UPDATE/NOTE:  Twitter has a very poorly-timed bug. If you're having trouble changing your avatar, see note below.


I so rarely do this, but as I wrote in a post last week, and detailed in my primer on the crisis, what is happening in Wisconsin is too important to not do everything that we can to show support for the demonstrators there; locally, regionally, nationally, and globally, and on Twitter, Facebook, or the back of your damned car.  

Last night, filmmaker Michael Moore asked everyone to wear red to show our solidarity. And this morning, my old friend @hankronan messaged me and suggested Wisconsin Badger Red for our Twitter dress, also known as our avatars.

Now given Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck's faux-fixation with communism lately, the color red might not have been the best idea, but screw 'em all. Wingnuts don't own the color wheel, eh?

Look my progressive/liberal friends and neighbors: this is our Stonewall, Waterloo, and <historical name your battle of choice>.

But win or lose, it cannot be our Last Stand.  So please don't just sit on your ass and watch. Do something; anything. Send yourself, your money, some pizza, or call a union and ask what you can do. If nothing else, just make a Tributar like mine shown at upper right. (I've provided some tools to help you make one below.) 

If you want to be subtle, just stick a red square or dot in the corner of  your avatar. As with much in life (except some of my posts), it just doesn't have to be complicated to be effective.

It's the least you can do. The very least. You only have one country, and you may not have it for much longer. So fight for what you have, and fight as hard as you are able, while you still have a country to fight for.

As always, please use the Tweet button to distribute this post to anyone that should care. Thanks. (Note: When you use the button, you increase the #tally, and that encourages others to do the same. This has greater impact than simply retweeting the message that brought you here.)

Tributar Tools

Avatars with some special image, color or text signifying some event or cause are often called "twibbons." I never like terms that are twitter-centric, or for that matter, dedicated to any one social media service, unless they are only applicable to that service. So last year, I coined the term "tributar" at Urbandictionary,com, after seeing Keith Olbermann make one to honor his late-father last year.

Tributar Editors

  • Twibbon.com — is probably your fastest and easiest option. It's very easy, and the site has instructions. Or if you enjoy tutorials, here are some video guides.
  • Photobucket.com — is very easy to use, according to @angryBlackLady.
  • I really never use these tools — because I really don't do many Tributars, personally, so if you know a better tool, please tweet it to me at: @shoq. I will post here.

Image Editors

If you're not a Photoshop wizard and you want to do it yourself, here are some web-based tools you can use. While it may seem like a lot of work to learn the basics of image editing, it won't take more than 15 minutes to change a color the first time if you have no experience whatsoever. And then you'll know how to do it for the next big thing.

Human Editors

  • Just look for someone with a cool red avatar, and ask them how they made it, or if they will make one for you.
  • If you want to volunteer to make them for others, I will be happy to post your twitter handle here. Just tweet me at: @shoq.

Computer Code For "Badger Red"

One of the code(s) below will render a shade of red in your editor:

The PRECISE WISCONSIN BADGER color is: (Hat Tip to @gaborger)

  • RGB: R 191 G 0 B 0 …or
  • Hexidecimal: BF0000

My Tributar above uses a slightly brighter value, for contrast with a darker image like the @Shoq panther:

  • RGB:  R 254 G 0 B 0 …or
  • Hexidecimal: FE0000

If you don't know what these codes mean, it doesn't matter. You can probably figure out where to put them in your editor. If not, just pick a nice red from the editor's palette and move on :)

Twitter Avatar Bug

UPDATE/NOTE:  With their usual perfect timing, Twitter has a bug and it's not displaying the "Change Profile Image" button on Settings/profile screen.  They claim it's resolved, but it's not.  To work around this, just hold down SHIFT key and press your browser's reload button. After a few times, the button should appear. If it doesn't, try clearing your browser cache first  (Google-it for your browser) and try again.



This page will explain, in the simplest possible terms, why many use a period or other character before a @Twittername. While I once wrote a widely circulated explanation, it was rather dense, and I find that at least a third of my stream still doesn't understand the issue. Thus, I felt a simpler explainer might help.

What is the period (or other character) before the "@twittername" for?

In the simplest possible terms, it "breaks" Twitter's native (built-in) reply threading (a fancy techy term for connecting tweets together).

Without it, your Tweets beginning with @someName will NOT show up to your ALL of your followers, UNLESS they happen to follow both you and the person you are replying to. 

Will only a period work?

Nope. Almost any character will work just as well.

All that matters is that the ?@ character combo be the very first characters in your tweet text.  That said, the period, because I and a few others hammered Twitter streams with it for over 2 years, has become the de facto standard. I would not deviate from it because a) it will just confuse people, and b) there's no reason to. The period is so small, that while anyone can still see it, they visually just tune it out. It has no impact on Twitter readability.

Doesn't that waste a character in my text?

Yes, but LOLs waste 4 (including the space after), and we know you ain't giving them up, right Spanky?  Now STFU about one lousy character and keep reading.

Why would Twitter want to hide my replies from my followers?

The logic is that by only showing replies to those who follow you and the person you're  engaging, innocent bystanders who are not interested in your conversation will not have to see it.

Twitter did not always do this. All replies were seen by everyone no matter what.  While this forced change of Twitter behavior caused a huge furor at the time, as with many Twitter changes, the userbase had no choice but to eventually learn to accept and live with it.  In fact, even I have come to welcome the change. But then, I never did mind the logic. It was the very confusing way they chose to implement it (and spring it on us without much diplomacy) that irked me (and others).

Again, back in May of 2009, I wrote about Twitter's "Replies Issue."  Read it if you like the grim details. Otherwise, find something better to do—such as keep on reading.

But doesn't using this trick make it hard to follow a conversation?

Sometimes, but rarely. The downside is that it breaks Twitter's native connections, so users of Twitter.com (and some clients), cannot "thread together" the stream of messages between the two participants. This is often called "reading the conversation."

Why don't I (and possibly you) care?  Because the best "conversations" usually involve many more than two people anyway, and the threading never worked for that at all.  So I simply use "search" of all the names I care about. It's an extra step, but since most of my frequent engagements are all with people I follow anyway, we all see each other's updates. So it's only only when the discussion is with someone I don't follow, or when  I want to see what the whole herd is saying that I bother to use the search method. But I do it so often, it's not a bother. I usually have a browser search page open all the time, and I just change the names and press go.

Should you always use this technique?

Absolutely not. The rule of thumb should be "Is this something of interest to enough of my followers that I want them all to see it?"  If the answer is no, then simply reply normally without the period.

So why does @Shoq appear to use it so often?

Three reasons:

  1. Because the majority of my tweets are about political or social issues that I feel are of interest to all or most of my stream or they probably wouldn't be following me in the first place.
  2. I may be responding to some wingnut with a dozen followers and I want to amuse or inform my stream about the idiot.
  3. I use it so often for 1 and 2 above that it's become a habit I don't always break when I should. Me so bad. I hate me for it. You can too.

Doesn't Tweetdeck (and other clients*) give you the option to see all replies?

Yes, it does. But Tweetdeck is only one of dozens of popular clients*, and support for this special feature is very rare at this time. And Twitter.com (the client which most people still use), has no such support.

Why doesn't Twitter just build an option into their client?

Because neither software development nor software developers are very rational entities. They do things in their own way, in their own time frame, and for their own reasons. They really don't give a rodent's rectum what you think about it.

But not all developers are total asshats. Hell, if I ruled the world—or at least Twitter— I would implement a "Reply and Reply to All" feature. Just like email. Yeah, it's simple. That's why they missed it.

Where can I learn more?

You can't. All of human knowledge on this topic stops right here. You could Google for it and prove me wrong, but nothing good could come of that. This issue is confusing enough, and you have already been well-armed with all that really matters. Learn to be content with the easy answers. There are so many hard ones that we all need to worry about.

*Oh, and WTF is a "Client?"

Something I get asked about often, so I think I should finally explain it here, even if it has very little to do with Twitter replies.

I can do that, because, at least within the narrow confines of this document, I rule the world :)

A client is a term programmers and us techy types like to use to describe a program that communicates with another programmed service on a remote computer somewhere. Tweetdeck is a client for Twitter, Google Reader is a client for news feeds, etc..  Often, many clients will exist for the same service. (Twitter has hundreds, but only a dozen or so good and well supported ones).

How do I use a Bidet?

Now this is something you could have Googled for yourself. But as you have so often come to expect from me, I've saved you all that time and effort. You're welcome.

How to use a Bidet Properly (Video)



Note: This post was written in early 2011. But nothing has changed. Millions of Twitter users still don't understand that while it has some value, Twitter's built-in Retweet function has all but ruined a key benefit of Twitter for discovering and recommending information to our followers.

You need to understand why in order to understand why you miss a lot of stuff on Twitter, and why others miss your RT recommendations... routinely,

It will also explain why my followers so often see me using the old style (copy and paste) RT method instead.


Well, it's been well over a year since Twitter implemented its built-in "new" retweet feature, which for many of us, immediately wrecked what had been one of Twitter's best features: the old retweeting style which evolved organically from the user-base, and with no input from Twitter whatever.

Naturally, something that millions of people loved just had to be replaced by something confusing and destructive to the Twitter experience, just for the sake of their business model and investors.  So, replace it they did. And in so doing, they created a huge level of completely preventable confusion for both new and old users alike. Confusion that still wreaks havoc on your timeline, even though you're probably not even aware of it. I am just fed up with explaining this over and over again, and still kicking myself for not writing this post over a year ago.  My purpose here is NOT to rehash all the details of what Twitter did, or why. You can click here for that. My purpose is simply to tell you clearly, and without all the confusing details, just…

Why you should NOT (always) use Twitter's built-in retweet feature

There are three very big reasons:

Reason One: Your followers won't miss important stuff you want to recommend to them.

To help you understand why, consider this scenario involving you and two other followers:

@Newbie is some follower you just followed recently. He has about 250 followers himself, and you decided to follow him because he tweeted some funny cat pictures now and then.

@Oldbie is a follower you've liked and trusted since you first got on to Twitter.

One morning, before you woke up, @Newbie retweeted a tweet concerning a really big story in your field of interest. He used Twitter's built in RT feature. It was a story you would really want to know about.

Later that day, @Oldbie retweeted about that the same story, also using the built-in retweet. As you respect @Oldbie, you would have clicked to read his tweet immediately had you seen it. Unfortunately, you never saw @Oldbie's tweet because Twitter's built in RT logic doesn't show you items that:

  • have already been retweeted by any of your other followers. 
  • you follow the original tweeter, and thus, Twitter assumes you don't need to see a RT of it—FROM ANYONE.

If you do see a RT of someone you don't follow, you only see in one time. Twitter simply increases the tally of how many users retweeted that first tweet that you received earlier from that relatively unknown @newbie person. Of course, that tweet came in hours ago, and is now so far down your timeline, you were never likely to see it anyway.

But wait, there's more bad news: Suppose the Tweet that both @Newbie and @Oldbie are new-retweeting was posted by someone else that you follow. In that case, you won't see either of their retweets because Twitter logic assumes you saw the original tweet, even if it went by long ago while you were sleeping, nodding off, having sex. This is a massive fail when big stories are involved. Unless you saw the original when it appeared in your timeline, you will NEVER know about it no matter how many thousands of people RT it. And this is absolutely horrible. It squashes one of Twitter's greatest values: allowing people you trust to filter what you see.

So, now do you see the problem? Twitter decided that you only wanted to see a single instance of a tweet, no matter who sent it, or when, and without any regard for how long you have known a user, nor whether you even recognize, respect or trust them. Thus, because you like some of @newbie's cat pictures, or didn't notice the first time an original tweet showed up in your timeline, you completely missed all the secondary reminders from other friends concerning that story. (And this explains why we often don't see something all of our friends are talking about, too.)

Now you might say, "but I hate seeing dozens of retweets of the same thing." And you're right, sometimes that can be annoying. But keep these things in mind.

  1. Repetitive tweets tell you a story mattered to a lot of your followers. You might ignore the first few retweets you see, but when the 3rd, 4th or 5th come in, you're going to notice, and may well be glad that you did.
  2. Repetitive tweets tell you something is really important, or you wouldn't be seeing so many of them. Even on my mobile phone, all those retweets just help reinforce for me what people find important. And that counts. A lot.
  3. The repetition is not nearly as annoying as missing a story that could be important to you, nor missing out on all the comments that can sometimes be as important as the story itself (or at least funnier). And this leads nicely into the next reason you don't want to use built-in Retweets…

Reason 2:  Users can't add their own comments to the built-in retweets

This one you probably know something about already. But you should not underestimate its importance. Comments embedded in old-style Retweets are one of the very best ways to learn more about a story. More importantly, they help you to discover new users whom you would never know about had they not added a funny or informative comment to a manual, old-style retweet. 

For example, consider this retweet from @newbie, who is now using the old RT method so you WILL see it regardless of who else retweeted that same item already:

@newbie: This story increased my profits! RT @nerdish Study says hire only very good spellers. http://butt.ly/3das

Not only did you discover a new interest that you shared with @newbie, but at the same time, you discovered a new person named @nerdish. Without that all important old-retweet comment, it would probably have sailed right on by you if you're timeline was even modestly busy.

Reason Three:  New RT minimizes the impact of Twitter campaigns

Often, we want to let people and organizations know how we—and the crowd—feels about something. With Old style RT, they'll see thousands of tweets aimed at them. But with the new built-in RT, they may not even see a single one.  Let that sink in. If you want @piersmorgan to know how pissed off you are about something, he'll never see it in his mentions unless you use the old RT.  Be lazy and use the New RT, and it's like saying "ditto" on some lone tweet he may never even see. You scream, but no one hears.

Now, you may be saying to yourself…

"What good is all of this if those followers don't play by the old retweet rules as Shoq has laid them out here?" A good question:  If it all depends upon what THEY do, and has nothing to do with the choices that YOU make, then why bother? 

Three good reasons:

  1. It does affect you. The same rules applied to what you can see will have bearing on what others see from you when you use the new RT. Sure, if you're the very first person among your followers to retweet someone, your RT may get seen. But if not? Then it's just one more number added to the tally on the first Retweet showing up in the timeline of people following both of you.
  2. Because only if you understand the impact it has on you, can you ever explain it to them so that they don't do it. And of course, so you won't either. 
  3. As I demonstrated when I created the #MT and the shorter #FF (for #followfriday) tags, change happens on Twitter over time, as the crowd discovers a better mousetrap.  If YOU stop relying on new RT, others will too.

So now you know

Twitter has a lot of reasons to want you to use the new retweet; reasons that have everything to do with them making money by reporting tweet metrics to advertisers, but absolutely nothing to do with the value that you and your followers will get from Twitter.

For me the choice is simple

Old Retweets are the very essence of Twitter. Sometimes I will use a new RT when I'm in a big hurry and just want to be sure at least some of my followers will see a tweet. But this is usually when I really don't care enough about it to give it special treatment, or when the tweet is so densely or specifically worded that I really can't easily condense it down to something that I can fit a comment into. Alas, if the tweet was from earlier in the day, only those who don't follow the original tweeter are even going to see my recommendation.  Again, for me, this aspect of the issue is a massive fail. It impedes our ability to recommend things to our friends, or those who rely on us as a filter of news and information.

As for you, well…

You're gonna do what the hell you do no matter what I say anyway. And that's how it should be. But at least now you know the stakes. Twitter is a very powerful tool for communication and knowledge sharing. Sometimes it seems like the only people who don't quite understand that well enough are the fine folks at Twitter.


Back story on the "New" Retweets (by Shoq)

About the MT signal (by Shoq)l