I’m still working through my notes and interviews from the past week’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. Many people, ideas and presentations will stay with me — I look forward to writing another article and several blog posts today and tomorrow — but I wanted to make sure I captured one particular moment that actually irked me: The statement by a member of a panel in a session on Twitter that a RT is spam.
Apparently, @IsaacGarcia is determined to hold onto that position in the face of substantial counter opinion. I’m left to speculate how much he has used or read about Twitter; I gather from his comments on the panel that he has used the medium to find customers for his company and sell the product. The irony of that use is that by searching for mentions of his brand or looking for potential prospects and replying to them, he is in fact engaging in unsolicited commercial messaging.
I believe there’s a word for that.
Humor aside, I did reflect for a while on Garcia’s contention, which he tweeted during the panel: “How is recvng RTs about a topic/person that I didn’t choose to Follow not spam? Am recvng unsolicited info from the originator.” Isaac isn’t an obtuse man; Central Desktop was used by the Obama campaign to manage field operations in Texas.n, as Josh Catone blogged in ReadWriteWeb.
So where’s the disconnect? I wrote about the retweet last November for WhatIs.com, in “Buzzword Alert: The retweet (RT) is the FWD of 2008.” To retweet is to repost the tweet of another Twitter user using your own account.
It would probably be helpful to review what spam IS again, other than a fatty breakfast meat that’s likely to survive a nuclear winter. Wikipedia (currently) calls “Spam the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages.” CNET reported that, in 2009, spam makes up 90% of all email. If anything, that’s actually down from the 95% estimate I read a few years ago. That may be a result of shutting down ISPs that allow sending spam; it’s not likely, at least in this pundit’s eyes, to be a result of the CANN-SPAM Act, which created standards for sending commercial email. To be compliant, you must have a way for users to unsubscribe and do so if asked.
Twitter, of course, makes subscribing and unsubscribing from efforts rather easy — follow or unfollow. There are many technical hiccups that sometimes hinder that process, but by and large that’s the way it works. I choose to subscribe to your tweets. If don’t like something about the experience, I stop listening.
Fortunately, I’ve been gifted by thousands of smart, savvy followers, and when I asked them all if a RT is spam, I received 11 immediate @replies, followed by a few more. I’ll share their thoughts, as I believe they speak eloquently in defense of the role of the retweet.
First, my friend and colleague on the Touchbase blog, Leslie Poston, offered her perspective:
faseidl: It *may* be spam, but in general I would say false. See my comment on that question on this post: http://bit.ly/Wg7lp
turquoisefish: a RT from me is something I liked, found interesting, or wanted 2 share.
As any longtime of Twitter knows, there is in fact plenty of spam on Twitter. There’s even a @spam account to report it to. #hashtags spam has become a problem, given that whenever a topic becomes trending on Twitter, spammer hop on and advertise whatever the scheme of the day might be. Nastier folk lurk there too, twishing for unsuspecting users.
Even reputable companies have engaged in it, as Mashable noted yesterday, when Habitat Used Iran Twitter Spam to Pimp Furniture.
(Habitat has since apologised for its Twitter ‘hashtag spam.’)
Patrick LaForge, a long-time user of Twitter and director of the copy desks for the New York Times, had the last word in my @reply stream. I tend to take his view as definitive on the subject. (The emphasis below is mine.)