Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I've been wondering what the proper notation for my comments when retweeting was.

I'd been using either:

RT @foo blah blah (me: foobar)
RT @foo blah blah | foobar

The first seems to be excessive in terms of characters and the second is ambiguous unless there was some sort of convention.

I Just twittered:

Have we decided on the proper notation for commenting on a retweet?

And got the following responses so far:

j0anna: @Joi I prefer it appended at the end, rather than the beginning! Distracts from the content at the beginning, gives credit where due at end!

kevinmarks: » @Joi: Have we decided on the proper notation for commenting on a retweet? « I use these French quote marks, but that's just me

danlatorre: @Joi clearer to [comment] RT [tweet] than RT [tweet] | [comment], which is confusing. Use the "RT" as the demarcation, saves chars.

manukumar: I like comments before the re-tweet. Like this :) RT @Joi: Have we decided on the proper notation for commenting on a retweet?

Ed: @Joi I/We have used {} since the beginning.

JoshAuerbach: @Joi I think it's clearest when the commentary precedes the RT notation. Otherwise, I go with "Me: ..." in parentheses.

builtbydave: @Joi "commenting on a RT", is that commenting on content of RT, or commenting to someone's RT (e.g or the original author)?

EthanZ: Microformat development in 140 chars or less | @Joi Have we decided on the proper notation for commenting on a retweet?

andresb: @Joi I use an old IRC convention: <-- LOL. Fond memories. @shirky adds (Me: whatever) and I guess it's pretty easy to identify

kenbrush: @Joi said: Have we decided on the proper notation for commenting on a retweet? -- I like the said/-- notation I employ here

Ed: @Joi However, oft the purist opinion, comes from the original. @Jack suggest "retweeted quote"- @Username | editorial in {} behind that

Jakewk: @kwerb @joi I (and others) use "<" Showing my comment applies to what was before...

Clearly we don't have a consensus. I should have used a hashtag so we can follow this more easily on Twitter. How about #rtnotation? (I probably should have linked to the actual tweets instead of twitter ID's but I need to get this posted before people twitter even more..)

BTW: This was about 20 minutes of twitter I think...


An RFC on RT comment syntax, I love it!

I've been putting my comments in square brackets after the original tweet, but that's not so great. I'm liking the

Why invent new conventions? If this was any other medium you'd place the quoted material in quote marks, you comment outside.

Maybe we need to start a non-profit organization to raise money to fund a bottom-up consensus process to most fairly determine open specifications around Twitter notation to allow the broadest input from all of the stakeholders involved.

Or not...

It's a difficult question. Since the beginning I guess that "RT @John what a beautiful day (me: I think so!)" a good way. But some new Twitter clients (as Tweetie for Mac) use "what a beautiful day (via @John) : I think so !" which is pretty good in term of number of letters.

What do you think?

Just wanted to point out that EdBrush's notation isn't actually a RT since he's putting @Joi at the very beginning, and therefore isn't being sent out to any of his followers who aren't already following the original author.

Why invent new conventions? If this was any other medium you'd place the quoted material in quote marks, you comment outside.

In any other medium where I'm quoting someone there are well known conventions that let the reader clearly see what's a quote and what's not. I might write:

Joi asked "have we decided on a convention for commenting on retweets" and from the replies it appears not.

There's nothing wrong with that format and there's no reason to reinvent every single thing just because it's Twitter. Use quotes. Put comments outside of quotes. People will get it.

So you're saying, more precisely:

RT @original "original tweet" my comment

Is that right?

Yes. Quote marks are used to denote attribution in written communication and it's a convention that everyone is used to. We need to layer on twitter specific things (@someone etc) but for the actual content/comment separation, quotes seem best.. 2 characters, understood by virtually all readers.

So, no "RT" prefixes?

I like this format. But, it's too many characters. RT + "" = 4 = fail

it's one extra character assuming you already use RT and have some kind of a separator character anyway. I can't see one character being that much overhead especially when it makes the actual tweet so much more understandable.

I think it's interesting the way @aplusk uses RTs. For example,

"good stuff RT @Jenluv2002: @aplusk heard you were at tin lizzy's yestesrday.. how do you feel about the queso?"

He's putting his reply before the original message, before the RT. I've been seeing other Twitter newbs structure their tweet in this fashion too.

I think the prefixing is pretty elegant, but depending on depth of the comment, it seems better afterwords, but I suppose if it's good enough for Yoda...

"42 RT @hitchhiker what is the meaning of life?"

I hesitate to use RT (and OH, for that matter) because every couple of weeks a new member of my extended family joins twitter. My mother is convincing many of them to sign up. She does this with them from their phone via text message. So, by default, from the beginning, they begin following me to their device.

I very very much enjoy knowing that my family is listing in (there is so much more to talk about at get-togethers) so I try to keep my tweets easy to understand.

I think the format of

"'@melissa Everybody, go follow @god on Twitter. Oh, and also, go ahead and unfollow him IRL. Kthxbye.' Done."

as Rick suggested (using quotation marks, no RT) is a good one. Keeps it to only two extra characters. And is backwards compatible such that I believe even my Aunt Caron would understand.

I don't think common notation is necessary for this unless the intention is to process them automatically [for tracking, etc.]. Having said that, notation I would prefer for this purpose is:

"my comment || @joi what's the common..."
"@joi what's the common... || is this needed?"

Here, double vertical bar is used instead of single to emphasize the separation between voices and no ordering between voices is enforced.

I like the double vertical bar, but just to add to the nerdery, I use // - C-style comments make perfect sense to me :)

Don's solution works too, but questions like "what separator should I use?" are inherently geeky technical considerations. A retweet is doing things:

1) quoting someone. The common convention for indicating this is to place the quoted material in quote marks. The definition of what a quote mark is might vary from language to language... they're still quote marks though.

2) Atttribution - you want to let the reader know where the quote came from. This is easy since we can use @name to indicate that.

3) (optional) the quoter's comments. Being outside of the quotation marks indicates this. Special separators are fine, but the standard is simply a space.

too often we get shiny new toys and then feel we need to reinvent everything from a clean sheet of paper. Many times this is wasted effort as the problem's already been solved. This, I think, is one of those times.