I think there’s a couple of things at work here – one being the idea that one has to produce content all the time, a constant stream pushing out content for people to consume. As most bloggers have experienced, after the initial wave of writing it’s hard to maintain that push. Most don’t. Twitter has the same thing only sped up. It takes less than a second to consume 140 characters, maybe stopping the receiver for ten seconds if the post required decoding or some sort of thought. So Like and RT’s become easy to maintain an audience’s interest – a reminder so to speak. It’s a cheap way to maintain attention. Much like the way television shows are cut before the commercial breaks – mini cliffhangers to maintain interest while the commercial runs.The other thing that’s going on is that Likes are different beasts than retweets – I think there’s a metric tonne of difference between liking something, which is a pretty vacant statement, and a retweet – which usually is some sort of statement that one supports. I can like something without a real investment, a retweet takes a bit more. I look at retweets the same way I look at links on a web page, it’s annotation. It’s telling me about the author of the retweet. A like does that as well, but it seems that a retweet is more nuanced.Maybe I’m over analyzing it.
Now, I think it’s important to recognize the shift away from web publishing (websites and blogs) into more immediate forms of communication. The next big thing will come from the people who figure out how to catalog retweets and likes into some cohesive idea of mass consciousness – much like Google did with links on the web. Facebook may already be doing this – although I suspect that it’ll be someone from out of the blue. I think retweets act just like links do, as retweets are rarely just links – they usually have some form of annotation accompanying them. This annotation serves two purposes – information about the link and information about author of the retweet. Links on the web do this as well, although websites have a distance from an author in many cases. Does a bad link on say Boing Boing or Wired reflect poorly on the author or the entity?