Friday, May 4, 2012

Deciphering the Geek Greek

The one thing that seems to deter newcomers from using Twitter is how much jargon they think they'll have to learn: “HT, RT, <, +1,LOL,#,, yfrog, #ff,” - to an outsider the list can seem endless.

The truth is, like every other group, Twitter folk can behave like a clique - a private little club with its own jokes, language and culture. Some of the Twitterati probably like it that way.

However, that's not how to be a good member of the Twitter community. With a 140-character limit, some abbreviations are necessary but they're not to be used as a badge for the in-crowd. Remember that Twitter is for communication and that's not possible when you're hiding behind a load of clique-speak.

So with that in mind, here's a handy guide to the most commonly used shorthands:

@[username] - indicates a message that is intended for a specific person. Use this and Twitter will notify them that they have had a mention. Twitter's web site tends to filter tweets starting with @ out of most peoples' feeds on the grounds that  they're not likely to be interested in messages intended for other people. However, Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic don't always work the same way so don't assume that you're having a private conversation - use DM for that (see below). Conversely if you want to get around that filter - for example if you want to direct a message at a specific account but you want everyone to see it - then just start the message with a full stop
eg: .@TalkTalk you have dreadful customer service! 

DM[username] - in theory you should NEVER see this unless you wrote it. It indicates a private (direct) message to a [username].

RT = Retweet. Reposting another Tweeter's message. Indicated by RT followed by the original author's name. Normally this is so you can comment on it or just boost the signal a bit for them (more information)

HT or via – used to give credit when you’re not retweeting someone but have based your message on something they have tweeted (HT = hat tip). Normally followed by the original poster's name. 

MT - modified tweet. Usually used in similar situations to HT but when you're still quoting some of the original message.

# - hashtag. When followed by a phrase (no spaces or punctuation allowed), this will appear on Twitter as a link to a feed of all other tweets also using that phrase. Proper explanation of hashtags will get a blog post of its very own shortly, but basically hashtags are a great way to pull people together around a topic - check out #bbcqt which is the one for Question Time. It's also a great way to find new people who may share your interests.

< - often used as a separator between the content of a retweet and your own comment on it

+1 = quick comment on a retweet meaning “me too” or “gets my vote too”. Not to be confused with all the signage for Google Plus likes, although probably inspired by that. – URL shortening services. Twitter’s web interface and a lot of the twitter client programs will automatically shorten URLs so that they don’t take up an entire tweet by themselves. If you're given a choice of services, is currently the one least likely to be blocked by firewalls. is Twitter's own shortener and you'll probably get that if you tweet using Twitter's web site rather than a Twitter client.

Twitpic, Yfrog – photo hosting services that let you upload a photo and automatically tweet a link to it. Most of them let you log in with your Twitter account so you don't have to worry about a separate sign-up process. A lot of twitter clients will connect with your favoured service automatically, you just have to let them know which one you use.

OMG = Oh My God. Twitter has embraced many of the acronyms originally used in chatrooms and in text messages. Plenty of other bloggers have documented them. However take care not to overdo it. Text speak is not welcome on Twitter. Tweets are not text messages and your tweets can be read by anyone rather than just the mate you texted.

Trending = when a lot of people are using the same phrase at roughly the same time, Twitter will report that the term is trending and it will appear in a list of trending terms on your twitter home page. Often the trending terms will be hashtags but they can include breaking news or commentry on sporting or TV events. Twitter has been taking advantage of this by selling an advertising space for "promoted terms" at the top of the trending list which can be unhelpful. Nevertheless, news can break on Twitter up to an hour before mainstream channels report it so it's worth keeping an eye on the list if you need to keep up to date (remember that news of Twitter is not verified). 

Bear in mind that, like every other language, Twitter-speak is constantly evolving and a lot of it is unique to specific groups or cultures. So this list is not comprehensive and some of it may even be out of date before I hit post. I'm always happy to update so if you come across something I've missed, just sling it in the comments below.

Or tweet me

No comments:

Post a Comment