Forget Tweetstorms. The Era of the Retweetstorm Is Here

Posted by on Aug 2, 2015 in IT News | 0 comments

Forget Tweetstorms. The Era of the Retweetstorm Is Here

Last year, WE witnessed the birth of the tweetstorm. While the art of yelling on Twitter has been around since its origin, Marc Andreessen can largely be credited with coining the term for an unstoppable torrent of tweets, often angry or self-righteous, leading to some big point. Always taking a principled stand.

Tweetstorms are sort of a joke—while many love to watch them unfold (it’s like witnessing a digital tantrum, even when there’s a worthy point being made), they’re generally a little sad, or ridiculous, or exhausting. Tweetstorms are occasionally brilliant and insightful and powerful, but far and away, they are a train wreck we can’t take our eyes off of.

Now tweetstorms are not going anywhere; the most irate and verbose of Twitter users will continue to rage unapologetically into the ether. Twitter and aggressive communicators will always go hand in hand. But there is a smarter way, a better way to accomplish the same thing, and it’s rightfully taking over Twitter: the retweetstorm.

The beauty of the retweetstorm is that instead of self-indulgently getting on your virtual soapbox and blasting followers with what are very possibly all caps tirades, you simply retweet support in a pointedly consecutive order. All Twitter is sometimes is people blasting their opinions all over the place; retweetstorms are a tiny reprieve that lets the self-aware on Twitter give the ideas of others the chance to shine for a moment. Between the Gawker scandal, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift’s (not really) blood feud, and the Uber vs. de Blasio controversy, some of the most vocal people on the Internet have recently been hitting RT with clear and pointed goals in mind.

The retweetstorm is arguably more powerful than its predecessor, since it sort of assembles an Internet army of people willing to go to battle for you (whether they know it or not) by using their words to support your own point. And, it would seem in the above examples, a flurry of singularly focused RTs aren’t met with as much derision as one’s own words can be. After all, RTs aren’t necessarily endorsements (even if those exact RTs are endorsing your own agenda). It’s an obvious but advantageous loophole.

Even from a purely visual perspective, it’s far more impressive to see different icons and names backing someone up than their own profile image repeatedly screaming through your stream.

There are different types of retweetstorms, of course. There’s the kind where you can include your own commentary, thanks to Twitter’s relatively recent upgrade that allows you to add your own input to an RT—if you go on a storm full of commentary-laden RTs, you might be having a self-contained argument with the person you’re retweeting, adding a whole layer of complexity to the act. Then there’s the type where you retweet one specific person repeatedly, basically backing them up (or not-so-subtly subtweeting them) via retweetstorm. And then there’s the purest retweetstorm: Nothing but RTs, without commentary, from various users who are all either saying what you want to say or supporting something you already did.

Does this mean the tweetstorm, an oft-mocked Twitter activity, should be replaced by the retweetstorm? developer Sumukh Sridhara doesn’t think so. When the term itself was finally coined, a handful of developers started making apps to help us consume and create tweetstorms—one of the most popular quickly became Sridhara says that after seeing Andreessen and Balaji Srinivasan post interesting tweetstorms, he decided to make an app——to help capture that. “The content was great but the viewing experience wasn’t,” he says. “Unless you happened to be on Twitter exactly when they start tweetstorming (which was often late at night), you would either miss it entirely or scroll down and see the last tweet first. Even then, if someone else you followed tweeted in between someone’s tweetstorm, your feed would be inconsistent.”

Oo Nwoye of Fonebase Labs, the creators of another tweetstorm app called WriteRack, says that while tweetstorms are certainly not absent from Twitter, “the media fascination has dwindled.” Still, he says he can imagine “a serious company” coming out of our predilection for Twitter ranting. But perhaps it won’t be focused on the tweetstorm only—but retweets are where the real fascination lies. No one says “always read the tweets”—that’s too obvious. The real revelations are in the faves and, of course, the retweets.

Sridhara’s tweetstorm database right now doesn’t include retweetstorms, but that may soon change. “I tweaked the algorithm behind awhile back to actually detect when an author retweets replies and occassionally it includes the retweet as part of the original tweetstorm,” he says. The database is home to 4,732 (and counting) tweetstorms—and Sridhara says that there are nearly 2,000 retweets woven into them. He says he was originally going to build a retweetstorm button to go with where people could RT part of someone else’s tweetstorm, but he wasn’t sure if there was any interest. “Maybe I will now,” he says.