Discussion: "Why are people copying tweets without mentioning the source?"

Example: Somebody mentions a blog post title and link (not authored by them) on Twitter:

@hrouda The Point You’re Missing About Google Wave http://ow.ly/sw8X

It gets repeated:

@laikas: The Point You’re Missing About Google Wave http://ow.ly/sw8X - via @hrouda

And again:

@EdBennett The Point You’re Missing About Google Wave - a positive non-hype view http://ow.ly/sw8X - via @hrouda @laikas

At what point do you stop adding @@@@@@@@user names if the original blog post was written by somebody else to begin with - not by the person(s) who posted the link on Twitter? And then, on top of it, there is ow.ly URL that hides the original URL of the blog post: http://ow.ly/sw8X

My solution: Re-post the original blog post and link, if you find them interesting and useful.

@DrVes "The Point You’re Missing About Google Wave" http://bit.ly/UV9zB - We'll wait and see... :)

@laikas was not too happy:

Twitter = social media isn't it? Then why are some people just copying tweets without mentioning the source? That is not social!

There are not set-in-stone guidelines how to use Twitter but here are some of my thoughts:

"Why are people copying tweets w/o mentioning source?" - Twitter has 140 character limit, the source is the link. Quoting "original" tweet is optional since it is not very original to begin with.

Who owns a tweet? In a limited 140-character space, how much credit can you provide if you list a headline and a link from another site?

Feel free to re-post all my linked tweets from other websites without any attribution - those are just links - this use is similar to Delicious for sharing links. Do you credit the person who bookmarked first an article on Delicious? How is Twitter different if you just quote a headline and link?

Giving credit to the tweet who found the link first is nice but not always possible when you work with 4,000 news items a day.

People use Twitter for different reasons. Twitter is my notebook with interesting links/ideas that happens to be in public.

However, I do have an issue with "partial" re-tweets that alter the meaning of the original tweet - this is a real problem.

From @laikas:

One cannot speak of ownership of tweets but it is a matter of courtesy 2 just try 2 mention the source on twitter.

Although there is a 140c limit I always try to adapt the tweet so that attribution fits in.

@Pudliszek: "@DrVes interesting discussion. Tweets are always 2 short 4 me, it's not always possible 2 include everything in 1 tweet." True, but twitter is also a social medium where you acknowledge each others contribution.

It does cost me a lot of time 2 adapt tweets. Yday some1 said 2 me: Thnx 4 RT, but It is hard 2 understand my own tweet :)

Citing only refers to tweets you see and seem original.

In this example, what is original is not the tweet but the blog post and link.

I hope this discussion makes sense to somebody and I'm pretty sure that Twitter will make the whole issue obsolete by introducing a "like/share" system similar to the one used by Google Reader and FriendFeed.

In summary, we should all try to be nice and respectful to each other - this is what makes Twitter social.

Do you delete your tweets?


  1. You make some good points here - there is only a limited space to tweet in, so when I am pressed for space I will tend to include the @s of people I actually know, (in this case it would be @laikas not @hrouda) and miss out the others.

    However if it's possible (and I must be immodest here and say that I'm quite smug about my skill in pruning tweets!) I will amend the tweet to get as many of the names in as possible. That's because I think this is useful background 'who follows whom' metadata that others may like.

    Also I do enjoy finding an @me in my mentions from someone I've never heard of as it's a little like watching the 'six degrees of separation' concept unfold, but that might just be me.

    Of course one could always put the link of the original tweet in and comment on that although the reader would have to click twice - but they'd lose no context... eg

    "Lots and lots of words filling up this Tweet but see this interesting thing about Google Wave http://is.gd/3UES7" ;-)

    Anyway, don't we scientists love citing things anyway? :D

  2. Thank you for your comment, Jo.

    Citing is essential (and required) when authorship is involved.

    Alternatively, just imagine a medical journal article where the authors cite the physical libraries where they found their references along with the list of the references themselves... :)

    All my blog posts link to references.

  3. I'm glad I did it right! :)

  4. Thank you for the great post! It is an important topic and something everyone should consider.

    I must admit I have posted tweets without crediting the original poster, but it was not intentional. When you hit "Share" button in Google Reader it only shares the title and a link back to the original post or your FriendFeed depending on how you have it set up. In order to include the appriopriate mention you must know the twitter name for the post, and you must remember to add the note into the shared link.

    This is easy for people you constantly talk to on twitter or who have an easy/similar twitter name to their blog. If it is an odd twitter name, a name that is different from their blog, or someone you do not often converse with on twitter then it is more difficult to add in the twitter name.

    Plus, you have to remember to add this information. I am often guilty of quickly hitting the share button without thinking. I should really add the mention, but I'm flying through these items in the reader just trying to keep up and just don't take the time to add the additional note.

    Either people will have to change how they use the 'share' feature in programs like Google Reader, or there will have to be a change to Google Reader.

    What do you think?

    Twitter: Alisha764