Creating a Culture of Collaboration

This post is inspired by Dr. Mark Drapeau (aka @cheeky_geeky).

In the business I work in, changing the culture of a community of people who do not have a history of sharing information freely isn’t easy. One of the common complaints I hear is when hard-working individuals consistently see their efforts re-packaged as someone else’s (imagine an analyst who writes an amazing paper only to discover that another analyst at a different agency has taken that paper and passed it off as his/her own). The beauty of working in an inter-agency, enterprise 2.0 environment is it’s more difficult to do this because work is transparent. One of the principles I espouse to all the students I teach and train is attribution and how necessary it is in order to create a culture of sharing; because when you take credit for things other people create, it sends the signal that individual gain is above community gain as opposed to being equal.

My question to @cheeky_geeky is: how do you decide when to give Twitter attribution? I and others have noticed that @cheeky_geeky will post tweets verbatim from someone without giving ReTweet (RT) attribution. I can understand it happening once in a while but it happens more than that (I’m sure a script could do analysis on this). Does this become a slippery slope? A tweet here, a blog post there? Perhaps this is part of experimentation. I don’t know. I do know that integrity is consistency…of actions, principles and outcomes.

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  1. I retweet people by name constantly. Sometimes when I run out of room in the 140 character world, I feel the information (with which I usually have no self interest) is more important than giving someone props. Also, when a link points to someone’s personal/business site, also linking to their name is overkill. Simple.

    I come from a background of scientific publication, where everything is cited with very specific rules. It’s super, and yet it still gets abused within a relatively controlled system. So to me, debating how to give people credit for a tweet is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It’s even more silly when talking about retweeting someone’s retweet of someone else’s retweet of a tweet of a quote from a book – where does it end? You only have 140 characters. The knowledge trumps the ego boost.

    The breakdown in your argument stems from talking about a government enterprise environment in the first paragraph, and then relating it to retweeting in the second. There’s almost a complete disconnect between the two worlds. Twitter is almost completely unregulated; everyone should do whatever they want. The workplace is very different.

  2. On a related topic: Is the value of an RT in the redistributing of the information itself (for the good of the information being moved along alone — w/ or w/o attribution), or is it in the value we add by putting our seal of approval on it, in-effect saying, “I think this is valuable for you to see.” Leaning toward the latter, I’m surprised how infrequently people personalize a link before re-tweeting it, expressing why they believe it’s valuable, which seems to me a simple way to increase its value further (and demonstrate the tweeter has actually looked at the link before sharing it). If what we seek is a culture of collaboration, it’s the little things, the humanizing and extending the thread we might want to spend a little more time thinking about too.

  3. I’ve only started to use RT (once I understand what it is was!), so that some of my replies to followers who were non-followers of the person to whom I was replying would make sense. Hope that makes sense too!!

  4. A zillion folks may see a news story and tweet it. If I don’t come across the source myself, I try to tell folks who did. I use “via” as a way to tip-the-hat. It gets rid of the chain of RTs, but correctly ascribes my discovery to some other Tweep. I think that’s the point of this – give credit where its due. Now, the entire Twitter enterprise is about pointing to other sources (Mark’s point, perhaps); but Tweeting is another kind of authorship or discovery. So it deserves credit,IMV. The test is (to my way of thinking) if someone could say, “Hey, he follows me, surely saw my tweet, RT’d it, but didn’t cite me,” then I’ve not behaved well. Since there are so many other ways in which I misbehave, I don’t want to add to the massive karmic imbalance which already exists in my account. – ZT

  5. General question: Is everyone who tweets a newspaper or magazine article title with a link, but does not explicitly say where they copied the title from a plagarist?

    General question 2: If you alter someone’s tweet to fit it into 140 characters, and then still RT the original author, are you misrepresenting what they actually said?

    General question 3: If you tweet something from another system – Facebook Wall, Yammer, etc. – what is the proper way to cite that person’s 140 character thought?

    General question 4: How is information sharing on Twitter the same/different with regard to citation of authors as texting, IMing, blogging, and writing a book?

  6. Good post and comments. I’m in agreement with everyone for the most part. I don’t feel there are any “rules” of twitter. Do whatever you want to.

    I actually started following @cheeky_geeky after seeing that someone RT’d him and left his profile in the RT. So, I am guessing he agrees that’s a good reason to keep the profile name in a RT.

    Of course, I now feel I’ll have to think about what @cheeky_geeky tweets without a “RT @profile.” Is it his own tweet? Did he RT someone else? Easy to remedy this: Always keep “RT @profile:” in those RT’s so your readers know. My $.02, anyway.

  7. Karl:

    LOL – This is so overblown. Where’s the examples? Where’s the evidence? What’s the percentage? If I didn’t know Amy, one could call this a light smear job.

    Look at my last 100 tweets. Look at my last 1000. I give plenty of credit.


  8. Blaming the 140 character restriction on twitter is an easy cop out. Technoligy has adjusted for this guideline. You can use twitter mail, or tiny url to a status with the original content or discovery of content. I agree with Zack and Marcia. In the sense you add to the conversation of why you found it valuable and to give the karmic credit.

    Now I know I haven’t been completely perfect in my process if how I R/T, but it is an evolutionary and eventual process. And as far as the Enterprise and the delivery of knowledge goes, I’m an eventualist.

  9. Whoa! Twitter us not the wild wild west. I would argue there are rules on Twitter and I’ve been following my own since I started tweeting. Of course, they are advancing/chaniging as the tools/apps/technology/culture does.

    I mean a short message (twttr), a long message (blog/print/article), or a narrative (novel) are all methods of comm. Not sure why we would treat attribution and/or rules of the game that different.

    With that being said I’m not comfortable personalizing a tweet and then sending it out. I mean we could be playing telephone and all spreading misinformation. I would prefer to use it as a source citation or read the source myself and then send out my own message with a ‘thx @person’.

  10. Mark, I’m curious how you think Twitter is NOT a form of publication. Given that most other forms of blogging are seen as publishing or self-publishing, and that tweets are archived into perpetuity, that is. I as a journalist am bound to not tweet anything that’s denoted as non-attributable.

    I realize I’m the only person so far that sees retweeting as a form of “quotation,” at least here. It’s different at an enterprise/collaboration level because in that space, one’s IP is considered work for hire if it is considered IP at all.

    And I’ll be the first to admit that I publish online, at least most of the things that I do publish, with a creative commons license (although that block seems to have disappeared from my website, so I need to figure out how I borked that). But even though I’m a big fan of the EFF and of creative commons, I find myself chafing when I see someone RT something onto Facebook, for example, and that person’s FB readership thinking that person is responsible for the innovative idea or hilarious quip, and even more annoyed when that person does nothing to correct it.

    I see my tweets as being ideas and things running through my head that I choose to publish through the microblogging medium. I feel a bit differently about links that I share, because those are items that I publish elsewhere. But even covering your panels, I made sure to provide credit to the people who were sharing their ideas, because ultimately it is you and they who posited them, not me, and it’s unfair of me to post them as if they were my own.

    In the enterprise environment, I know that I’m giving up any IP rights, so I do agree that that is a different conversation.

    But think about the backlash when FB tried to assert that it “owned” everything people published to the FB site, when it fact they were asserting the license to publish things that people put on the site. Are you saying that we own nothing we publish to Twitter, that because it’s “written conversation” it is not a new form of epistolary publication, as written letters distributed to a mass audience are?

  11. Helen:

    I’m not saying that Twitter cannot be a form of publication. Some people certainly use it as such. I asked Tim O’Reilly about this today and he does think it is. However, he has a very methodical approach to RTing someone’s stuff – he vets it. Jay Rosen is much the same way. Most people certainly are not.

    In the book or magazine or newspaper publishing industry, writers are held to some standards. With scientific journals, the same, and so forth. Blogs get more murky but it’s clear that they are publications. There is a gray area when we talk about texts and IMs and tweets and plurks and Facebook wall posts and message boards and the like, however. You imply that Twitter is a form of blogging, but that’s open for discussion.

    Of course, as someone whose original stuff (few would accuse me of not being original) gets RT’d a lot, I think that attribution is great. I do it plenty. What I’m saying is that there are limits on the technology (not everyone knows about link shortening, etc.), limits on the space to write (140 characters), and limits on the rules that govern how people use Twitter (again, if you alter even a word of the original and then use “RT” is that good or wrong? unclear). So, this is not a simple topic IMO.

  12. “Communication is not the same as publication.”

    Mark – what do u mean by that? In an age when everything communicated on the web is published (except for private messages), doesn’t that mean it’s pubbed? Or, do u mean vetted…in an ‘official pub’?

  13. Steven:

    Tweets are ‘published’ in some sense, obviously, in that they are public words. But whether Twitter and similar services are governed by some relatively universal set of standards set by the field of ‘publishing’ is a separate question. Words are repurposed online frequently, and the rules have yet to be written or agreed upon.

  14. Especially now that Twitter has discontinued the old “reply” system, I see retweeting as a method of not only passing along information, but helping people I like get new followers by getting their best stuff to a fresh audience. Thus including their name is essential.

  15. Some analysis of Mark’s last 200 posts, just pure data, one opinion on the last line:
    26 “RT”s
    18 “via”s
    124 with links
    6 self referencing @cheeky_geeky (thats not a retweet)
    25 original statements not referencing someone else or a link
    117 without a hashtag
    83 with a hashtag

    7 pairs (aka 14 total) tweets repeated verbatim within hours of each other

    Average of 20 tweets a day over the last 10 days.

    Taken directly from others in the last week (twitter search only keeps 7 days). This was searching for direct text copy and paste minus url links comparing timestamps
    How the Mighty Fall: A Primer on the Warning Signs –

    Reusing others shorten links without giving credit: (via IsCool)


    More interesting would be an analysis of all the people that RT a high percentage of the things @cheeky_geeky mentions. Seems like there are plenty of people who would pay to sniff Mark’s farts.

  16. Back to the part of the original topic we seem to have steered away from: I’d welcome further conversation about how we can continue to learn with one another and truly collaborate through Twitter. Attribution is a piece of it. Changing the culture of a community that doesn’t easily share information freely requires something more. Listening, reflecting, engaging, challenging, adding…

  17. Right Matt. And note that your example of “Reusing others shorten links without giving credit” goes to, which is an event that @IsCool is running! Now, Shawn (@iscool) never complained (it’s just your example), but basically anyone that complains that I left their Twitter handle out of a tweet w/ a link to their event is a real loser!

  18. Two seperate person’s copied my tweet, within an hour of posting it… pretty upset. I spend a LOT of time writing them, and do so a week in advance, and slowly edit and polish. Can I get them removed?

    ‘Gold rush to the void? One more breathless person follows me with some get rich eBusiness scheme? Rather try model Jefferson & Adams letters’

    I posted it, and moved it up a few hours latter, but twitter search shows its being written before the two other copies.

    Ideas? Thoughts? Thank you… Searched the web and you were the only person even close. Thank you. David Korn, Seattle

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