Etiquette for sharing

Many people like to share things online. Twitter is full of links to other websites. For a long time you needed to use URL shorteners to ensure you stayed within Twitter’s 140 character limit. There are now many to choose from, including open source and full-service analytics. Now Twitter has its own URL shortener – t.co – that converts every link that is shared. This is so Twitter can analyze all of this sharing and then sell the aggregated information.

One problem with using a third-party URL shortener with Twitter is that you are adding another potential point of failure in the link. I now copy & paste the full URL into Twitter, and it auto-shortens the link. There is only one potential point of failure and people can see the original URL as ALT text. This is user-friendly and respectful to readers.

Many people like to analyse what happens with their online activity and use tracking tools. For example, if your site exports its RSS feed using something like Google’s Feedburner, then the link people click on in their aggregators has extra information attached; so you can be tracked. I think it’s very rude to pass on these kinds of links and I always clean these URL’s before sharing them. All you need to do is delete everything after the question mark (in bold):

… tryingtotrackyou.com/?utm_source=feedburner …

I use Google Analytics on this site and understand why people want to see their social media traffic. However, it is easy for users to block these services, just like using pop-up blockers. My RSS feeds are clean and I provide a full-feed so I don’t force people to come to my site to read an article, just so I can increase my traffic. I think it’s important to share as openly as possible. I appreciate full feeds and clean URL’s as a reader.

Recently I have noticed another layer of complication being imposed by those who share links. Not only are tracking URL’s used, but these links go to another third-party site, like paper.li or tumblr.com which usually add no additional context for the reader. Often they are just clippings of the original website so the reader has to find the link to the original to read the complete article. All of these services are adding additional points of failure. If these services go down, as many do, then the chain is broken.

My intention with this post is to explain why it’s important to understand some of the technical aspects of how the web is working so we can do what people do best – be social. Please don’t be unintentionally anti-social. I would also be interested if there are any other common anti-social online practices that should be stopped.

Etiquette at the Ball for the Victorians of London Society

5 Responses to “Etiquette for sharing”

  1. Julian

    The problem when you paste your long URL directly into twitter is that you lose the ability to track the clicks. Then you cant measure the “audience” of your sharing. Not that is important to everybody, but is a great tool to “social” companies.

    • Harold Jarche

      You see Julian, that is the issue. The desire to track decreases the freedom of the people with whom you share. It’s like giving a gift, with conditions. It is a bit anti-social as it also interferes with the free flow of information and the ability to find things in the future.

  2. Tessie Catsambas

    This is a very useful post. Maybe one day Twitter will have an app to allow us to distinguish between those with transparent good habits and those without.

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