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Some Twitter conventions

24 September 2009 · Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I feel a little dirty when I blog about Twitter. I’m not an internet marketer shamelessly trying to drive traffic to my blog (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that). I’m just a Twitter user, like you, and I have a couple of ideas to share.

Since its inception, Twitter has fostered in users a sense of ownership over the community, in part, by formally adopting conventions invented and propagated among the user base. The canonical example of this is @replies (now @mentions). If you put an @ sign followed immediately by someone’s Twitter handle, automagically links it up to that user’s profile.

Tweeters use different syntax for quoting and referring to other people’s posts. E.g., if you saw a cool link and want to share it, but you want to give credit to the person who posted it first, you might do something like the following:

10 Cutest Cat Moments: (via @SaintLevi)

There is some controversy around whether (via ...) or RT (short for “retweet”) is the better way to reference someone else’s post. Personally, I use them in different situations. I do vias if I’m saying something original about the link. I RT if I’m just repeating something someone else said.

Anyway, I got to thinking about how some of these formats waste precious characters against the 140 limit. I was an IRC user back in the day, when you had to type in commands such as /join #mindlessnattering or /me likes puppies to do certain things. Now there’s all manner of GUI for IRC and those damn kids are on my lawn again.

To make an already far-too-long story short, I’ve adopted IRC’s command syntax in my tweets. Revolutionary, I know.

Here are some examples:

/via – used for re-posting a link posted by someone else, but with original commentary

So you’ll recognize the jQuery team at conferences: /via @reybango

/by – used for posting a link for the first time, written by someone else

Truly geeky (ftw) blog for professional JavaScript developers: /by @pmuellr

/cc – used for drawing someone’s attention to the post

Visiting NZ? Here’s everything you need know about kiwi culture: /cc @kvnbishop

// – used for adding commentary to a RT

RT @reybango: @rmurphey Great talk! // Congrats, Rebecca!

You can even combine them! Amaze your friends!

NZ photography showcase: /by @eyeballnz /via @audaciousgloop /cc @kvnbishop

That’s about it. I’d love to hear what you do or if you have any additions to this in the comments!

(Thanks @mclaughj for prodding me to commit this to electrons!)

Update: Chris Messina independently came up with some similar ideas to the ones I posted here. He’s added /thx which is nice, but more importantly has given these things a name: slashtags. I like it!