UPDATE1:  If this article is accurate, then Twitter is now claiming that their new search—which prompted the post below—was just an "experiment."  (Conducted live with 100 million users? Hmmm)

If true, then all of this drama was about nothing at all. As I said initially, for all we know, it's a bug. When Twitter doesn't share with us these little tests, nobody can know what's really going on. It's annoying that I had to write all of this about something that lasted only a few days.  But so many were hysterical, there wasn't much choice.  
Notice that they say they will look for other ways to remove duplicates.  I think they should simply provide various kinds of filtering options in advanced search, and leave the rest alone.

UPDATE2 (5/23/10): I have seen no changes to search. The new method is still in force, making me greatly doubt the story above claiming RTs would be returned to home/mentions search.


Yesterday, Ray Beckerman wrote a post titled: Has @Twitter Declared War on Traditional Retweets? #TR

In my opinion, the change he was concerned about is actually a very good change.  But as usual, twitter has not explained it before implementing it.  So Ray's post has brought needed attention to it, but his rather irritated tone with them springing it on us this way has lead many of his readers to take a very hostile stance toward it before they actually understood it.  Many panicked, and have run all over Twitter announcing that the sky may be falling.

Yes, it is a change, but it's hardly a huge change and the sky is not falling. It just requires a bit of knowledge about the new options that you now have when searching for tweets and #tags. So let me explain it before it gets even more out of hand. (I've been getting one question about this every 20 minutes).

The problem that isn't a problem

Twitter has decided—in their typically unannounced way—to make a  change to the way search works, but only IN YOUR HOME (and @mentions) page search boxes. The general search box (at search.twitter.com) is not affected by the change.

As Twitter UI staffer, @charles tweets here, all they have actually done is change the search parameter to be "exclude:Retweets." 

This is actually a GOOD THING. Previously, searches always included every single retweet, and the result was often that the ORIGINAL tweet would be buried beneath many pages of search results. This is known in the tech world as search "noise."  The original tweet is the "signal;" the thing most people are interested in finding FIRST.

So what does this practically mean for your searches?

That you have options in how you search for stuff that you never had before. This change is giving you something, not taking something away.

All it means is that IF you want to use the little home page/@mentions box, you have 3 choices in how you can search:

You can search for:

1)  #tag or Keywords:  example: "#shoqstag"

This will get you only original tweets without duplicates (which is any tweet containing the "RT" code anywhere in it).

Why? Because this eliminates what can sometimes be dozens—or hundreds—of duplicate tweets. That include tweets where people may have appended comments to their RT (using old style RT), but those are derived from the original tweet, and generally much less important for most types of searches.

If you REALLY want to see every single RT-bearing duplicate, and all those possible comments (most rarely do), you simply use #2 or #3 below.

2) tag or keyword PLUS "RT" — Example: "#shoqtag RT"

Do this at the home/mentions box, and you will get everything with your terms plus a RT in it—but NOT the original tweet. This is a small annoyance at first, but actually makes sense when you get used to it.

Just remember that adding RT gives you the retweets, and omitting it doesn't. And if this really still annoys you, for some reason, you can always…

3) tag or keywords entered on the standard  twitter search page — where everything works as it always did.

What about a #tag search/click?

This is the only confusing part of the new methods, and it's not a big deal either.  A tag search is when you click a linked #hashtag.  As it works now, which search method is used depends on where you were when you clicked a #hashtag.

Tags in your a) Home Timeline, b) @mentions, or c) viewed tweets* — will use the HOME/mentions style method without the RTs included.

* Viewed tweets refers to when you isolate a tweet by clicking on its "view tweet" link or its time stamp. Example,

Tags in a regular search.twitter.com. search results page — will include everything.

What About 3rd Party Apps?

Tweetdeck treats #tags as it always had, and probably most clients will do the same. As for Tweetie2 (Twitter's own mobile client), who knows? They are barring old style RTs, reportedly, and that will probably crush that product fast.

What about the "TR" suggestion

This was Ray's idea to work around what he perceived as a bad problem. The idea is that if you really feel a need to indicate that you're RTing someone, and ensure that your tweet still shows up as an original tweet when someone clicks a tag, you'd be sort of saying it's a Retweet without actually using the RT code (which would be excluded with the new method).

I just see very little point to this fake RT/TR idea, and in fact, it will just add yet more code bloat that nobody understands, and really look like you're trying to game a system designed to serve most people with a generalized solution. If everyone started doing this, you'd have even more confusion, as some duplicates would show, and others would not. This would NOT be a good outcome, in my opinion, and I would urge you not to do it.

That's all folks

I am glad Ray brought this up. I've provided all his references herein if you'd like to read more on his view. For a few days, I'd be happy to discuss it with Ray and anyone else interested at tag: #searchchange.

Please use the green button to retweet this to all the people who were confused enough by Twitter weirdnesses before this change.

As always, please follow @shoq for updates on this issue.

Related Info

@RayBeckerman's original post.— which created all this concern, and referred to it in fairly dramatic terms. I understand that. These changes can be annoying when Twitter doesn't announce them. But I do wish he would edit that post and soften the language so people see this as something to understand and not fear.

Twitter's @Charles responded to Ray's concern here, and here. In both tweets, he confirms what I've explained above.

NextWeb Reblogs Ray's Post — This was the more Googled post, getting too much play, but it was simply a reblogging of Ray's post.