s something just totally dirt simple Twitter could do to get a lot more usage:The something, in just one word, “document” the site for users.Document the thing.I’m not pissed off about bad documentation at Twitter or the nearly universally bad documentation in computing. I’ve been pissed off. That was a long time ago. Since then I’ve been way past pissed off.Here I will try to explain the importance of documentation with less subtlety than Hercules swinging with all his strength a five pound sledge hammer hitting a two ton anvil. I’m not going to scream out my frustration: If I did that, I’d at least blow the rings off Saturn or blow Mars out of the solar system.This approach of keep it all a big secret, that people have to click and click and click and click and maybe get meaningful error messages back and maybe not to try to learn is absurd, apparently insisting that Twitter be some bizarre cult with secret rituals.=== TermsSo, as usual in technical writing, there are terms, that is, words and phrases used with meaning not as in a standard dictionary.So, for each term:(1) Explain the choice of words, e.g., explain the “re” in retweet.(2) Define the term.(3) Explain the term, what it is and what it isn’t.(4) Motivate the term, that is, say what the purpose is, why the term is needed.(5) Illustrate the term.(6) Further explain the term.Obvious, nearly universally important stuff.=== FunctionsNow that we know it is important to define the terms, we can move on to describing the functions, that is, tools and/or functionality of the site.First up, it appears that in some sense Twitter has something like users and something like topics.Okay, define and describe these.Next, what the heck is a Tweet? When a Tweet is sent, who/what sees it? Do they see any pictures or video clips; that is, are those also sent? When? How? Who doesn’t see it? What are the privacy and/or security issues if any?Then somehow there are messages. Need to document those. Who can send to whom? What are the privacy and/or security issues? I tried some of the messages or whatever the heck they are called but as far as I know never actually sent any. I don’t know how the messages work and didn’t want to waste time trying to solve the silly puzzle problem and document the solution.Some of the pages have video clips; usually neither of my two Web browsers will play the video. What the heck from Mars is the video standard used?Explain the user interface (UI). So, typing causes lots of side effect changes in text with ‘@’ characters — what the heck is going on?What the heck is this stuff about the characters ‘@’ and ‘#’? Got some more goofy characters with double secret, bizarre cult meanings?For the icons, of course, there should be no icons: Can’t spell them, type them, pronounce them, copy them, send them, look them up in a dictionary, or get descriptions for what the heck they mean. So, sure, no icons.But, still, there are icons on the screen. One of the icons looks like a bolt of lightening. I’m supposed to know what that means? Another icon looks like a small house. That means what the heck?For the Tweets I’ve sent, is there a way I can see a list of them?=== HopelessI’ve been a Twitter user off and on, mostly off, for over a year. So far I have at best poor answers to the questions above and more questions I’ve omitted assuming that here I’ve already well illustrated my point about the lack of Twitter documentation.In short, the Twitter UI is a train wreck and a total pain in the back side. Maybe the UI was designed in some 36 hour, Jolt Cola fueled work sessions with the designers half delirious and in the end laughing at the bizarre, secret cult nonsense they created.Having fun creating obscure, secret puzzles for others has been a destructive psychological trap in software development going way back; that nonsense needs to be banished.And due to the missing documentation, Twitter is an unanesthetized root canal procedure.The situation is quite general in computing: Generally, when something has been created, invented, constructed, etc., for others to benefit the something should be described. Sure, eventually by trial and error it’s possible run experiments and begin to see how something works and document it for oneself, but that’s wasteful, at best puzzle problem work, and otherwise even worse.Documentation is important.Really, broadly, for software, the documentation is more important than the code.Yes, long ago some cognitive psychologists at Xerox PARC wanted to conclude that a UI could/should be intuitive, with a metaphor of direct manipulation, e.g., with icons. Delusional; brain-dead; smoking funny stuff.Instead, some of the crown jewels of Western Civilization are language, written language, the Roman alphabet, the English language, and a standard English dictionary. So, no Xerox PARC bean-bag psychos improved on, or even came close to, those crown jewels.Quite broadly in computing, the industry will learn to document its work or get throttled by its obscurity.E.g., in the design of my Web site, I tried to follow the UI advice I gave above.The future of this obscurity stuff is hopeless.

    1. LE

      The future of this obscurity stuff is hopeless.Computer types don’t think in terms such that ‘that the devil is in the details’. I think the book about Ray Kroc was called something like ‘grind it out’. It wasn’t ‘build it and they will come’. And yes every detail did matter. They system and making things easy for customers (limit menu items only one example). That is actually something also that Steve Jobs understood with the product that he built. (Gates didn’t need to care and that set the mold for so many businesses that followed..)The business world that I was raised in (and operated in) was a world where what you did mattered down to the last detail. There was no such thing as just sticking your hand out and catching business and leaving it at that. Why? Because there was competition. So ‘if no or little competition or high barrier to entry’ then ‘product can suck’.Nothing pisses me off more than how many things in the computer world (and twitter is one of them) do almost nothing to initiate new users and make them feel comfortable.Computer types, geeks, like to hold the keys to the kingdom. That is how they get to be important and help clueless people and make money. It’s kind of a built in to their personalities.That said this is all good if you can act as the middleman to the things that are hard that don’t have to be hard.By the way net types would simply say ‘they can just do a google search for that if they want or watch a youtube video if they want’.

      1. Richard

        As the decade comes to a close the biggest meme/myth that will be shattered is that software space was “different this time” “different in time” by being motivated by the social good

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Yup. You understood, both before and after my rant.Yes, the problem is old: Way back there was an essay about “Egoless programming”.Then commonly programming was taught with a big suggestion that the work was tricky, really tricky, and that the good programmers did really tricky work. Then some programmers wrote code as tricky as they could and left it there without documentation as a challenge to others. So, that behavior was about ego. A silly version of ego.For getting a good Twitter for Dummies — New Users via Google, I’m not optimistic about that.For technical information, the best Wikipedia articles are good. Getting such good technical information elsewhere on the Web is not so easy.Google’s page rank has ceased to work very well: If can’t find what you want in Google’s “Top 40”, then looking at the next 200 of the 20,000,000 or so usually doesn’t help.Of course, the problem is the meaning of the content, that is, a user finding the content with the meaning they want.In my case, I want a lot of carefully considered detail. I want the writing to be good but ONLY as technical writing and not as entertainment, journalistic, Belle Lettre, literary, or creative writing. That is, I want to get a good version of the darned information so that I can get off that interruption and get back to what I want to do.So, right, my startup is based on meaning.Yes, the computer people know about lexical scanning, syntactic scanning, programming language semantics, etc. and have considered meaning to need large quantities of Unobtainium. I hope they keep thinking that way while I’m on the way to the bank.For an example what I don’t understand about Twitter, Fred was discussing the “Quote Retweet”. I don’t really know what that is. It’s not like I saw an explanation and didn’t get it; instead I’m sure I never saw an explanation.I suspect I could figure it out.Here’s something I’d rather try to figure out:Let’s get a chronology and look at ballpark intervals.First, as we now know with good evidence, the big bang happened about 11.7 billion years ago. Our chances of learning anything from before then are slim to none although maybe from gravitational waves, but, still, did I mention, slim to none.Just after the big bang there was hydrogen with some helium. That condensed to form stars. In the star centers, those light elements were, from self-gravity and resulting high temperatures, squeezed together to yield heavier elements up to iron. As can easily be seen just in the masses in the standard chemistry class periodic table of the elements, that squeezing ended up with less mass. Then that missing mass was converted to energy (via tricky stuff having to do with force fields in quarks in the neutrons and protons in the nuclei) as in, right, Uncle Albert’s E = mc^2. At’s a lots’a energy and what makes the stars shine.By about 5 billion years after the big bang, a lot of the stars had accumulated big, iron cores; the cores, each on some one fine day, suddenly collapsed under their own gravity, as a supernova, to form either a neutron star or a black hole, and the rest of the star blew off from neutrinos or whatever squirted out during the sudden collapse. The blowing off of the outer layers was so violent that lots of elements heavier than iron were also created from pressing together lighter elements. There are claims that some of the heavier elements, e.g., gold, were created by different means, from tricky things about neutron stars.The stuff that blew off condensed and formed second generation stars that, right, are not just hydrogen and helium but have nearly all the elements in the periodic table.About then our star was formed. So, ballpark, our star was formed half way from the big bang to now.And as our star formed, the left over parts swirling around formed our planets, asteroids, comets, etc.Closer to the sun than us is too hot for water based life, maybe the only candidate kind. Farther from the sun than us is too cold. So, we are Goldilocks, just right.Well, the earth was formed ballpark 5 billion years ago. Life finally got started ballpark 3.5 billion years ago. So, from the first life, it took 3.5 billion years to get to, sit down for this, Twitter.Now it appears that due to some stuff called dark energy, “dark” because we don’t have hardly clue what the heck it is, is having the universe expand more and more rapidly. So, ballpark, in another 11 billion years or so, we will look at the night sky and not see much. We will no longer see the 3 K microwave radiation we used to get the 11.7 billion years, etc. A huge fraction of the data we would need to understand the universe will be gone unless we have some really old libraries.So, net, we are now, plus or minus a few billion years, at the unique point in time in the full life of the universe, and at a Goldilocks location to understand the universe.My guess: The purpose of the universe is to see if it generates life able to understand it. So, we’re it: We need to get on with understanding all this stuff. It’s now or never.To heck with spending time understanding deliberately obscure Twitter trivia!

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Aren’t we lucky to be alive?If we want to be able to contemplate the skies in 11.7 billion years from now, sooner or later we will have to look for a new star to move to and find a suitable planet or evolve into methane breathing creatures. Or perhaps AI will do that for us, with or without us.This is our time.

  4. Peter G

    They could certainly make *embedded* quote-retweets more readable though, as this post demonstrates.

  5. jason wright

    Qweetings to all at AVC,Merry Christmas,Jason, England.

  6. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:”There are a lot things Twitter can do to make Twitter Better”-FredThose who use Twitter what feature would you like Twitter to add or delete to make it better?Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  7. JamesHRH

    Don’t know Mr. Manjoo, but I can diagnose him: he suffers from TwitterIsATownSquareOfDuscusson-itis.Twitter is the internet version of the AP newswire: borderleas, DIY, viral PR releases.You would think that in the Trump era, people would believe this now. Twitter sets the agenda better than any other medium.For those of you that don’t know, companies PAID newswires to have their content distributed. Radical, nutty idea.You would hope that Fred would finally capitulate and suggest @andyswan or I as CEO. Either of us would have that sucker laser focused and growing like a weed in 6 months.

    1. pointsnfigures

      The AP sucks. Twitter is good.

      1. JamesHRH

        My point exactly.

    2. Richard

      Nope. AP is on way communication (old generation), worthless today.Single best way to monetize Twitter is to build and monetize customer complaint / coporate response features.

      1. JamesHRH

        Also good. It’s a notification network, which can flow both ways, not whatever Jack Dorsey thinks it is this year, which, btw, is clearly based in the state of social media, or whatever Biz or Ev are doing.Sad state of affairs – not often a product is sooooooo good that it can survive a clueless Chair / CEO who makes decisions based on his personal social status needs.

        1. jason wright

          https://dictionary.cambridg…verb: to witter (t’witter). it seems a proxy for that. a very human thing.I don’t use it. is it possible to export all account information, tweets, contacts, et.c. from an account?

    3. RichardF

      Has your account been hacked

      1. JamesHRH


  8. pointsnfigures

    Agree. Hey, what’s up with the Bulls? 7-1 over their last 8. I thought we were supposed to be the 76ers this year. Can’t help but think they will trade Mirotic before the end of the trading deadline.

    1. JamesHRH

      Mirotec is good. Other than that, not sure. Usually it’s hot shooting or a short term commitment to D.

  9. Richard

    Merry Xmas to the Bitcoin Community from Charlie Mungerhttps://youtu.be/kxKRiPBWdFQ

  10. Tom Labus

    It’s fun to hammer trump on twitter.

    1. JLM

      .Best thing that ever happened to Twitter is a guy named Pres Trump.Twitter elected Donnie Trump.Every candidate forever will be on Twitter.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  11. Amar

    I love Fred’s passion when it comes to Twitter 🙂 I don’t think Farhad Manjoo is going to significantly change Twitter’s product roadmap or its take on “quote retweet”.That said, it is important to wear a thick skin to critical commentaries – at least on first blush. Seeing the likes of Fred and Dick C sound defensive and paternally protective of the “quote retweet” feature is amusing.The risk here is potentially missing on a truly interesting improvement that might be buried in this suggestion. Don’t torque on Farhad’s solution suggestion – dig into his problem statement.I find this comment from Farhad interesting:It’s the sugary drinks [sic] of twitter. It’s easy and it’s fun but it leads to long-term problems with overuse. I think there is merit to this “overuse” observation and if i were a twitter product manager – that is what I would dig into. There is a reason NYT started to showcase some comments over the others (in the right rail) – maybe worth understanding what prompted NYT to want to showcase some comments over the others without adding friction to commenting. Is twitter at a similar point in its feature evolution with “quote retweet”?

  12. Fred the Scofflaw

    >> You get my point.You betcha!Your point is that you believe you can get away with promoting businesses which you have invested in without disclosing your vested interest.The word to describe that is…. scofflaw. It is a disparaging term for a good reason.>> You get my point.Yup.10 seconds to type: “Disclaimer: I am an investor in Twitter” would be too much for you? You seem to believe that laws of the USA that you do not like do not apply to you. I gotcha.How about formally joining forces with Peter Thiel to promote some more “Jurisdictional Competition” http://avc.com/2017/07/juri… Oh never you mind! President Donald Trump is busy restoring laissez faire therefore you need not worry.President Donald Trump, Peter Thiel and Fred Wilson are leading us back towards “The Law of the Jungle” instead of “Rule of Law.” Oh how delightful!