First rule of Twitter etiquette: there is no such thing. In my opinion, if you don’t like something that someone is doing, you can unfollow them anytime you want.
Having said that, what are some of the new themes in Twitter etiquette that are worth commenting on? Let’s take a tour.
#hashtags: Hashtags are those words prefixed by the pound sign (“#”, also known a hash sign) that you see in tweetstreams. They supposedly provide context and metadata to tweets, but in practice, I see them used mostly for emphasis, and that’s how I use them. It’s slightly painful to see well-meaning twitterati try to coordinate hashtags for an event when everyone has already started using different ones.
Blog posts: Normally people are pretty good about noting that they are linking to one of their own posts by prefixing their tweet with [blog] or [post] or something similar. Bloggers who repeatedly spam their own posts get blocked, period. Twitter in my mind is a lifestreaming app, not a one-way push mechanism.
Retweets: Twitter recently fucked up the retweet function on their website, and not only don’t allow you to edit tweets for length, or add your own prefix comment. Luckily most other tools still allow you retweet and keep your sanity. A couple tricky issues with retweets:
- How much editing is too much?
- If an item has been retweeted before it got to you, do you have to keep the whole chain of retweeters?
I have no hard-and-fast expectation for either. If you want to edit the retweet, go for it. If you want to chop out multiple retweeters, go for it. Try your best to keep original attribution, but don’t go all haywire applying severe rules to a fluid medium.
Grammar: A lot of twitter grammarians have already checked themselves in to inpatient psych wards, so this problem is less of an issue than it used to be. Twitter grammar sucks. People type quickly, they type while driving, they type while roller skating backwards and locking lips with their significant others. Bad grammar happens. Even if bad grammar chafes (as it does me), you can learn to deal with it. People are messy. So is Twitter.
Rickrolling: Rickrolling is like heavy drinking; every now and then it can be a fun break. Do it every day and people start to shun you.
Protected Updates: My favorite phrase on this question is “protected updates make baby Jesus cry.” Don’t protect your updates and still pretend that you’re “doing” Twitter. Get over your fear of the Wayback Machine, live your life authentically, and don’t worry what some future boss/friend/spouse might think about something you tweeted back in 2008.
Inanity: Sometimes tweets make no sense. In my opinion, that’s part of the fun of Twitter; you get to see people as they really are, without a lot of filtering and polishing and pre-planning and run-this-by-my-publicist checking. Tweeps who are too polished are boring, IMHO. On the other hand, if you like the corporate flavors, feel free to unfollow someone who tweets about the junk that their cat just threw up.
Anything to add? Things you love or hate about Twitter? Write it in the comments!