Twitter's ephemeral nature means content comes and goes in most Twitter feeds at the speed of light. As it flashes by you see the good, the bad and, if you are unlucky or accidentally follow an idiot, the ugly.
So taking a tweet and reposting it without crediting the source is no big deal, right?
It's only Twitter. There's so much stuff flying around who will notice, right?
People do notice and you will be caught. Your "tweet lifting" (a term my friend @markfrisk coined) will be noted.
You may be called on it publicly (the best case scenario as it may make you stop the lifting or whatever you want to call it). Or you may simply suffer a silent, but deadly decline in your reputation.
Take the case of someone I follow, someone I know personally and someone I once would have trusted completely as both an authoritative voice in social media and a "good person." We'll call this individual Person A.
Person A is a believer in Twitter and its power to connect people and build collective knowledge. Person A has taught classes on the topic of Twitter. In the past month I have noticed that Person A reposts items that I and others have posted - usually within minutes, but sometimes hours later.
Person A does this without crediting the original source and sometimes with minimal or no changes to the original tweet.
How do I know this? Obviously I can't be 100 percent sure, but the evidence has me at 99.9 percent. For example, a tweet this past weekend on a somewhat obscure topic was reposted six minutes later. A Google search found four stories on the exact topic, two of which ranked higher in the Google search than the one I chose.
I had chosen the story to link to because I liked the way it was written. Could it be mere coincidence that Person A reposted a link to that exact story just minutes later. It could. But this has been a pattern for several weeks.
In another example the bit.ly shortened URL I had in a tweet was repeated in a Person A tweet about an hour later, although some of the tweet's language had been changed.
In yet another example the entire tweet, word-for-word and with the exact same bit.ly shortened URL showed up, uncredited, five hours later.
I think I know enough about URL shorteners to understand that an identical shortened URL would not be created by bit.ly.
In his blog postSharing Content (Anatomy of A Tweet And A Retweet) Francisco Rosales spells out just how important attribution is. And I agree with him when he says it is a "critical piece of the tweet".
The bottom line is this: Your reputation as a "good person" on Twitter is on the line: Don't be a "tweet lifter" on Twitter.
Posted at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 19, 2010
Reposted without credit at about 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, 2010
To read more from Francisco Rosales go to his blog at socialmouths. To follow him on Twitter go to @socialmouths
Possibly related posts:
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness
The Twitter Term "Twanker"