Posts tagged & Twitter

What The Tweet? Your Illustrated Guide To New Twitter Jargon

Twitter has a problem: New users just don’t know how to use it

To help newbies sign up and start tweeting, the company has made a number of recent changes. Redesigned profiles, a giant World Cup marketing push, and rejiggering the Home timeline are just part of Twitter’s many attempts to make it friendlier for first-time users.

The problem: It’s not just Twitter’s design or interface that makes it an intimidating service for the average Internet user. It’s, well, Twitter users themselves. Habitual Twitter users like me have a habit of tossing out terms and references that are utterly opaque to newcomers:

“Get me out of this Twitter canoe!”

“This picture needs some @darth.”

“OH in SOMA: ‘when I see someone with grey hair in their profile pic, I’m a little nervous to send them an email.’”

To help new users navigate Twitter’s insider vocabulary and obscure etiquette, here’s a handy guide. We’ll help you paddle through a Twitter canoes, deal with RLRTs, and become an all-star Twitter user.

Start With The Basics

RT (Retweet)

The retweet—RT for short—is a user-created Twitter abbreviation that has become one of the social network’s key features. Retweeting is taking someone else’s tweet and tweeting it into your timeline, with the intent of spreading their words to your followers.

There are a few ways to retweet. Five years ago, Twitter started automating it with the retweet button, and that’s the way most people who use Twitter know the feature. On Twitter’s mobile app, you also have the option of simply quoting the tweet, which is a much more familiar plain-English way of saying “these are someone else’s words.

A newer way is to paste a link to the original tweet, which Twitter will then show embedded in smaller form underneath anything you write about it in your own tweet. It’s not exactly retweeting, but it serves a similar purpose.

But before any of those options were available, people manually typed “RT” and the original tweeter’s username in front of a tweet they thought was clever or interesting to share with their followers. 

Some people still do this, for a variety of reasons:

•  They’re old-school Twitter users who never dropped the habit.
• They’re friends with old-school Twitter users who picked up the “RT” convention from them.
• They genuinely think typing a manual “RT” makes it clearer who the author was.
• They want to add some commentary to a tweet.

Manual retweeting does allow room to add your own words, but there’s some contention over whether or not the manual RT should even be used anymore, as some people see it as taking credit away from the original tweet. Tweet embeds also serve the same purpose as manual retweets for adding commentary, which raises further questions about whether new users should adopt this old convention.

Take a look at this tweet, for example. At a glance, can you tell who wrote it? Is it CNET’s Nick Statt? Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien? Security researcher Runa Sandvik? Or The Intercept’s Ryan Deveraux? 

In fact, Statt did a manual retweet of O’Brien’s tweet, which was a retweet-by-quote of Sandvik’s tweet, which included a screenshot of an article by Deveraux.

Try explaining that to a brand-new Twitter user.

Fav (Favorite)

When you star someone’s tweet, it’s considered a fav, or favorite. (Some people prefer the spelling “fave,” but “fav” seems more popular among Twitter users.) There are no rules regarding what people favorite. It could mean the tweet made them laugh. It could be a “thank you” for mentioning a specific topic or idea. Or it could simply mean that they want to save it to read later, almost like a Web bookmark.

See Also: Time Out: Twitter Is Officially Mucking With Your Timeline

Historically, favorited tweets, while publicly available if you visit a Twitter user’s profile page, have never appeared in people’s timelines like retweets. But in an effort to make the service more appealing for new users, Twitter will now display some tweets from strangers that have been favorited by people you follow.

The bottom line: Any tweets you favorite are public, and are more likely to be seen by a wide variety of people now. People may expect you to explain why you hit the star icon on a particularly controversial tweet.

#FF (Follow Friday) And Other Hashtags

In 2009, Micah Baldwin suggested that people start tweeting the usernames of accounts they thought their friends should follow. He dubbed it “Follow Friday.”

People rapidly added a way to find these tweets, by marking them with a hashtag. A hashtag is any word or phrase with a hash mark—”#”—at the beginning. You’ll see people use hashtags with news events like #Ferguson or #Syria, but Twitter insiders also use them for their own particular conventions. For Follow Friday, it started as #followfriday and then got shortened to #FF

If you’re included in a #FF tweet, be flattered that someone thinks you’re so interesting, they want their followers to follow you, too. You might want to reciprocate by doing your own #FF mentioning them.

It’s not normal to do a #FF on any day but Friday. If you see someone doing that, either they’ve lost track of the date, or they’re being sarcastic.

MT (Modified Tweet)

A tweet with an “MT” at the start is a “modified tweet.” That’s like a retweet, but the author wants to let you know it’s not a faithful reproduction of the original tweet. People use it instead of a RT for a few reasons. One is that they want to shorten the original tweet, so they can fit their own commentary inside Twitter’s 140-character limit.

People use MT rather liberally. If you see it in a tweet, it could mean the user modified the words after the tweet in an attempt to be funny or sarcastic, or they just shortened the tweet by removing a word or a link so they could add their own opinion ahead of it.

Tweeting IRL (In Real Life)

RLRT (Real-Life Retweet)

If someone said something so amazing in real life that you have to share it on Twitter, use RLRT, which stands for real life retweet. When paired with your friend’s Twitter handle, it tells your followers that the person mentioned in the tweet actually said it, and you were there to hear it.

OH (Overheard)

OH means “overheard.” An OH is kind of like an RLRT, with an important difference: You’re not supposed to name the person who said the thing you’re tweeting. Naming someone in an OH is a major breach of Twitter etiquette.

Where Things Get Weird

Twitter Canoe

If you’ve been @-mentioned in a conversation on Twitter that mentions a lot of other users and that doesn’t stop until the people involved run out of things to say, congratulations! You’ve been roped into a Twitter canoe.

A canoe is a conversation on Twitter that keeps rolling and adding new people until people get annoyed or bored and stop talking to each other. Adding yourself to a Twitter canoe is a bit of a bold move—etiquette calls for someone to add you first.


Remember that time you were in high school and someone was talking about you right in front of your face, but they never said your name, and yet everyone knew they were talking about you?

A subtweet, or subliminal tweet, is like that, but on Twitter. You might call it passive-aggressive tweeting. Someone tweets something about a person or topic—usually something negative—without actually mentioning that person’s Twitter handle or linking to the topic they’re discussing. That makes it difficult for the person to find—and enraging if they do eventually discover your tweet.

@SubtweetCat is the queen of subtweeting. She literally wrote the book on social media. 

Tweetstorm (Twitterstorm)

When people have a lot of Very Important Things to say that cannot be confined to the constraints of 140 characters, they could write a blog post, right? But no: It’s recently become fashionable to deliver long-winded diatribes on Twitter by tweeting multiple times, adding a number and a slash mark—”1/”, “2/”, “3/”, etc.—to each tweet so their followers don’t miss a single thing they say.

This is called a tweetstorm, or Twitterstorm, for the thunderous way these multiple tweets rain down on people’s timelines.

Some people really don’t like tweetstorms, so expect some backlash if you decide to engage in one. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to tweetstorm. After you begin your tweetstorm with a “1/”, make sure you start your next tweet by replying to that first tweet. Make every subsequent tweet a reply to the previous one. That will make sure that anyone who encounters your tweetstorm can find the entire series easily.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen is largely blamed for popularizing the tweetstorm. Note: Andreessen has a perfectly good blog.


@darth is a mysterious Twitter user who entertains people with his epic Photoshops, retweets of adorable animals, and the creation of visual memes—catchy combinations of images and text that are easy to modify and pass around. Some of his best work appears in response to ideas that are trending on Twitter as hashtags, like #conspiracybooks.

No one has yet unearthed Darth’s true identity, so we only know him as Twitter’s resident Darth-Vader-helmet-wearing red panda. If your dog is cute enough, he might just Photoshop him.

A tip to the wise: If you see an image you love in Darth’s feed, make sure to save it to your phone or PC. For some reason, Darth chooses to delete older tweets, so if you miss a great Darth Photoshop, it could be gone forever. 

Images by Nigel Sussman for ReadWrite

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Twitter Tightens Photo Policies Following High-Profile Deaths

Twitter is tightening its policies on harassment and graphic imagery following the deaths of Robin Williams and U.S. journalist James Foley, who was reportedly beheaded by jihadis in Syria. On Tuesday, the company stated it will now remove certain images of deceased individuals at the family’s request.

Twitter announced its clarified guidelines on images of deceased Twitter users soon after graphic images reportedly depicted Foley’s beheading by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began circulating on the social media site. Twitter quickly deleted the images as they circulated and suspended many of accounts that were sharing them. Some of the accounts however, were reportedly reinstated.

Deleting images at the request of families is a conservative change for Twitter, which has proved a crucial tool for documenting and distributing news and information happening around the world. People regularly share graphic content and images, and the company suggests users mark media containing sensitive content to prevent it from automatically displaying in tweets. 

Under the new guidelines, Twitter won’t delete just any image, however, and it makes it very clear in the updated policy that images can be removed in certain circumstances like immediately before and after death, but if images are newsworthy, they may not be scrubbed from social network.

In order to respect the wishes of loved ones, Twitter will remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances. Immediate family members and other authorized individuals may request the removal of images or video of deceased individuals, from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death, by sending an e-mail to When reviewing such media removal requests, Twitter considers public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content and may not be able to honor every request.

The new policy also comes on the heels of Robin Williams’ death on Aug. 11. His daughter, Zelda Williams, received disturbing images and harassing comments following her father’s death that eventually led her to quit the social network.

In response, Twitter suspended the accounts that harassed her and Twitter promised to “evaluate its policies” around tragic events to prevent future behavior. 

Lead image by Anthony Quintano

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Twitter To Start Showing You Tweets From People You Don’t Follow by @mattsouthern

Prepare yourself to start seeing tweets in your timeline from people you don’t follow. A change to Twitter’s timeline is going to start pulling in tweets from people you don’t follow if Twitter consider’s that tweet to be “popular or relevant.” These new additions to Twitter’s timeline started as an experiment but will now be a permanent change to the service. Twitter’s FAQ page for the question “What is a Twitter timeline?” has been updated with the following section: Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it […]

The post Twitter To Start Showing You Tweets From People You Don’t Follow by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Time Out: Twitter Is Officially Mucking With Your Timeline

Your Twitter timeline is no longer reserved for people you follow. A recent addition to Twitter’s “What’s A Twitter Timeline?” page explains to users that people may start to see “popular” or “relevant” links appearing in their timeline, a space originally reserved for tweets and retweets from the people you’ve chosen to follow.

The change, first spotted by The Next Web, is expected—this month Twitter tested two new features that displayed tweets that weren’t explicitly shared in your timeline. Now it appears Twitter is officially rolling out this new timeline structure that includes suggested follows and favorites as retweets from accounts you don’t follow.

See also: Twitter’s Retweet Experiment Will Make You Rethink Your Favorites

Twitter explains how it will decide which tweets to show you in its revised Help Center page:

Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting

The move to share tweets from people you don’t follow and weren’t retweeted into your timeline is an effort to make the platform easier for new users to discover new people or brands to follow. 

While the timeline change may be a welcome gift to newbies, it’s an off-putting feature for hardcore Twitter users. Many people who are used to Twitter have already carefully pruned their follow lists to minimize the odds of seeing tweets from people and topics they aren’t interested in.

Lead image by marek.sotak

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Local Ferguson Reporters Use Twitter Like War Correspondents

Local reporters in Ferguson covering the ongoing unrest have turned to what’s become a mandatory tool for war correspondents covering conflict in real time, Twitter. 

For Danny Wicentowski, 24, a staff reporter at the Riverfront Times, a St. Louis weekly, Twitter serves as his pipeline to the newsroom, allowing him to provide realtime updates as well as photographs, and helping his entire team beat back burnout as the demonstrations and police interactions continue. 

On the street until 3 a.m. nearly every day since Sunday, his dispatches from Ferguson have been retweeted hundreds of times. His 300 followers have grown to more than 2,000. Like the other reporters on the ground, his Twitter feed is a window on Ferguson for the rest of the nation. 

Twitter also came in handy when Wicentowski wanted to know what left the big bruise on his leg. “I thought it was the cap of a flash bang, but (after I tweeted a photo) someone posted a link and said, ‘Oh, no, it was a foam disk, which is a different anti-riot device.’”

For all the solid news Wicentowski is turning out in 140-character snippets, you wouldn’t know this is his first journalism job … as well as his first time really using Twitter. 

I talked with Wicentowski about what it’s like covering the protests and riots in Ferguson, and how Twitter and other social platforms are crucial to helping him tell the story.

A Twitter Newbie

My experience with Twitter has been almost non-existent. Before this, I did very little twittering. I’ve had to learn how to do all of this as it happens. 

Learning To Write Short

A lot of the writing I do is narrative, long form writing, which doesn’t translate to Twitter. 

Twitter does give you the ability to do little vignettes. I can’t not do that—it’s the way I write, and I tweet that way as well. It has a poetic quality to just have these little moments, like noticing the moon is really big while there’s gunfire and tear gas happening.

I can sort of spit out impressions that go in my head that would normally go in my notebook that I would save later to establish a scene in some longer piece—now they’ve become tweets … [I can] build a narrative out of what I’m seeing.

Getting The Timeline Right

Twitter really helps establish a narrative timeline to help me figure out, “What was I thinking about this time? What was the reason I tweeted it?” If it was important, I can return to that. I’ve been doing that in my stories. I’ll loop back on something like quotes that I’ve picked up on, or expand on them in a later story.

The Importance Of Mobile Reporting

I should say humbly, (the Riverfront Times is) kicking ass. We are not waiting to aggregate or to only do analysis. We’ve all been out there at various times on the ground reporting firsthand. 

Though we are local, not all of us have deep ties to the area. But our local connections and our ability to connect with and local activists who we know already gives us a much better handle.

The residents know we’ll be there, and we’ll be there later. It helps the undercurrent of animosity to the national media who residents may suspect can be little more than riot tourists, or crafting things all about hype.

Lead image courtesy of Danny Wicentowski

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After Zelda Williams Abuse, Twitter May (Finally) Protect Users

In response to hateful tweets to Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda following her father’s death, Twitter issued a statement claiming that it is “evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one.” 

This is cold comfort for those Twitter users who attempted to bring attention to Twitter’s impotent user protections during CEO Dick Costolo’s CNBC’s #AskCostolo interview. And it’s unclear how “evaluating policies” will aid Twitter users targeted with rape and death threats, and other forms of abuse on the site. 

Harassment is a known problem on Twitter, and the Internet overall, and it’s largely geared towards women. Some women suffer harassment every day, including rape and murder threats.

In Amanda Hess’ article “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” she describes a scenario in which an anonymous account was created specifically for sending her rape and death threats, and when she took it to the police, they did nothing.

According to a PewResearch study, 12% of Internet users have been stalked or harassed online, and 4% of have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online. 

But even after years of outcry from users, it took a famous person, and the world paying attention, to make Twitter admit it needs to change its policies.

Harassment Leads To Quitting Twitter

On Tuesday, amid the Internet’s ongoing commemoration of her father’s life, Zelda Williams, 25, announced on her Twitter and Instagram accounts that she was abandoning social media, maybe forever. 

As she posted on Instagram:

I will be leaving this account for a bit while I heal and decide if I’ll be deleting it or not. In this difficult time, please try to be respectful of the accounts of myself, my family and my friends. Mining our accounts for photos of dad, or judging me on the number of them is cruel and unnecessary.

Since her father’s death announced on Monday, the younger Williams shared her grief on the Internet, along with her father’s fans, posting a poignant farewell to her father on Tumblr. Unfortunately, between the tweets of condolences, Williams received cruel messages that eventually drove her off the social network.

In response to this very bad publicity, Twitter suspended the accounts which harassed her, and Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety, said in a statement that the company is working to improve its policies.

We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter. We have suspended a number of accounts related to this issue for violating our rules and we are in the process of evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one. This includes expanding our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.

The statement is notably vague on how Twitter will enforce any improved policies that might emerges from this evaluation. (Twitter refused to provide information to ReadWrite beyond the statement.) Further, the statement is targeted specifically to Zelda Williams’ situation and experience, so it’s also unclear whether any policy changes will apply to those countless users who receive other forms of harassment such as rape and death threats. 

Twitter’s Silence Equals Consent

Twitter is historically hesitant to address harassment experienced by its users, and current tools are largely ineffectual. 

Twitter’s current system recently came under fire during CNBC’s July 28 Twitter chat #AskCostolo. Over 30 percent of the questions aimed at Twitter’s CEO asked about the company’s faulty safety policies, including criticism of the complicated reporting process, and the length of time it takes for someone to be reported in the first place. Twitter didn’t officially address the criticisms from the #AskCostolo question and answer session, but Costolo himself replied to a handful of inquiries, and said the team was working to address those concerns the very next day. 

For many people, blocking and reporting abuse isn’t enough. Sometimes harassers create multiple accounts when theirs are blocked, and trying to get rid of them all is like playing an impossible game of whack-a-mole. 

In one case, when Feminist Frequency host Anita Sarkeesian reported a rape threat to Twitter, the company responded that the account was not in violation of Twitter’s rules. Our own editor-in-chief Owen Thomas recently ran into problems while trying to report a rape threat against a another person, but was told by the company it would not act because he was not the individual involved, or responsible for her safety.

In December of last year, Twitter riled critics by changing the “block” function to effectively mute someone in an effort to keep trolls from antagonizing blockers once they’ve learned they’ve been blocked. Twitter erupted in outrage, and in response, Twitter quickly backtracked and reinstated the block feature—adding a separate mute function months later to silence annoying tweeters without letting them know. Twitter, for its part, implemented a block function in 2007 when the service was still a year old.

To combat perpetual harassment, users created their own workarounds. 

Former Twitter engineer Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, now a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently launched “Block Together,“a tool that allows users to automate block functions, and share their block lists with other people on Twitter to help prevent harassment. Other user-created products like BlockBot and provide similar services.

See Also: The People Who Make Twitter Don’t Look Like The People Who Use Twitter

Luckily, resources like Block Together provide examples of what the company should be building internally. And while harassment on Twitter won’t magically disappear over night, finally taking it seriously and admitting new policies are needed to better handle Internet bullies, may result in a safer Twitter in the future.

It’s just a shame that it took a tragedy to finally push Twitter to change.

Lead image by xinem.

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Twitter Reveals How Many Active Users Are Bots, The Number May Be Higher Than You Think by @mattsouthern

Twitter revealed how many of its monthly active users are bots in a report just filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The report indicates that as much as 8.5 percent of Twitter’s monthly active users are bots. A bot is a small, data-collecting software application. Bots are completely automated and involve no human interaction. This sheds some light on a problem Twitter has with bots posing as human accounts. This is a problem because businesses rely on the accuracy of their audience numbers to estimate their true reach. The report states how bot counts are calculated “Our metrics are also […]

The post Twitter Reveals How Many Active Users Are Bots, The Number May Be Higher Than You Think by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Promoted Video Comes To Twitter, Upload And Distribute Native Video On Twitter by @mattsouthern

Today, Twitter announced a beta test of new Promoted Video ad units. Twitter has been experimenting with these new ads for the past few months, with tests showing Tweets containing native Twitter video generate better engagement and more video views. Here’s an example of a Tweet with native video. In addition to uploading and distributing native video on Twitter, advertisers will also be able to measure the reach and effectiveness of their video content. Twitter is now offering advertisers the ability to run ads with a new Cost Per View (CPV) ad buying model. With this new ad buying model, […]

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What Twitter Can Learn From Pinterest Conversations

Whenever I see something on Pinterest that reminds me of a friend, I immediately want to share it. Usually I’ll share it on my friend’s Facebook wall, or text a link to the post—emailing just seems rather clunky. I don’t want to repin a friend’s style on my board, and sometimes it’s too personal to share publicly.

That’s why I’m excited about the new Pinterest Conversations, a private messaging feature that makes sharing pins with friends—and then chatting about them—so much easier.

While Pinterest’s new messaging feature is focused on sharing pins, the premise of taking a public post and sharing it privately could apply to text or links, like, say, tweets. And I hope Twitter is paying attention, because Conversations is exactly what Twitter’s direct messaging feature should be.

Kicking Off The Conversation

To send someone a pin, simply tap on the paper airplane icon and add your friend’s name. It’s the same icon that sends a pin as an email. In the mobile app, you can tap the notifications icon, and toggle to “messages” to reply to or compose chats. Chat heads—almost identical to those in Facebook Messenger—are used to label chats.

On the Web, you’ll see a messaging option under your notifications, and messages will appear to the left of your screen. It’s a bit slower to chat on the Web—if you’re having problems sending and receiving messages and notifications, try logging out and logging back in to Pinterest first.

Conversations can come in quite handy for a maid of honor helping plan her sister’s bridal shower or a group of friends creating a trip itinerary. You can add as many fellow pinners to a chat as you want, as well as search pins and add pins directly from the chat.

It’s a great way to get feedback on a particular pin, but it also works as a smooth and simple messenger. There are no sticker packs, and no ephemeral photos—just pins, links, and texts.

It took five Pinterest employees one week to build a Conversations prototype, a Pinterest spokesperson told ReadWrite. When they presented it to company executives, the product was fast-tracked and implemented on all Pinterest platforms within three months. 

Twitter, Please Learn From Pinterest

Twitter’s direct messaging feature is in desperate need of an update. CEO Dick Costolo has been hinting about it for months, but short of a few minor tweaks, including adding the ability to send photos privately, nothing has changed. Direct messages still don’t accept most links, and on both mobile and the Web, messages are still frustratingly slow and unintuitive.

There is hope, however. In an interview with Business Insider on July 29, Costolo said that the difference between Twitter direct messages and other messaging services like Facebook Messenger will be the ability to take a public tweet and discuss it privately with other people. In other words, Pinterest Conversations, but for tweets.

“Specifically, being able to take a public conversation and being able to migrate it to a private channel,” Costolo told Business Insider. “So, taking a public tweet, and being able to have a conversation about that public tweet with a private group of people is a compelling use case.”

Pinterest Conversations are simple to start, and because the application sticks to the basics—it’s not bulging with unnecessary features—it does one thing and does it well: Starts the conversation around pins.

Replying publicly to tweets on Twitter can be intimidating. Most people have public accounts, and that means anything they tweet or link to can be seen by anyone on the Web. The only place there is any private communication on the network is in direct messages. By implementing a feature that allows people to send tweets to friends to reply in private, people might be inclined to have more intimate conversations around news and events, and share more frequently on Twitter.

Twitter has been slow to implement features of the Visual Web—something Pinterest pioneered. The social network took their time adding in-line images and GIF support, and recently acquired Madbits that will help them dive even deeper into images. 

With Conversations, Pinterest once again introduced a feature Twitter should implement on its own platform. And hopefully it won’t take Twitter as long to catch up this time. 

Lead image courtesy of Pinterest.

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Researchers Discover “Superdialects” Through Twitter Study

A team of European researchers have discovered distinct differences in the dialects of the Spanish language by studying it through 140-character bursts.

In the study Crowdsourcing Dialect Characterization through Twitter, Bruno Gonçalves from Toulon University in France and David Sánchez from the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems in Spain, studied 50 million geo-located Spanish tweets over the course of three years. They discovered that, as expected, most came from Spain, Spanish America, and across the U.S., as first reported by the MIT Technology Review.

To take a closer look at how words and language vary across geographic locations, the team studied how Spanish words for the same object can vary based on where people tweet from—for instance, the word for “car” can be auto, carro, coche, concho, or movi. The researchers discovered that some expressions are clustered in different regions, demonstrating different geographic dialects.

“Up until now researchers had been limited to small scale surveys and in-person interviews with the obvious limitations in terms of number of individuals considered and the associated costs of travel,” Bruno Gonçalves said in an email interview with ReadWrite. “With Twitter and the advent of cheap GPS-enabled smartphones, we can study how language is used by millions of users scattered across the world in their day to day communications.”

Thanks to the huge quantity of data, Gonçalves and Sánchez discovered that the Spanish language is split between two “superdialects,” a form of language that includes two or more dialects. One Spanish superdialect that’s spoken in large American and Spanish cities, and one that’s common among rural parts of Spanish-speaking countries.

“It was relatively well known that some expressions were more localized than others, and we were hoping to be able to see that in the data,” Gonçalves said. “The urban/rural difference had not been observed before as traditionally dialect researchers have focused less on city dwellers.”

While this study is the first to discover such superdialects by analyzing tweets, it’s not the first time linguists have turned to the social network to figure out how people talk.

Scientists have used Twitter to figure out how slang words and phrases like “bro” and “AF” originated in different geographic areas, and to study the evolution of languages, like Welsh, in real-time.

“This is also a good example of the potential benefits of big data for the study of human behavior,” Gonçalves said. “Data that was generated by users when they used the Twitter platform to communicate with their followers and friends allowed us to study how a specific language is used ‘in the wild’.”

Through similar research, scientists could discover “superdialects” in other languages.

Lead image by Andreas Lehner. Map courtesy of the study.

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