Friday, November 5, 2010

Maybe Twitter's "favorite" function needs a new name

Sarah Palin has been taking some heat this week for an offensive tweet which she appeared to have marked as a "favorite" on her Twitter account.

On Twitter, you have the option to mark a tweet in your timeline as a "favorite," making it easier to find again later -- much like a bookmark would for a website.

Here's Twitter's explanation, from its online "Help Center":

"Favoriting" a tweet can be really handy; I regularly mark tweets I want to come back to later on, usually because they contain information or links I think would be interesting for my students.

It does not, however, mean these tweets actually are my favourites. I might just as easily mark a tweet I disagree with as one I agree with, if I think it illustrates something interesting.

So for me, tweets marked as "favorites" are not to be interpreted as the ones I like most, or the ones I most agree with. Rather, they're tweets I happened to see when it was inconvenient to follow links or to note them in my book for later, and to which I want to return later. That's it -- there's nothing more to be read into it.

In Sarah Palin's case, she is reported to have explained, it wasn't even that: she wasn't aware of the "favorite" function at all, and the tweet was marked by accident. In an email to ABC News' Jake Tapper, which is quoted in The Washington Post's Politics and Policy blog, she said:
"Jake [Tapper], I've never purposefully 'favorited' any Tweet. I had to go back to my BlackBerry to even see if such a function was possible. I was traveling to Alaska that was an obvious accidental 'favoriting,' but no one can mistake that Ann Coulter was obviously being tongue in cheek with that Tweet..."
This explanation sounds reasonable to me - especially since the "favorite" button only appears when you roll over the tweet with your cursor. Even Rachel Maddow, who I don't think anyone would consider a blind supporter of Sarah Palin, agrees.

While Maddow is talking to media who are jumping all over Palin for this, I do think there's a disconnect between what Twitter planned for "favorites" to be and what they have actually become. Tweets we want to save for later might or might not be tweets we particularly like or agree with.

My advice?

Keep the function, but re-name it "bookmark." Same convenience, less opportunity for mis-reading intentions!


  1. I have "bookmarked" Sarah Palin as one of my "favourites."

  2. You know, when I think "right-wing evangelist," I think "Duncan." Haha!

  3. Sarah was amazing with the favorites. Thanks will follow her in tweeter.

    NGO CV

  4. This made me paranoid about the things I've favourited so I went to check my list. Now I'm just embarrassed about how much of them are tennis-related. Must. Get. Life. Now.

  5. Haha - well, you won't hear me suggesting that lots of tennis "favourites" is a bad thing!

  6. I agree with the "bookmark" instead of "favorites." There are a few things that I "favorite" just so that I don't lose it in the hundreds of tweets, it doesn't always mean that I like them, just want to be able to go back to them easily!